24 Following


"The Rehearsal" by Eleanor Catton

The Rehearsal - Eleanor Catton
I read this book for my book group.  Or rather I tried.  I came to it having just finished "Sword Of Honour" by Evelyn Waugh.  The extreme contrast did not help the experience.  One book, a masterpiece borne out of a global conflict, the other an unfathomable enigma borne out of a scandal in a girl's school.  One felt profound and insightful, the other experimental and confusing.  
My initial impression was that the book was intriguing.  Here's the saxophone teacher addressing a mother: "I require of all my students, that they are downy and pubescent, pimpled with sullen mistrust, and boiling away with private fury and ardour and uncertainty and gloom ... If I am to teach your daughter, you darling hopeless and inadequate mother, she must be moody and bewildered and awkward and dissatisfied and wrong."   
Intrigue soon gave way to frustration.  I lack the patience and the inclination to ponder the improbable, non-linear plot. I also lack the patience to work out what is real, what is imagined, and what it might all mean.  The insurmountable hurdle was that I just could not care less about any of the characters.  About halfway through I resorted to reading the plot summary on Wikipedia.  Never a good sign. At that point, I started to skip ahead. I was invariably struck by the simple and accessible quality of the writing, but also how this was married to a tedious "plot" and dull characters. 
Plenty of people love this book. Some of the scenes are intriguing, and the book is very well written, ultimately though its lack of credibility and coherence was distracting and annoying.  I suspect the extent to which a reader might enjoy this book would largely depend on his or her tolerance for ambiguity.