Book Club: The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith
March 7, 2012
It feels like an age ago now that we looked at The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (or ‘Scones’ as we all affectionately called it) by Alexander McCall Smith in book club…. and it was. For the sake of completion, though, I thought I would give it a quick review.
McCall Smith writes this one in the same serial way that Charles Dicken’s wrote all those years ago for the newspaper. The main idea is a chapter at a time with a week or a month before the next installment of the story. It’s a writing technique that we don’t experience much now that we have the instant digital age of impatience. So, that in itself made for a new reading experience.
The chapters end more suddenly. The story gets paused and strands seem to get forgotten about…. sometimes for the entire book and sometimes for extended lengths of time.
We talked about how at different chapter endings we couldn’t wait to move on and see what had happened to this or that character, and could see how a reader under the serial story restrictions would have been bursting at the seams to pick up their next copy of the weekly rag…. and you definitely wouldn’t go without a copy, as you might miss a very important part of the story.
I found myself going back over what I had already read, as I feared that I had missed what had happened to a character, only to find that that character was no longer of importance to the story.
The book felt very much like a series of ‘coffees’ with people who vaguely knew each other because they lived in the same street. The reader becomes the confidant of sorts. A conduit for gossip, and like gossipy conversations I was left wanting to know more than I was being told .
My criticism with the book and style lies here.
I didn’t really know enough about the characters to care for them or be disgusted by them. The interactions between the characters always felt very surface. Unfortunately the book felt to me like it didn’t really go anywhere.
Alexander McCall Smith comes with a pretty big wrap, so some of it may have been that my expectations were too high. I know lots of you reading are fans. Tell me which book I should be reading.
That said, I am glad to have read something in this genre. I may even have a go at Dickens now.
Our Christmas holiday book was Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brookes (who is a favourite of mine) however with everything else going on I haven’t read it and didn’t make it to the discussion….. so I might come back to that one.
The next book in line was The Clan Of The Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. I will review that one for you soon.