I thought it would be a contrast after C. While still sick with the flu I reached down to the ever growing pile beside my bed and drew up Charlotte Wood's The Children from 2007, which a friend had lent me. Usually I avoid reading this kind of book, but every now and then I begin to doubt my reactions to it. Can it really be that bad? I ask myself. Will those last pages, in particular, make me cringe - those tears at the eyelash moments - those now we are going to realise something important and everything is going to glow and we will all be bathed in it, the characters and I resounding prose notes?
Every now and then - and particularly at moments like these (when I want to distract myself from being too ill to move) - I tell myself that I really shouldn't be so difficult; that I should really give this kind of literary fiction one more chance.
As far as my expectations went, they weren't surprised at all. This was lyrical realism in spades; it was also ELF (having been short-listed for a major award here in Australia). Obviously Charlotte Wood is very good at what she does, and my friend enjoyed it (my friend who is intelligent and widely read). Her writing is extolled as 'limpid and beautiful prose' and there's a great deal of research in it about real things like war atrocities and hospital trauma units.
I suspect that there is a sliding scale that determines many novels of this kind. The more well-researched the detail and the more 'real' (read recognisable from other novels or even movies) characters, the more predictable the tying of emotional ribbons at the end. In this respect at least, C forced the lever and broke the thing.