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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

An International Bestseller But Nothing About It Seemed True To Me

Afterwards - Rosamund Lupton

Warning: I shouldn't have read this. It's not my kind of novel and this is by no means an unpartial review.

I hugely disliked the central character and she is pretty much what this book is all about. What I found so objectionable was her outlook on life. It's summed up neatly in this extract in which she talks about how she felt when she first met her husband.

'In that prim little tea shop you told me that you were desperate to be away from the confines of university and out there doing 'stuff'. I didn't know anyone who used the word 'stuff'. I'd done a year of Art History and then a term of an English degree and had never once used the word. My friends were black-clothed, earnest arts students with a thesaurus for a vocabulary.

'I liked the word 'stuff'. And I liked it that you weren't pale with cheekbones studying Kant but were muscular and robust and wanted to be mountaineering and canoeing and white-water rafting and abseiling and bivouacking the world rather than reading and philosophising about it'
(End of quote)

So she's clever and she's arty, but she likes her men hunky and not too bright. Isn't that a bit odd? Perhaps that really is how lots of women are. I hope not. All I know is that she would hate me for my bookishness, not to mention my lack of enthusiasm for mountaineering, and that knowledge entirely alienates me from her character. Yet the whole drive of the book is about empathising with this character and the suffering she endures.

I can't empathise because nothing she says rings true to me. Take those 'black-clothed, earnest arts students with thesauruses for vocabularies' for example - what planet do they come from? I certainly never encountered anyone like them at university.

I also suspect that the author deliberately positioned this book as the story of a middle-class wife who is overtaken by tragedy, a tragedy she doesn't deserve. But the character is so very smug that I didn't feel any sense of unfairness.

I should admit that I didn't finish reading this book. Maybe the central character learns a lot and becomes a nicer person. I just wasn't able to get through enough of the story to find out. Consequently, this review is absolutely worthless except perhaps as an object lesson in how to irritate a certain kind of male reader.