Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

I thought this book was unremarkable. Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, did not agree. I wish I had enjoyed it as much as she did. Maslin said, “Ms. Haigh has a great gift for telling interwoven family stories and doing justice to all the different perspectives they present.” In this book we follow an affluent family in New England from the 1960’s through several decades as they come to terms with changes in themselves and in society. It’s a similar premise to Baker Towers, but the family in Baker Towers is working class and their troubles just seem more genuine and less TV-movie-ish than the ones the McKotches face in The Condition.

I will agree with Maslin, though, that Haigh does a good job of balancing a family saga with an unfolding medical drama without turning the book into a “tragic family secret” story. Gwen, whose condition is Turner syndrome, is just one character out of many in this book, and everyone gets his or her turn in the spotlight. So why did Haigh title the book the way she did? She could just as easily have called it Frank and Paulette Get a Divorce or The Gay Older Brother, two plot strands that get just as much ink as Gwen’s medical condition.

Meh. Read Baker Towers, or Haigh’s first book, Mrs. Kimble. Both of those were more original and more compelling than this one.

(Book 23, 2010)


Melissa said...

I agree with you on this one, Becky. I only got about 40 pages into this before abandoning it. The Turners Syndrome angle intrigued me, but wasn't enough to sustain my interest even for a little bit.

I'm glad you suggested the other two books - I was hesitant about trying them, but now I might give them a second look.

Hope your next book is better!

Lisa said...

Oh, thank heavens! I thought I was the only one who didn't love this book!

Sarah Laurence said...

I remember that review in the NYT, and it was interesting to compare it to your reaction. I wouldn’t necessarily blame the author for the title. Titles are often chosen by the publisher. Sounds like one to miss all the same.

The book you reviewed below sounds more compelling. I laughed about your WWII comment. In England they still call it “The War.” During our year living there, my daughter spent most of the year studying the blitz at school. She was ten.

Anonymous said...

I just finished this one and I really enjoyed it. This is exactly the kind of story that pulls me in though.

Post a Comment