When Did You See Her Last? by Lemony Snicket ***
April sent me this beautiful turquoise and purple hardback for Christmas. It is the second novel in the ‘All the Wrong Questions’ series. Whilst I have not read the first book, I hoped it would be like Snicket’s more famous ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ collection, where each novel stands alone just as well as it fits within the series. ‘All the Wrong Questions’ is a prequel of sorts to the latter – the author himself states that the book ‘is about more experiences from my own life; it takes place at a time before the Baudelaire children were born’. Whilst it does not feature the Baudelaire children as protagonists, it is clear that Snicket has used his trademark wit and writing style throughout, which gives a nice sense of coherence between the two. It is a little dry at times, but the flow is marvellous.
Lemony Snicket features as the protagonist of When Did You See Her Last?, working as an apprentice to S. Theodora Markson. In this volume, the pair have been hired to find the whereabouts of a young missing girl named Cleo Knight. When Did You See Her Last? is certainly an entertaining novel, but it did not quite seem as inventive as any of the ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ books.
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan ***
I suggested Half Blood Blues to my real-life book club last year, and they all deemed it ‘too depressing to even bother reading’. Needless to say, I have now left the aforementioned, so that I can now read as many ‘depressing’ books as I fancy. The novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011.
The premise of the story in Half Blood Blues is relatively interesting (rather than depressing, I would say), and I found the book to be quite well written. The dialect which has been used throughout has not been overdone, and so the flow of the story works well and it is consequently very easy to read. I was surprised, given the size of my rather large paperback, that the novel did not take very long to read.
Whilst Half Blood Blues is a good novel, I was unable to connect with any of the characters. Parts of the book which should have been filled with emotion felt rather drained, and there was no real personality given to the narrator. He was more of an overseer of events even though he was involved in everything which he described, and something about him felt distinctly flat. I liked the novel overall, but I did not really enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I believed that it would be far more moving – even the tagline to the novel is ‘From Berlin to Paris. Two friends. One betrayal’ – but Edugyan seemed to miss out on a real opportunity in that respect. She portrayed the social history well, but the characters felt indistinct against it.