In my youth, I was a voracious reader. I would walk up the long hill of Ninevah Road, to Handsworth Library on Soho Road, with a string bag full of books to return. I always enjoyed the rewarding downhill walk back with my bag of swag, to sit and devour a few more. The smell of books was delicious; I felt so privileged and thrilled to be able to borrow them for free. I read everything from historical fiction to ‘Teach Yourself Spanish’ and The Art of Pig Farming. You name it, I read it. I’d long since run out of titles at my primary school.
My desire for knowledge was untameable. It was a real hunger. My parents would also buy me 2/6d Dean’s children’s classics. I entered so many worlds through reading, it was like my own personal Narnia. I was lost in the realms of my imagination. Reading was the best activity in the world, closely followed by writing.
Fast forward to 2017. I do enjoy a good read in the bath. The bath, I learned as a mother of 5, is a place of peace and solitude, a place that instructs people not to disturb.
This morning, as I tackled page 98 of Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies, I gave up (as I’d considered doing a few times already) and decided my life was too short to read any further. This is a really good book. On the cover, The Financial Times calls it ‘rich, touching, hilarious’. The Sunday Times says the author is ‘a glorious new talent’. Glamour says ‘your next must-read is here’. The Daily Telegraph says it is ‘a spectacular debut…Tough and tender, gothic and lyrical, it is a head-spinning, stomach-churning state-of-the-nation novel about a nation falling apart’, and it has won two prizes. The author is lauded on social media. You can see this book is totally amazing.
I really wanted to enjoy it. But I didn’t.
So, who am I not to like it?
Well, I’m no one, but I still didn’t.
I tried to work out why. The Guardian review says: You can’t fault McInerney for lack of exuberance, though she has a tendency to treat paragraphs like pinball machines, firing off bold, extended metaphors and letting them ricochet down the page: “Karine looked back at him with one hand on the draining board, rearranging the kitchen by way of chemical reaction, bleak snapshots fizzling against her butter-blonde hair and popping like soap bubbles against the hem of her grey school skirt.” It certainly captures the giddy rush of teenage infatuation – I’m just not entirely sure what it means.
Maybe that’s my problem. It simply doesn’t call to me. It has no meaning for me, despite normally being a big follower of social realism.
I’m just not entirely sure what it means.