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Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: An Age of Madness by David Maine

This was a tricky book. The narrator is extremely unreliable, and you don't really see that coming, as she is a psychiatrist, a profession well-respected for their honesty and ability to see things as they are and see though people's subterfuges.

I don't want to give away too much (and unlike the back cover copy, I am not going to intentionally mislead you in order to not give away a spoiler. Don't read that copy. It's bad in that you will think you're about to read a very different kind of book.) Regina and her daughter Anna are grieving a terrible tragedy in their past, and neither is doing it well. Regina has thrown herself into work at the mental hospital, and Anna is acting out and flunking college. They seem to both hate each other, even though each other is all they have. They each blame the other both for their parts in not foreseeing the tragedy and for their terrible relationship with each other.

Meanwhile Regina starts dating a younger man from work. She deals with her parents and her in-laws. And she worries fruitlessly about Anna who doesn't want her help and in fact rebels against it pretty vociferously.

I was worried about a male author writing a convincing female lead, and I think Mr.Maine has done a great job with that. And while I normally don't like unreliable narrators, I understand why he did it, and I think he pulled it off very well. It's also believable why Regina would not tell us the whole story and why she's even trying to hide the truth from herself. But in the end, it was hard to like this book because it was so darn depressing. Now, I am not one of those people who thinks every book should be filled with sunshine and roses and that any tragedy in a book is awful - in fact I think the opposite, that without some kind of difficulty there isn't much of a plot so there must be something to overcome. But this book was just so relentlessly sad. And neither Regina or Anna was very likable in my opinion. Now, I also don't have to like the characters but in a book like this, I think you do want to root for them, especially is it is primarily a character study without much plot to speak of. In the end, while it's very well-written and even masterfully laid out, it was just too much of a bummer for me. Which makes me sad because I liked Mr. Maine's previous book that I read very much. It was however good for discussion at my book club, except that as no one identified with Regina or Anna, no one argued for either of their actions. But there are a lot of fascinating topics brought up and a lot of interesting issues for discussion.

1 comment:

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

I really don't like when the blurb doesn't give you a true idea of the story. I remember accepting a review request for a title that turned out to be TOTALLY different than what I was expecting - very racy, very urban, very .. just not my type of read. It was nearer the beginning of my blogging career, so I felt obligated to read it anyway, but I definitely didn't like it. Like you, I warned against the description as being a true indicator of what was inside.

I don't know if this one would be for me - like you, I'd like at least some character identification or a bright spot or something. Even "The Road" has a flicker of hope at the end.

Thanks for the review!