C

This is my review of C by Tom McCarthy.

Since the reviews so far have been small in number but very glowing, I feel the need to offer a different viewpoint. I have not included a plot outline, as others have done this already.

I found the lengthy descriptions of small scale events very tedious. Early examples of this are:

– where the doctor walks round the house to his host's workshop, finds it locked, so has to go back all the way round the building. Why did the author not just include a plan?

– the account of the pageant performed by the deaf children to their parents, together with the frequent focus on their repetitive language practice and the dreary poems they have to learn.

– references to long-superseded electrical and optical equipment without any brief notes of explanation: this means either reading stuff one does not understand, or having the flow of reading disrupted by the urge to go and research.

A few errors made me doubt the accuracy of the rest e.g. the description of chrysanthemums, tulips and irises growing together in an open bed. Then there was a paragraph about stamens, stigma and pistils that didn't seem quite right. This matters because reading detail that is inaccurate and serves no other purpose is a waste of time.

The emotional coldness of the book repelled me utterly. I think some of it is meant to be humorous, as when Carrefax senior considers attaching a tapping device to a coffin in case the deceased ( a very close relative) should come back to life. However, the upshot of the fact that the main characters observe the world so clinically, without a drop of empathy, is that one cannot engage with them or care about their fate.

I did not mind the lack of plot, or the disjointed structure. Some images are striking, as when the infant Carrefax observes the beauty of the wing he has plucked from an unfortunate fly, and peers at the Hatching Room through it. The reviewer who feels the book needs to be read slowly, and improves on a reread, may have a point – but life is short, and there are many books which make a positive impact from the outset!

I sense that other readers would like to make this into a kind of "cult book" – if so, I don't want to join.

⭐⭐ 2 Stars

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