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I seem to be having a chain of poor books at the moment. I am really disappointed in my choices right now. This book is yet another poor novel which is extremely disappointing and, quite frankly, a waste of my time. I love reading, I love relaxing in the evening and treating myself to some escapism by reading a good book so feel cheated when this time is actually spent reading a really poor book.
The story is... well I find it hard to write much about what the story is about as there isn't one really! It tells of Hannah who has a husband Cliff and a son Luke. They are on holiday in the south of France with her sister and her friend Tristan who is gay and her daughter Aisha. Nobody really gets on; Luke follows Aisha round but he is 9 and she is 13 and beginning to get moody, stand off-ish so the relationship isn't great anymore. Hannah obviously has issues with her sister who has quite a racy background, smokes, drinks, acts a fool. Her sister, Jill, doesn't really like Cliff and Tristan is over the top camp, going out drinking lots and also winds up Hannah yet they are all on holiday together out of choice... hmm... Now you would think that this set up would lead to some big dramas, huge arguments, lots of meat for a decent story but it's actually really poor. Throughout the holiday a few things become apparent about what has happened in the past but there's nothing that grabs your attention.
The characters are really poor and very stereotypical. The author portrays everyone in such a very stereotypical manner it's really poor. For example, the thirteen year old Aisha barely talks, just grunts, always has her head phones on... Cliff is seen as being quite serious, working hard, the 'sensible one' and I just feel really disappointed that there has been very little use of the authors imagination, he could have created really interesting characters but instead just went for those that we have all seen before. None of them stood out to me, none of them I felt I could relate to or would get irritated by, they were all just 'there' and not formed well enough for me to really get into their heads.
Throughout this book I kept expecting something to happen. For example one evening they are walking home from the pub and it's very dark, they cannot see the road and there are noises in the bushes... I thought oh at last we're going to have a big turn in the story and it's going to pick up! But no, nothing happened, they just got home. Or when they were splashing about in the pool and there was a bit of a water fight I thought there would be some action but no... nothing! I kept thinking that surely this book would pick up, something would happen to make it a story rather than just feeling like I was hearing a boring story from a friend who had just come back from her holiday! It just didn't do anything like that at all.
Some of the things that came up and they spoke about were really dull and predictable. It was obvious from the first few chapters that certain events had happened and they would come up and it was quite sad too, very little positive or uplifting in it, quite a depressing read really.
At the beginning after each chapter there was a page or two on each character which was told in first person (from Hannah) which introduced us to who they were but this was really odd, it was just a few paragraphs and then it would go to the next chapter which was in third person and I found it really difficult to switch back to third person mode which normally I don't do so it must be something to do with how this was written.
I won't be reading this again and I won't be recommending it at all. It is nothing new, nothing refreshing and it definitely was far from a page turner.
Being a massive fan of Louise Weners songwriting ability (she was the front lady in the 90s band Sleeper) I was immediately drawn to her book 'Goodnight Steve McQueen' when it was published. I enjoyed this thoroughly and bought the follow up book 'The Big Blind' which I enjoyed as much. Things went quiet after that and until I was researching my previous Sleeper review I thought that Louise had given up on the novels too. But no. 'The Half Life Of Stars' is her third book and I asked for it from Santa and my wish was granted. (About the only thing requested that I did get!)
***So whats the book all about?***
Daniel is a family man, in his 30s, married to Kay with a young baby boy called Julian. He suddenly just disappears into thin air. He is last seen leaving his job at the end of the day. His family are baffled.
We take up the story with the help of Daniels sister Claire who becomes the central character for the majority of the story. The book looks at her relationship with her brother and the rest of the family as they are growing up. It also follows the events before and after Daniels disappearance.
Growing up, Daniel is a loner and is very much into looking at the stars and planets through his telescope. The title of the book relates to the speed of light and the way that even though we can see stars they may no longer be there.
As Claire tries to find her brother, she travels to Florida which is where the family lived for a short while during her youth. She starts to uncover things about both her brothers and fathers lives. An event that happened at Cape Canaveral (This is detailed in the very first chapter) when Daniel was in his teens is central to the whole story and we only uncover the full details at the end of the book.
Its a while since I read Weners previous books and so I can't remember the writing style. But I do remember that I read them quickly and enjoyed them thoroughly. This book is no exception. There are some tremendous characters in the book. On Claires journey to find Daniel, we encounter strange places such as an underground sushi bar and unique intriguing characters such as Huey and Tess, friends of Michael, Claires ex husband. Daniel and Claires family all have their own quirks and their characters are explored well. Wener swaps from writing in the third person to writing in the first person as Claire. Some of the scenes are incredibly witty and some are genuinely moving.
I enjoyed the read. However, I found that the last few chapters did not flow quite so easily and were a little disappointing. This was not the story as such, as these few chapters did tie all the details together. It just wasn't as enjoyable to read. This may be because some of the earlier chapters had been witty reading with small revealing facts being uncovered towards the ends which kept you wanting to read on and discover more. I would recommend both this and Weners previous two novels.
I received this as a gift so have to assume it cost the back of book price of £6.99. There are 3 different published covers available on Amazon from as ittle as a penny used and new from £0.51. So if you want to give it a read its not a big risk to take!
ISBN 978 0 340 83244 8