Monday, December 28, 2009

I charlotte read that again

Well, it's been a while again. My computer finally carked it after several years groaning intermittently and a near-death experience a month or so back. And now I have a shiny, sexy, Windows 7 lap-top.

My goodness, Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks sucked. I'd promised myself I'd never slog through a book I didn't like again, but optimism that it would get better kept me going. It didn't tho'. Spoilers to follow:

The protagonist was terribly smug and she didn't do anything. She just mooned about over her fighter-pilot boyfriend. Honestly, it ought to be impossible to create a not-much-happens (or at least it feels like nothing much happens) book out of a plot set in Nazi-ridden France, with a protagonist in disguise during the occupation, with a missing-in-action pilot to find. Quite an achievement by Faulks, you might think.

Stuff did happen: two Jewish children were in hiding, messages were passed, treachery and some sex, even a killing or two. But did I care? Well, towards the end I was past caring. The sub-plot of Charlotte's damaged relationship with her father with the looming suggestion he'd sexually abused her was a constant pall. And then you find it wasn't even that, so the whole ugliness and nausea was unnecessary and I really loathe Faulks for that. It's a desperate way to try to engender compassion for your cold stilted unlikeable character and then to sidestep it all is a nasty cheat.

His protagonist didn't protag, she didn't do anything! And for someone behind enemy lines in danger of death and torture, that's quite something. She didn't save anyone, she didn't even find her stupid, also moonsome boyfriend. Nor did she manage love-struck fidelity, she shagged some other bloke, when over-excited by parachuted goodies. She stays in France against orders, puts people in danger by using the resistance network unnecessarily and achieves bugger all, yet somehow excites awe and respect in people around her and gets away with disobeying her department without sanction.

Oh and that unjustifiable smugness, it was unbearable. When she went to a public baths she realised another woman had noticed her collar and cuffs didn't match. Was she a bit scared or perhaps even bloody petrified that she would be turned over to the Nazis? Did she think 'oh shit, perhaps I shouldn't have gone to a public bath or perhaps should have thought to dye my nethers?' No, no, her response was: aha, that's the first mistake g-section have made in creating my cunning disguise. And later on when she gets home she enjoys embarrassing her superior with it, relating this error as entirely theirs. What about her responsibility to protect her identity? She blabs her true name to some old geezer she's barely met and waves her pubes at the public baths, as though the word "public" didn't give a hint.