Monday, 22 September 2014

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

A few minutes after two in the morning Rebecca Winter woke to the sound of a gunshot and sat up in bed.

This opening line which is all of the first paragraph has two cliches right out of the gate, which surprises me. The title is not bad, but it does have the subtle waft of artsy-farsty and even though I'm not a big fan of the artsy-fartsy genre, the one thing one can usually count on is that they don't start with any of the usual cliches, except perhaps on occasion the weather cliche opening. Here we have the bed setting and the gun opening. For a moment I wonder if I'm reading Ian Fleming.

Then we get a correction, it may not be two in the morning which provides an escape into back story about the kitchen floor, loose steps in the back yard and outlets as these are apparently more important than the gunshot.

We return t the gunshot on page 2 and another correction as Rebecca doesn't actually know what a gunshot sounds like and so can't be certain it was a gunshot because...and then some more back story about New York City, vacations, beaches, vineyards and the husband. After a page of her life story about a mother, childhood, the doorman and her father the author reassures us that there is most likely some conflict in this opening and that Rebecca is almost certain it is a gunshot as she lies in bed in a room without outlets. She looks for her watch, which provides another opportunity for back story about her marriage before returning to the watch which is difficult to read especially in a room fringed by large pine trees which begins a paragraph about setting and weather.

Then on the next page Rebecca turns over ready to ignore the gunshot as it becomes a memory which is how the reader should feel after all the back story. The forward narrative becomes just a distant memory.

Then there are two more pages of back story which I skipped until we get this sentence:

Bam bam bam.

So it was a gunshot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But by this point the writer has persuaded me not to care.

First thing said:

"That's a beauty!"

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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