I determined a few weeks ago to try and read as many of the books on the long list for the Orange Prize for Fiction as I could before the prize is announced in June. This is a British prize for the best fiction by women. I tracked down as many of the titles as I could-not all of them have been released in the US yet. I've got about six on my shelf, eagerly awaiting my perusal.
This novel is bleak. The language is spare to the point of feeling almost emotionless at times. The setting, which should be lovely, only adds to the mood of despair. Patrick is clearly a man with very few social skills, and a real trouble controlling his thoughts and actions. He has a strained relationship with his family, and seems inclined to believe that everyone is out to get him. There are very few truly sympathetic characters, except maybe the two women that Patrick finds himself attracted to in his new hometown. The second half of the book takes place in a prison, so you can imagine how uplifting that is. When Patrick finally finds some genuine human connection, it happens in such a bizarre way that even that doesn't seem to lighten the mood. In the end, I'm left wondering what on earth could have caused Patrick to act the way he did-there is just not enough in the book to give me a clear sense of how he got to be the way that he is. Despite that I did end up pulling for something to go his way. I was destined to be disappointed.