The Whole World is a sort of crime/suspense novel set in Cambridge, England, told in turn from the viewpoint of 5 different characters. The first two narrators, Polly and Liv, are friends, and seem to have much in common - they are both American students with things to hide, and they are both attracted to the same young man, Nick. One night things come to a head as Nick somehow ends up kissing them both, then goes missing and is presumed dead. Then Nick, a blind woman called Gretchen and a local police officer, Morris, tell their stories, and the novel takes several weird twists. It is hard to say more without revealing too much about the plot.
I have mixed feelings about this novel. There are some really preposterous plot twists and episodes in the story, and there is far too much going on in terms of current drama, past secrets and so on. In one totally implausible scene, a woman suggests late at night that she will teach her lover to drive, insists that he takes the wheel and then falls asleep in the car leaving him driving alone on his first time behind the wheel. Are we really meant to believe that an intelligent woman would do something so stupid? Later, the book relies heavily on some odd coincidences.
As for characters, I really wanted to tell even the more likeable characters off a few times for being so silly. There are some really unpleasant characters in the book, including some of the narrators, and this makes for some uncomfortable reading. The writing is not always that great - the author seems to feel a need to hammer home some of her points and doesn't trust the reader much to pick things up for themselves.
However, I did start to care about how the tangled stories of the book would resolve themselves, and overall for all its faults I quite enjoyed reading this debut novel.
This is an amended version of a review which first appeared at www.thebookbag.co.uk
Format: Hardback 292 pages
Publisher: Bantam Doubleday
RRP: £16.99; Amazon price £11.89