Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Out of Character

**Warning: contains spoilers**

I’ve finished reading the latest offering from Marina Lewycka on the weekend. “We Are All Made of Glue” is what we have come to expect from the pen of Lweycka – full of quirky characters who meet in the most unlikely circumstances but ultimately help each other through life’s follies. There’s Mrs Shapiro – the Jewish lady who epitomises the crazy old cat lady label, Wonderboy the marauding tomcat, Georgie recently separated with a teenage sun suffering an existential crisis and Mr Ali and the Uselesses, the Arab immigrants who are great company but terrible “fixitup” men.

The story deals with some pretty meaty issues of modern day life including care of the elderly, the end of the world and the Israeli-Palestine conflict – so not your usual light fiction read. But each issue is handled with finesse and a touching gentleness, as well as the author’s trademark cracking humour.

And then she spoilt it all by making one of her characters do something completely out of character.

**Last warning: stop reading now if you don’t want any spoilers!**

In what I can only surmise was a fit of trying to find a way to wrap everything up neatly, Lewycka kills of the beloved Wonderboy and then has Mrs Shapiro move into a care home that does not allow animals. We are supposed to believe this elderly woman who is so devoted to her furry felines she slept with them, let them have the run of her house (and all the bodily functions deposited about the place that entails) and even wanted them smuggled into the hospital to see her, would just blithely agree to rehome them.

Maybe others who have read this book (are you out there? Tell me your thoughts!) didn’t feel this was the howler I see it as. Maybe it resonated with me because with three furbabies of my own, I am well on the way to becoming a crazy old cat lady in the future and the eccentricities of Mrs Shapiro really resonated with me. Yes, I identified with her. And I could not ever imagine giving up my moggies simply because it would make a convenient ending for someone else’s story.

It also makes me wonder how the author could do it; they know the character so much more intimately then we do, after all they have been living in their heads for the duration of the book’s writing life.

What about you, dear readers? Have you ever been reading a book and thought “wow, the author just dropped a clanger there!!”??

(Other than that, I really enjoyed "We Are All Made of Glue" although I think "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" is her first and finest work. This one drags a little in the middle, getting bogged down under the weight of some of those heavy issues but gets back on track quickly. As always her characterisation is fabulous, Mrs Shapiro will live on in my head for some time to come and I could hear her thick rich accent as I read. I particularly enjoyed her reminiscences of her and her husband's lives).

1 comment:

librarykris said...

It was Stephanie Meyer with the ending of Host for me. Not the very end but the bit where the (SPOILER) is saying why they chose (SPOILER)for(SPOILER). Just creepy and made me question her motives.