Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Review: Cold Water, by Gwendoline Riley

This short book (149 pages) is not so much a story as a snapshot of the life of its protagonist, 20 year old Carmel McKisco, an ambitionless daydreamer working in a bar in Manchester. It is difficult to describe the plot as there really isn't one. Carmel wanders around meeting different people and describing those she already knows, and the most action comes when she goes on a sort of pilgrimage to find the singer from a band she loved as a teenager.

In this book style is the substance: the characters are well drawn, the atmosphere is gloomy yet beautiful, everything is tinged with poetry - but nothing much actually happens, the novel is more about capturing Carmel's life at this stage and her development as a person. If you absolutely require action in novels to enjoy them, don't bother with this one.

I did enjoy reading this book and I will probably read it again - but I liked it for the descriptions more than anything else: I found Carmel a frustrating protagonist, because she didn't seem to want to do anything will her life besides maybe go to live in Cornwall, and I felt like nothing big had really changed by the end of the book.

However, I do think it is the right length - any longer a book and it would need a plot to hold my interest, and the style would stop being so powerful on its own. It is well paced as it is.

I would recommend this book anyone looking for a short, atmospheric book to slip into for a couple of hours (if that), so readers who don't mind novels without strong plot lines, give this a try.

The BookDepository

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