I'm doing a huge amount of reading at the moment -- I rarely have less than four books on the go at any one time. Publishers will keep sending them, and I'm really glad they do, but unfortunately I can't stop myself feeling guilty if I don't read them, even if they've come unsolicited. I've got to get over this, obviously. Luckily I've read a couple this past week that I really enjoyed -- Hesperus's new reprint of Sibyl Brinton's Old Friends and New Fancies, the first ever Jane Austen sequel, and Deborah Harkness's The Book of Life, the final volume of her All Souls Trilogy. You'll be hearing about these in due course. But I've also come a cropper on a couple of others.
Forty Acres is a debut novel by a young American screenwriter. The premise sounded intriguing. A young black lawyer wins a hugely important case, and gets taken up by a group of powerful and wealthy black men, who invite him to a weekend of white-water rafting. When he arrives at the destination, it turns out that this is not the purpose of the weekend after all. He finds himself in an extraordinary environment in which the traditional racial roles have been reversed -- the blacks are in charge, and they are waited on and served in evey imaginable way by Caucasian slaves. Horrified, he wants to leave, only to find he is a prisoner...
Well, I'm sorry to say I found this novel quite odd and very distasteful. It's very violent, for one thing, which is not my cup of tea at all -- but also, though I'm sure Smith's heart is in the right place, I found much of the plot pretty implausible. So, though it's tackling what are obviously important issues, I wasn't convinced by either the characters or the events. I admit I skim-read the last half, which does I suppose mean that at least I wanted to know how it would all pan out. but this one was not for me.
The other failure was an audiobook, kindly offered to me as a free advance copy by Audible. I'm saying audiobook but actually it's an audio drama, a new departure for this very successful Amazon-owned company. They've put together an impressive sounding cast, including Andy Serkis, Emila Fox and Rupert Penry-Jones, and the original novel is by Sebastian Fitzek, "Germany's most successful thriller writer, whose books are read around the world in more than 20 different languages" (says Audible). Sadly I have had to say that I wasn't going to be able to review it on their site, because I really didn't like it. The plot, which revolves around a ten year old child apparently remembering his past life in which he murdered umpteen people, seemed to me to be completely implausible -- I guessed the surprise denouement very early on -- the translation sounded wooden -- and the actors, poor things, seemed unable to do much with the problematic material. What a shame.
Now I've no doubt that there will be many people who adore the book and the audio drama, and if they do, that's great. But looking on the bright side, at least it's made it clear that I should steer clear of violent thrillers, and stop feeling bad about putting things aside of they aren't working for me. Onward and upward!