Newest Review: ... Lewycka didn't really seem to know what to do with them all. This led to parts of the book feeling underdeveloped. At other times, the ... more
We Are All Made of Glue - Marina Lewycka
Member Name: SWSt
We Are All Made of Glue - Marina Lewycka
Date: 23/04/13, updated on 24/04/13 (39 review reads)
Advantages: Good moments of humour, quirky characters
Disadvantages: Too many characters and sub-plots vying for attention
Georgina Sinclair is your average family woman with a husband and two children. When her husband walks out on her following a row, she has to cope with her new-found independence. Matters are further complicated when she is befriended by a rather odd, elderly neighbour, Naomi Shapiro.
It's fair to say that Glue divided the SWSt household. Mrs SWSt read it whilst we were on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it. She could regularly be heard sniggering at the antics of the quirky cast of characters and read a few choice passages out to me. When I came to read the whole thing myself, I didn't enjoy it quite so much. It certainly had its moments, but to my mind is the weakest of Lewycka's works to date.
There were times when Glue felt somewhat contradictory. Sometimes there seemed to be so many characters and subplots evolving that Lewycka didn't really seem to know what to do with them all. This led to parts of the book feeling underdeveloped. At other times, the focus appeared to be too narrow and the subject matter a little safe and predictable.
It's probably this first element that is more serious. There are several plot strands competing for space: Mrs Shapiro, Georgina's separation, her son's increasing religious mania, the burgeoning (and slightly suspicious) romance with local estate agent Mark Diabello, Sinclair's on-going freelance work for a publication devoted to solvents (hence the title), her relationship with her colleagues, and Georgina's cringingly poor attempts to write a book. PHEW!
All these ideas are thrown around and only a few of them (forgive the pun) really stick. The main plot (surrounding Mrs Shapiro's past and present) is very good and uses Lewycka's trademark wit to make amusing observations on the way people behave. The trouble is everything else gets a bit lost. Plot strands come and go randomly and never fully seem to tie in with other things that are happening.
As a result many of the sub-plots feel underdeveloped and unsatisfactory. A few are rather predictable and the ending is a huge disappointment as Lewycka suddenly realises she has all these plot strands flapping around and tries to wrap them all up quickly and a little too neatly. The ending was trite and something of an anti-climax. There is a late attempt to introduce a bit of black humour and pathos, but it's too, little too late.
What was perhaps most disappointing was the lack of consistent humour. Lewycka's previous books have been marked out by odd characters and quirky behaviour that lead to amusing situations or funny conversations and misunderstandings. Her books were never meant to be out and out comedies, but they did make you laugh. Such moments are more limited in Glue. Whilst there are flashes of Lewycka's trademark humour, they are less frequent. Lewycka certainly has a way with words that can turn relatively ordinary situations into funny ones but I never felt completely at home with the humour in this book. Some of it seems a little forced; other bits borderline offensive.
Again, the sheer number of characters is partly at fault, since Lewycka is only able to give them fairly sketchy attention. In previous books, she has concentrated on a smaller cast which has allowed her to develop them much more. As such, the reader became sympathetic to their situation. In Glue, this is given less emphasis and many of the characters and the plot suffer as a result. Worse, several border on stereotypes (particularly Mr Ali and a Jewish character who appears late on).
After the excellent, insightful and amusing Two Caravans and Short History, this feels a lot more by-the-numbers. As I said at the start, though, this book divided the SWSt household and Mrs SWSt enjoyed it far more than I did, so perhaps you will too. It's certainly worth reading, although I'm not sure I could recommend going out and buying it at full price. At around £6 for the paperback or Kindle edition, my advice is to wait until you can pick it up cheap in a second hand bookshop.
We are all made of glue
Penguin, Re-issue, 2012
© copyright SWSt 2013
Summary: Lewycka's weakest effort to date