Landed – What Separates a Good Book from a GOOD Book?

2 Apr

There’s nothing like a beautifully written but ultimately sorta forgettable story to make me think about the books that are “me” versus the kind that somehow miss the mark, although they are undeniably good.

Landed’s premise is powerful enough – middle-aged Owen deals (badly – by kidnapping his two kids and running off on a dangerous open-air camping trip) with the aftermath of a car accident which kills his daughter and leaves him minus a right hand. There’s no question that Tim Pears can write. His prose is poetic but never comes off fake or contrived. Thankfully, his style alone was captivating enough to keep me interested.

Because somehow the story itself didn’t come together for me, which I think I can blame on the uneven plot and structure. Its potential was watered down with some stylistic hiccups that I just couldn’t get past. The back-story takes up a full half of the book, but the real plot just doesn’t pack enough of a payload to make it all worth it.

The book begins with an official collision investigator’s report. Then there’s a long flashback detailing Owen’s childhood trips to the countryside near Welshpool (and this aside is in turn interrupted by a presentation from an occupational therapist about Owen’s phantom limb pain). The pace picks up with a section narrated by Owen’s estranged wife, which is finally followed by the “true” story, the fateful kidnapping romp, which moves in a meandering, dreamlike fashion not suited to the second half of a book.

I actually fell in love with the section dedicated to young Owen’s formative experiences in the countryside. I don’t always go for description-heavy passages, but reading about this quiet boy obsessively tracking a family of badgers and trying to keep them secret from his unsentimental grandfather struck more of an emotional chord with me than the later sections between him and his kids – which I suspect were supposed to have me shedding a tear or two.

Although I’m making this story sound slow, that’s not to say I had to slog through it  (if that were the case, I wouldn’t be saying I enjoyed it at all – a truly slow story is like my reading kryponite). But when it was over I felt like, “what just happened?” – not because my mind was blown, but because I thought surely, after all that, it was going somewhere else.

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10 Responses to “Landed – What Separates a Good Book from a GOOD Book?”

  1. sami Alam April 2, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    wow… really nice blog…. wonderfully written….Outstanding….
    i like it….

    Balance of lines…. really awsum…

    visit mine… & plz plz plz put your comments…. Thank you…
    i’ll be in touch

    • Lija April 3, 2010 at 11:15 am #

      Thanks for the kind words, Sami.

  2. LisaG April 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Isn’t it interesting when we can see that a book is well-written, but we just don’t dig it? Then there are a few books that aren’t really good books, but that I still enjoyed reading at some point (Sweet Valley High, I’m looking at you).

    • Lija April 3, 2010 at 11:16 am #

      I actually did like it, but was aware the whole time of what I felt wasn’t working – which I guess you shouldn’t be thinking about at all if a book really sucks you in!

  3. obsidianrazor April 3, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    Still need to write my review of this but I’m not sure if some sections were gimmicky. It gave me the opportunity fill in the story myself (which I enjoyed). Owen’s childhood was my favourite part. It is well written, as is the rest of the book, and it’s understandable why Tim divided it, but some of the devices didn’t mesh.

    • Lija April 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

      I didn’t so much mind the fact that the narration was split up between past and present…just really didn’t dig the crash report/occupational therapist bits. They were too much of a departure from the overall tone of the book.

  4. savidgereads April 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    This sounds interesting, nice review, I saw this in the library yesterday and was tempted by the cover but didnt grab it, now I wish I had.

    • Lija April 4, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

      Hope you manage to fit it in to your busy reading schedule! I’d like to see if you have a similar reaction to it.

  5. Tom Cunliffe April 28, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    I’m a fan of Tim Pears and liked this one very much, despite its enigmatic ending. I can see that it could be a bit slow at times, but I felt Owen’s “escape” with his children was pretty dramatic stuff. I think this would be a great book for book groups.

    I’ve added you to my blogroll – great site you have here

    • Lija April 29, 2010 at 10:16 am #

      The escape part actually had the most action but still had less emotional impact than the rest of the book, I thought.

      Thanks so much for commenting and for the blogroll honours!

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