Monday, September 03, 2007

Charlotte Gray

I have been reading 'Charlotte Gray' over the past week. Sebastian Faulkes is sometimes regarded as the greatest living English novelist, but that is over-egging the pudding. I had previously read 'Birdsong' which was a flawed masterpiece, but in this one he has worked hard on making the flaws more apparent. For a start the plot is preposterous. He concentrates so much on the countryside that you don't notice how silly the plot is at first, but on reflection the story was so full of unlikely co-incidences as to detract from giving it serious consideration.

His style is to report scenes in great detail, but this detracts from pace, and if a book about the French resistance needs anything it needs pace. about half way through I doubted whether I could find the energy to finish it. Several characters form his earlier books make cameo appearances in this one, but whether this adds to the book, I doubt. Perhaps I am so accustomed to the Holocaust that the details no longer shock, so that the sections that dealt with the arrest of Levade and the deportation of the two little boys never really held my attention. Wost of all was the character of Charlotte Gray. Perhaps Kate Blanchett could make something of her in the film, but I just though she was a silly and headstrong child who needed her bottom smacked. The Spitfire pilot was thinly drawn and the most interesting character, Charlotte's father made only a brief appearance. I am afraid that the real problem is that the characters don't emerge from the page.

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