Sound interesting? I know I was ready to see what the author would do with these characters but what she's done is create a book of smoke and mirrors that caters to a fat housewives whose favorite activities are eating bon-bons and shopping on their husbands credit cards.
A. L. Kennedy is obviously the student of an MFA program, a "writer" who believes that writer's workshops are a means of developing of talent and not the mock self-help groups that they generally are. She is a person of intelligence who has confused that with talent. And while she can manipulate characters to create the beginnings of empathy in a discerning reader it is her lack of conception of a big picture that really fails to distinguish it.
The failure of this book is in the failure of its characters. Perhaps this sort of book exists because there are lots of people out there who are failures as people and like reading about their ilk. Mrs. Brindle is a frightened mouse of a woman among the drab masses of gray Scotland lost in a world of pre-packaged individuality who subverts it in new recipes and self-help books.
Her supposed abandonment by God rings hollow throughout the book; we are asked to buy into someone else's crisis without much description of what brought her there and (my big problem) why anyone should care.
Perhaps I sound cruel. A. L. Kennedy and the people at Knopf are betting there are enough skittishly tortured souls out there in our modern world to not worry about real characterization but get on with the soap-opera drama so they can forget their own troubles.
These problems are spread to the male characters as well. Mr. Brindle is a shallow character that Kennedy spends little time on and seemingly created as an assassination of manhood.
One reads this book and sometimes empathizes with Mr. Brindle (brutality aside) over his whiny wife who barely exists in his presence. In Edward Gluck Kennedy at least has a grasp on male onanistic tendencies, as some of the liveliest sections are his confessionary descriptions of his sexual peccadilloes. Like most screwed-up, wanna-be female writers dragging themselves through "creative writing" programs and endless writers workshops, Kennedy obviously did her share of time on her back.