Bodies Electric by Colin Harrison

This book wouldn’t be my usual cup of tea and strays a fair way out of my comfort zone but in an attempt to reach into unread territory and expand my knowledge of characterisation for my own book – which at this rate will never be finished – I gave this one a go. It’s also very literary and I prefer commercial if given the choice.

The book is thick with small type and long chapters, an instant turn-off for me. I like books that are easy to put down and pick up again and shorter chapters tend to make me read the book quicker. Add to that a very slow plot line and immense detail, and I struggled.

Yes, it’s a great example of characterisation in writing as we learn every minute detail about New Yorker Jack Whitman, the main character, and plenty more detail about some of the other characters to boot. But cripes, it took me a long time to read.

This is the way of literary fiction, I guess, and I have less appreciation for intense characterisation and incredible detail than I do for pithy plots and a storyline that makes me want to keep turning pages.

The opening of the book is probably the only part that gripped me, Jack introducing himself and his somewhat broken lifestyle after the murder of his wife. After that, it gets worse and worse and what leads me to think there will be a massive climax at some point throughout the book… well, it never materialises.

We get introduced to immense detail, a lot of it tied up in the pre-dotcom corporate world – which bores me. My interest is mildy lifted when Jack meets Dolores Salcines but as time goes on I find I don’t like Dolores much and I’m not much bothered for Jack either. There’s a part which introduces some significant cruelty to dogs which both sickens me and pulls me back into the plot again, but not for long.

Without wanting to give the story away, for anyone who does read it, I was expecting some humdinger of an ending to make up for having to read the rest of the book, a thick book with very small type so it took an age. But no, the ending was a real flop which left me thinking Jack was pathetic and Dolores was little more than a tease. I always enjoy books more when I like the characters, and I wasn’t keen on anyone in this book, apart from the company chairman who was clearly cleverer than he ever let on.

I kept thinking that the ending would be so amazing it would make up for the rest of the book. Sadly not. Would I recommend reading this book? No. But others who read it liked the way it portrays the dramatic twists and turns your life can take, and how small decisions can have a very big and sometimes life-changing impact.

Robyn’s rating: 3/10

Posted May 2011

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