Mini Reviews: The Sweetest Thing, Esperanza Street and If I Fall, If I Die

If I Fall, I-Michael-Christie/dp/043402306X%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAJTB7ERAZ5XTf I Die

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

Five words from the blurb: never, outside, mother, anxiety, freedom

If I Fall, If I Die had an amazing beginning – the observations of Will, a child living with an agoraphobic mother, were perfectly captured and the claustrophobic atmosphere was built up beautifully. Unfortunately it all seemed to fall apart when Will ventured outside. The other characters weren’t as strong and the plot meandered too much.

Michael Christie does a fantastic job of capturing the anxiety and emotion of mental illness, and this book might be worth reading for these aspects alone, but don’t go into it looking for a compelling plot.


Esperanza Street

Esperanza Street by Niyati Keni

Five words from the blurb: Philippines, destruction, community, houseboy, choices

Esperanza Street is another book with a great start, but a disappointing middle/end. The novel opens with eight-year-old Joseph beginning work as a houseboy in Puerto, a coastal town in the Philippines. I immediately bonded with Joseph and loved learning about his difficult life. As the book progressed a large number of other characters were added. I found it difficult to keep up with them all and I failed to form an emotional connection to them. This detachment meant that I began to notice other problems with the book. There was a lack of atmosphere and I didn’t feel any real passion for the country. I later learnt that the author isn’t from the Philippines and wonder if this is the reason that the book isn’t as culturally rich as I’d hoped?

Overall this book had some good scenes, especially towards the beginning, but the rest fell a bit flat for me.


The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing by Fiona Shaw

Five words from this blurb: Victorian, York, factory, asylum, gentleman

I bought The Sweetest Thing because a quote on the front compared it to Sarah Waters. It is also set in York – a city I know well. Unfortunately this book isn’t in the same league as Fingersmith – it is much lighter and doesn’t contain the atmosphere of a book written by Sarah Waters. If you’re after a simple piece of historical fiction that zips along then you’ll probably love this one, but I prefer the characters to have more depth. After about 100 pages I decided that I didn’t care what was happening and so abandoned it.


10 replies on “Mini Reviews: The Sweetest Thing, Esperanza Street and If I Fall, If I Die”

Ah, I did predict you’d find Fiona Shaw a bit light. I’ve read two of hers – “Tell it to the Bees” wasn’t too bad but “A Stone’s Throw” was utterly disposable (and in fact I did dispose of both of them – to the charity shop during my most recent culling of the shelves).

Tanya, I thought this book was Christie’s debut? Is this book just released in the UK under a different title? Or are there two Christies? I agree that the cover is beautiful though 🙂

He wrote a collection of short stories, “The Beggar’s Garden” that was Giller-longlisted a few years ago. I keep meaning to try it so it’s good to hear Tanya calling it “amazing”.

Well, I just finished reading “If I Fall, If I Die” (because it is on the Giller Prize longlist) and I think I’m as underwhelmed as you were, Jackie. Some of it – when Will and his mother are Inside, the chapters told from Diane’s point of view, and the fable-like middle section about ‘Titus’ are really good in the way they deal with mental illness and guilt and also the modern tendency to wrap children in cotton wool. But the bulk of the novel – Will and Jonah’s amateur detective adventures Outside – seem to belong in a different book. It’s almost like Enid Blyton or Scooby-Doo (I was just waiting for one of the villains to call Will & Jonah “those pesky kids”!) with little moral lessons about racism and homelessness, and pales in comparison to the power of the adult sections. The final showdown in the old grain elevator with the cavalry arriving at the last minute was ridiculous, but worse seemed shallow because it followed a beautifully written chapter where what happened to Diane on the subway in Toronto is finally revealed.

David, Yes, it looks like we’re in agreement on this one. Great ‘inside’, poor ‘outside’! Strange that an author can write some sections so amazingly well, but fall down on others.

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