I was not a huge fan of The Lovely Bones. In fact I was disappointed by it. I don’t recall much, except that I thought it a very strong idea that was let down by the execution. So, yes, what do I know, it continues to sell strongly, although I can’t understand how as surely by now everyone in the country has a copy!
Alice Sebold seems rather fabulous though. I read an interview with her recently that was the determining factor in me wanting to give The Almost Moon a go despite having not rated TLB’s highly.
The Almost Moon begins with the line ‘When all is said and done, killing my mother came quite easily.’ So, no messing about, here is the meat of the novel; a woman kills her mother. Then we follow the next 24 hours, as we stay with the narrator, Helen, and hear her thoughts, her flashbacks and watch her past unfold. There is a sense of cool detachment that reminds me of Lionel Shriver in ‘We need to talk about Kevin’. And they do have a similar core I think, In WNTTAK the main character struggles with her feelings for her son, here in TAM the central character struggles with her feelings for her mother. When all is done though I am left thinking, oh, so the mum had mental health issues, as did the dad, as does the daughter. Oh. And any sympathy that arises quickly dissipates when not only does Helen kill her mother but then hacks off her long plait and stuffs it into her bag, then goes to fuck her best friends son, coldly and mechanically. It becomes hard to care for her, although perhaps I did a little.
There is a smattering of therapy speak, and some of the motifs are a little heavy handed. This is a flaw I found irritating, oh look she is wearing her mother’s slip and her father carved wooden people and her ex husband sculpts with ice and dirt whist she strips as an artists model and so on. Argh!
I have to assume that as intelligent and honest and sparkly as Sebold seems to me in interviews, I am just not going to ‘get’ her fiction in a meaningful way. I’m sure I’ll be selling this book for years to come though.