Thursday, 19 March 2015

Book Review: Far North by Marcel Theroux

Far NorthFar North by Marcel Theroux
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I finished this book with mixed feelings.
Marcel Theroux is the son of famous writer Paul Theroux and he obviously inherited some of his talent. He did not, however, inherit his father's keen eye for observation and human diversity.
This is a post-apocalyptic story dealing with the daughter of American immigrants who moved to Siberia just before the fall of civilization. She lived through the fall and became a local sheriff in an ultimately futile attempt to stop the chaos. The land and cultures of this post-apocalyptic world are interesting and well drawn and kept me flipping pages.
Yet I found myself increasingly frustrated. The book needed a good edit, there being numerous typos and occasional references to events that were never covered in the text. More frustrating was the protagonist's voice. Much of British literary fiction comes from its chattering classes (Theroux went to an elite boarding school and then Cambridge) and they have trouble getting out of their register. The protagonist swings between spouting home truths like some latter-day movie cowboy to sounding like a columnist for the Guardian. Such writers can't resist showing off their knowledge, even when their characters are unlikely to share that knowledge. This made the protagonist feel contrived. Supporting characters often suffered from the same problem or were just cardboardy stereotypes.
I wish I could give this book a better rating. The writing was at a high level and the setting was compelling, but my enjoyment of a novel centers on its characters, and it is because of them that Far North left me cold.

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