x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs by Christina Hopkinson

A frustrating plod through the mid-life ennui of a stagnated career woman and mother who takes her marriage to task.

Mary Gilmour is a woman so angry she feels as if her life were narrated in CAPITAL LETTERS. She is fed up with chitchat where once there was conversation. She is frustrated that, though obsessed with cleaning, her house doesn't reflect her pathology. She is a TV executive now relegated, part-time, post-maternity, to backroom girl. A mother of two, three weeks shy of her 36th birthday, she is "stuck in aspic" shrewish and nagging. She blames her husband, Joel, and decides to compile a list of his failings then judge him, and their marriage, accordingly.

This is the set-up of Christina Hopkinson's novel. Unfortunately it is also the solitary plot point on its linear landscape. Characters don't develop, they just plod inevitability towards the horizon on which the "twist" looms large, through a narrative distinguished only by the inclusion of surely one of the most laughable pieces of survival advice ever committed to paper: "How do you tell the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool?" Answer "You just know. Like choosing a lover."

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