Wednesday, March 18, 2009

December - Elizabeth H Winthrop

…And so onto the penultimate of the Richard and Judy Reads 2009. I knew very little about December or its author Elizabeth H Winthrop before this book was placed on the list and when the lovely people at Sceptre sent me a copy. I looked and saw that it has received slightly mediocre reviews on Amazon and in some ways I can see why and in others I can’t.

December tells the tale of a winter and in particular the lead up to Christmas Day for the Carter family. Husband and wife Wilson and Ruth are concerned with their daughter Isabelle who has not spoken for over nine months. There seems to be no reason as to why Isabelle has put herself under a self imposed silence that they can see. They have tried many different psychiatrists who have been unable to work out what is wrong and now Isabelle’s school are thinking of letting her go.

It is interesting for the reader to see this from all three parties’ sides. Winthrop looks into the minds of all three and how they each cope very differently with the situation and really gets into each of these peoples heads without melodrama which could have been quite easily done. The pressure put on the marriage and how it affects Wilson and Ruth is an interesting subject as they both have moments of denial, anger and unbound love about the whole situation. The voice I didn’t feel I quite got as much as I would have liked was Isabelle herself which was slightly frustrating as the story does in essence evolve around her.

I agree whole heartedly with two comments made by Farmlanebooks One was that it is a ‘gentle’ novel and that is an absolutely spot on word for this novel. This is a very delicately written novel that doesn’t pull out all the stops to dramatise or go over the top. The writing takes you a long without it ever being a page turner. That style leads me to another review that said it was in some ways very ‘like Anne Tyler’ and that is also spot on. In fact after reading Breathing Lessons and Anne’s writing about family issues earlier this year I was reminded of it again with this book. Winthrop looks at real life and writes about real people and situations and maybe that is why some people have found this a slightly underwhelming read.

I didn’t personally find it underwhelming, I actually quite enjoyed it without being blown away. In fact overall I would say it was an ‘enjoyable gentle’ read, even though really very little happens I still wanted to know more. For those who love a book with a punch and want to get lost in a great tale this is possibly not for you. Those of you who like books that looks into families and how they deal with things, observations of people and how they behave or just love Anne Tyler like I do then you will enjoy this I would imagine.

5 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

That was my review on Amazon! I said it was gentle and compared it to Anne Tyler!

I'm not a fan of Anne Tyler, or this book, but I try to be helpful to other people who might like it.

Not enough happens,, and I was irritated by the fact she stops speaking for no reason.

I read The Bone People shortly after reading this, and the boy in that book also stops speaking, but he has a very good reason for it. I think that reading them side by side made me realise how poor this book is in comparison....but then if you like Anne Tyler....!

Simon Savidge said...

I like Anne Tyler when she is at her best I would give this a 3.5/5 I reckon, I didnt loooooove it I did find myself reading it quite happily though... and I didnt realise it was you that said that... see I love your reviews even subconciously when I dont know they are you as I saw those on Amazon!

*Note* have now indeed seen it was you I shall amewnd my blog!

farmlanebooks said...

I gave this 6/10, so you're not far off me.

It's good to know you like my reviews, without knowing who wrote them - I'm feeling really chuffed with myself now!

Sandy Nawrot said...

You guys are too cute! In the right mood, I love a gentle read. Its like chilling out on the porch swing on a shaded porch on a Sunday afternoon. Sometimes it is what you are in the mood for! Great review!

Simon Savidge said...

Thanks Sandy, indeed with the weather here being so delightfully sunny and me being on a break from work I think thats why I loved the book a little more sat in the sunshine in the park!