The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
At first I thought this was a crime novel, but there's no serious crime (a bit of scene-setting historical domestic violence doesn't count).
Then I thought it was a mystery novel, but there's no mystery: the missing girls give first-hand accounts of their ordeal throughout.
Then I thought it was a psychological thriller, but the characters are such flat stereotypes that anything as subtle as psychology is beyond them – except the obvious bad guy, Griff, but he's the only major character who doesn't get the first-person treatment, presumably because he's the bad guy and the author doesn't want the readers sympathising with him (maybe she should read Nabokov).
The multiple narrator idea is good (maybe she has been reading Audrey Niffenegger, but it's not much use when the characters – implausibly, given the terrifying events that are unfolding – spend most of their time musing about the past. Gudenkauf isn't a skilled enough writer to balance so many characters: they all talk and think in the same way, and eventually they merge into one. This isn't helped by the simplistic characterisation: people are good or bad.
Add to that the pedestrian narration, artless description and flat dialogue, and we have a thoroughly unexceptional book. By that logic, one star seems harsh, as it's not terrible – undemanding sun-lounge readers can flip through it and find it mildly diverting – but at no point does it transcend mediocrity. It shows a depressing lack of ambition on the author's part.
(This was the other book I rescued from the bin at the Village Hall, along with Genesis by Karin Slaughter. Their failings are oddly similar. Maybe the phantom book dumper had more taste than I gave them credit for.)
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