Intrusive, irritating and trite

2012-10-17 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Redemption Song

Amanda Coetzee

Macmillan

 

DESPITE her surname and the fact that she now lives in Rustenburg, Amanda Coetzee hails from Bedford in the United Kingdom.

Having a strong connection with Bedford myself, I looked forward to visiting a few old haunts in this book, part of whose action takes place there.

Forlorn hope.

The first of several problems with Coetzee’s writing is that she cannot set a scene. This is a serious drawback, especially because she switches locations rapidly and often.

So, instead of using description or dialogue to convey a sense of place, she announces locations in bold print across the page, and thus: Bedford, England, or Adriatic Sea, or Fuel Station, Morgex, Italy, page after page.

Perhaps she thought that if this technique was good enough for Shakespeare (scene changes via placards reading A Blasted Heath, Another Part of the Forest), it must be good enough for her.

Sorry, but it’s intrusive and thoroughly irritating. And more irritation is to come. Flitting about to and from all the various locations is “dark, enigmatic hero Harry O’Connor”, quaintly known as “Badger”, temporarily (he’s on leave from the Met) living in the Traveller (i.e. “Gypsy”) community he grew up with. These annoying people have an accent, and the repetitive writing of accented dialogue is another skill Coetzee has not mastered.

Enter social worker Emily Meadows pleading for Badger’s help in rescuing a mother and daughter held captive by a “brutal Albanian warlord”.

The rescue attempt goes wrong, the warlord gets nasty, and only the mysterious Albanian traveller community and a few English policemen can fix things.

Poor writing, poor plotting, poor characterisation and trite situations. What a pity Coetzee could not have used her knowledge of the lifestyles and lore of traveller communities to better effect.

The only lighter moments come from editorial blunders including an egg boasting a “yoke”.

 

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