I so wanted to love this book. It had so much I like in a novel: a group of quirky characters bound by a common thread (in this case writing), growing tension between the characters, and it didn't stoop to the "every problem under the sun" cliches that so many ensemble cast type books do. And yet there was something that just didn't work here for me. It's a writing group, not a book club book. It has male and female characters, not just women. And these things should have elevated it above the usual. But somehow, it was just a rather dull book.
Opening with a sample of the book, a fictionalized biography of her father being written by Nancy, who has been invited to "audition" for the Leopardi Circle writing group's open spot, the narrative quickly pings back and forth between all the characters of the group, setting up their lives and their literary leanings. Several of the characters are given short shift here as the main thrust of the novel is the ethics of writing. There are tensions and factions amongst the members of the group and as these play out, the reader gets a sense of the insecurities and egos that can come into play when artists of any sort gather together. Some of the characters are more likable than others. One in particular is pretty fairly morally bankrupt and that fact is evident almost from the get-go and not tempered enough to make her anything but the obviously self-centered villain of the piece.
Right from the beginning of this book, I had trouble engaging. I do think it was a mistake to start with a sample of a novel rather than a set-up of the characters as it was confusing to go from this un-introduced bit into the actual plot. Mostly though, my problem with it was that the story sort of wandered along without much narrative tension until the quick unravelling at the end. This might have been the case because we didn't see enough of the characters to understand and feel their relationships to each other; in fact, there were too many characters. We only vaguely know of the alliances and the divides in the group and don't know the characters themselves well enough to predict their reactions or even to suspect the defining theft itself. The end itself was strange and unsettling and felt cobbled on to me.
I wanted to love this one. I really did. And I just couldn't.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.