Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I wanted to read this book when I read its description; I don't think I would have pushed through to the end if it hadn't been on the Man Booker Prize Long List.
To me, it suffers from what many experimental novels do - too much experiment with no clear purpose. I have read many stream of consciousness works. Most memorable to me (and the least known) is the first chapter of Narcopolis, something I probably could have read for the entire work but the author decided to step back from it and just write the novel after doing it for about 7 pages. How I wish Mike McCormack had made a similar decision!
When you don't have sentences that end and you don't use dialogue markings, you don't give your narrator a chance to take a breath. It may not seem like the narrator needs one, but actually, he or she does. See how I created breaths in the previous sentence by just adding commas? It's funny that my previous review is of a book about radio storytelling, because she has an entire section on signposts and how important they are to a listener. By creating a space to stop and think, to ponder, to absorb a difficult concept, you are engaging the listener. You are asking them to come with you on your journey. When you don't do that, then you are saying you don't give a shit and they're either going to follow you or you will leave them behind.
That is unfortunate, because I think there are some beautiful moments in the prose. But I never felt like I could stop and be with them for a moment or make a note of them because the narrator was still incessantly droning on! There is an overarching structure of sorts that is spoiled by other reviews so don't read them but by the time I reached the end I'd forgotten the beginning because anything important I thought I'd read was taken over by artistic protests and pages and pages of sickness and vomit.
So clearly this is not my style. I'm feeling put out at put myself through it. Depending on the mindset of this year's Man Booker judges, this one might make the shortlist because sometimes experiment is valued above other things. It does have some strange parallels to another title on the longlist - Reservoir 13, in fact I could see the events occurring at the same time, in a strange way.
tl; dr - Solar Bones - most anticipated, ultimately unfulfilling.
I was provided a copy by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review, based on my request.
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