All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage
I received a free hardback copy of All Things Cease to Appear from the publisher in return for an honest review. Thank you, Quercus!
I don't know where to start with my review for this one. I found the book to be a slow burner and very frustrating to read at times, but I also found that I was drawn into the story enough that I wanted to finish it.
What I liked about the book: At its heart it's a mystery book. The story revolves around several characters and slowly reveals each character's history and relationship with the victim, and with each other. There is also a very subtle underlying ghost story within the pages, It's not a ghost story in the traditional sense, it's not scary and there are no bumps in the night, it's more akin to fading memories encroaching upon the living. It's very atmospheric in places and the ghost story is very subtle, melancholy, and haunting. At times the writing was beautiful and I found myself really being drawn in and could easily visualise and feel for the characters.
That being said, there was a lot that I didn't like. The storyline jumped around a lot and it's not always clear where in the timeline events are occurring.
There are no quotation marks used in the book. It got so confusing. Not only is it hard to understand what is dialogue and what is story text, but the character dialogue also often ran into internal thoughts. As if that's not confusing enough, a lot of the time it's not always clear who the dialogue actually belongs to. I spent a lot of time rereading parts to try to understand who was speaking and what they were actually saying. Following conversations became such a chore and it drew me completely out of the story. I really don't get the whole stylistic appeal of omitting quotation marks, it's messy and confusing and really ruined the whole reading experience.
The story has a lot of characters, and to be honest many of them were really unnecessary and didn't add anything to the story. I did enjoy the three main female characters, Ella, Catherine and Franny, and Cole of course, poor sweet Cole but I detested George. I get that he was supposed to be disliked and I do enjoy a well written mean character, a love to hate kind of character, but his was a different kind of unlikeable. He was just utterly detestable and was so boring, judgemental, and self-centred. There was no love to hate thing going on here, I wanted nothing to do with him. And don't even get me started on all his *yawn* art talk and inner dialogue.
There were many inconsistencies and general nonsensical things. Here's just a few of many that I marked in the book:
- June, minutes after her neighbour arriving at her door, with a sobbing toddler in his arms, having just found his wife is dead, goes off into an inner dialogue about how the sheriff fancies her. Who does that? Why is it even a thing? It adds nothing.
- June, during more inner dialogue, acknowledges the sheriff's kindness towards her neighbour (the one who just found his wife dead). The sheriff entered the house, said "George" (insert some inner dialogue here) "Let's go take a look." That's kindness?
- The Hale farmhouse was rented out many times during the 25 years after the murder. In all that time are you telling me that not one renter cleared out a drawer or shelf? Or ditched an old box that had been in clear view and collecting dust for a quarter of a century? I find it very hard to believe that everything just lay there all that time, or that the police missed them during the initial investigation.
There were a few things that really ticked me off:
- How George was scared of the "deep-black skin of the employees.."
What was the point? Why even put that in there? There was no reason or context given, it was totally random and unneeded.
- Something about her strikes me as rather dykish.
Why? Because she doesn't shave her legs?
For starters, yeah.
Because you know, not shaving your legs means you're a lesbian.
- There were two librarians. Dagmar, a tall blonde of German descent, built like a transvestite...
- Morning, he says to the driver, getting into the back. The cab smells of pineapple and some sort of hair oil. All the cabbies are Jamaican these days.
This one's a corker...
- They were talking about how in high school he'd idolised his cousin Henri, who turned out to be a first-class homo, and they didn't know what had been worse for his parents, the fact that he'd drowned or that he was gay.
That's just a few examples, you don't want to know how many
sticky tabs I used while reading this book!
Moving on... Whodunnit? It's pretty obvious throughout the book who the guilty party is, but there is no clear picture given of the actual crime itself. The reader is left to read between the lines, to pick up on subtle hints and clues to fill in the gaps. Some of the hints were just ridiculous and very easy to miss. Especially considering how much concentration had to go into interpreting the dialogue.
I have let this book stew in my head for a good few days before writing this review. I wanted to let it all settle and really think about it before reviewing it, because despite all of the above, I still wanted to finish it and I did enjoy much of the book. I can overlook the nonsensical bits and the small inconsistencies, but I don't know that I can overlook the utter confusion caused by the lack of quotation marks or the racism and homophobia that occurs.
I enjoyed it enough that I would give the author another chance, but if I found the same problems in her next book then that would be it for me. I wouldn't read any more.
Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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