Thursday, November 15, 2007
Last Seen Leaving my bookshelf....Owls for autumn
I tried to give Last Seen Leaving by Kelly Braffet the old college try as Houghton Mifflin very kindly sent it to me, but it was not my cup of tea. It had a tantalizing prologue but as the body of the novel started, the characters failed to grip me. Part of that was the mileu - a new age bookstore - despite what seemed like a comic take, I checked out. Also, aside from the central character, everyone else seemed a cliche - much like the casting of those big romance blockbuster movies like Sleepless in You've Got Mail. You know, there's Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan or whomever valiantly doing their decent thing... and then there's everybody else - the spinstery store keeper-type, the gay friend-type. I hate second-rate on purpose. But back to the book, there was a present-tense narrator delivering exposition in a voice I found so self-conscious, I kept wondering if I would find out this part of the book was actually a police report or a lawyer's brief. A scene in a central character's kitchen in the early part of the book is interrupted by this reportorial voice with the name of the town in which she was born , her parents' names, and their causes of death. It felt so clinical and out-of-place and if that had a point, I couldn't tell what it was. Finally, the whole connection with the "other worldly" element of this book - the central character's trying to connect with her supposedly dead husband or out-of-touch daughter, her sandalwood oil, her meditation - the rendering of it was hackneyed. Sounding more like yoga journal than a novel "trying to empty her mind of all thought...She almost never go it right." I'm being kind of hard on this book, but after 50 pages I knew it wasn't my thing. Chalk it up to my taste, the story might have been great if I had stuck with it a while longer but there are too many books to read between papers on neurotransmitters so it has been preempted by The Owl Service, which I noticed Slaves of Golconda is reading this month. I'm not a member but I'll be reading it in admirable company and it's just the thing for the swirling leaves, cold melancholy days, and ginger tea.