I started with The grief of others from my Orange Pile mainly because my Kindle-sampling colleague was keen to read the rest of it after reading the first chapter and there isn't a copy in the Oxfordshire library system yet. I have to say that two things put me off the book before I started reading it - the title, which didn't sound especially cheery - am really not in the mood for mis-lit at the moment - and the fact that it was an "Oprah Winfrey pick" - i.e. it was chosen for an American TV book club. Maybe I'm unduly snobbish about that but often the books chosen for the UK TV book clubs (e.g. Richard and Judy in the past) seem to conform to a certain type and I imagined that this might also fulfil a certain type.
Anyway, the book is as anticipated not terribly cheerful. It tells the story of Ricky, and John and their two children Paul and Biscuit (Elizabeth) in the aftermath of the third child of the family dying 57 hours after birth from anencephaly. Ricky had known about the condition of her unborn child since her 5 month scan but had not shared the knowledge with anyone. And the book is essentially a working out of how the family come to terms with their grief, about how it affects their relationships and how their current situation is influenced by past events.
It's certainly well written, and Cohen moves clever between the present and the past to build up the picture of events and personalities in a less obvious way than a linear narrative might have done.
I have to say that ultimately, my two preconceptions of this novel were right. It was not a happy book - and I just was not in the right place to read a book that was not a happy book. And I anticipated that an Oprah book would be mainly about relationships and families working their way through difficult times and I was right.
Need to read some more before I start making more predicitons!
Spring 2018: Quarterly Stories
6 hours ago