Monday, 23 August 2010

Ordinary Thunderstorms - William Boyd

I will be honest with you I was worried about this bookclub. It was the month of August and I knew before hand that at least 2 people were going to be on holiday. This may not be a lot to you but when your bookclub has a rolling total of 8 all of whom have never been in attendance at the same time it's a lot. I was so nervous that I arrived super early and then made myself even more nervous by having to wait for agggeeesss for someone/anyone to turn up.

What also added to my nerves was the fact that the notice I had put up in Sainsburys had been mysteriously taken down and having only just got back from holiday myself I didn't realise until the day before the bookclub. Argh!

My regulars didn't let me down however (thank you) and there were four of us in total reviewing Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd. This is Boyds tenth outing based on a man who after being in the wrong place at the wrong time finds himself the wrong end of a man hunt for murder and has to disappear from society by living as a homeless man.

The book got off to a good start with the quote about how a simple (ordinary) thunderstorm can develop into a massive storm with huge consequences that take a long time to settle down (serious paraphrasing, totally don't do it justice, please read it). It seemed obvious that this was where the title came from coupled with the fact that Adam Kindred (the books main character) was a climatologist. I liked it, I thought it was clever and it made me want to read the rest of the book.

The general feeling from the group however was that all the elements were there for a cracking book, it had great potential and you could see the links Boyd was trying to put in place but it just lacked a certain something.

Perhaps this was because the book failed to really choose one route and stick to it. To start off you were given the impression that the book was going to be a thriller/suspense type, almost John Grisham esque with a little man up against a big pharmaceutical company but then that pattered out and Boyd started to focus on the homeless element of the story. Ok - lets just assume that the beginning was merely a means to an end to give you a newly turned homeless person and go down that route then. It failed on this count however as it lacked the grittiness and desolation that it needed. Adam was housebound again in no time at all and we were suddenly trying to resume the murder mystery tag again on very seemingly very little evidence (someone should give Adam a job as a Detective, getting the results he did on the clues at hand). Even then however when we decided on the thriller genre it failed to give us the ending required with the true bad guy kind of getting away with everything. I in particular ended up feeling sorry for Ingram as although he wasn't really to blame he was the only one sentenced to death albeit from a brain tumour rather than prison sentence.

We all screamed at the beginning of the book i.e. Adams stupidity at not only going to the mans house but removing the knife, running away and then not going to the police. WHY WHY WHY???!!!??? But I suppose you just have to swallow it as there wouldn't be a story without it. To be fair Boyd doesn't take long to get Adam to this point and there is no dwelling on the unnecessary.

We commented on the fact that it's very rare for someone to be given such a complete fresh start and in this respect we found parallels with a 1000 Splendid Suns where Mariam gained a completely different life by marrying her husband. We were surprised by how unwilling Adam seemed to be to go back to his old life. Even though he had very few ties in that he had just moved to England, was recently divorced and had relatives in Australia. He didn't even seem to want to clear his name which we just couldn't relate to.

We also commented on how quickly Adam went from being a respectable professor complete with posh raincoat to a person having no qualms about carting his dead flat mate around in a fridge and assuming his identity. This was another example of where a heavy dose of realism was needed to really bring home the bleakness of his situation however instead it felt rushed and unbelievable.

The ending kind of left it open for another book which by all accounts isn't Boyds style. From reading various comments on Amazon it seems as though this isn't Boyds best work but not having read any others we couldn't agree or disagree. We decided that it would make a good holiday read as its easy to delve in and out of with large print however it is quite a large book (not in words just in shape!). We rated it a 7.5.

Our next book is J G Ballad - Empire of the Sun which I'm looking forward to. Especially as hubby on hearing what it was said 'Aye good film, good film, it has that super hero in when he was really young in it.' (Batman/Christian Bale to you and me). If he thinks it's going to be good who am I to argue?

P.S new poster is up in Sainsburys I will be making regular checks to ensure its not removed!!!!