Book report #24 (2020)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid. Pub 2016

I don’t recall when I ended up with this book, or why – I think I may have read a blurb online, but I know now that I mistakenly thought this was a different author (Iain Banks). Since I purchased it, the book has received a bit more press as the story is being developed as a Netflix movie. And so, it ended up in the vacation library.

The story starts with a woman describing her new relationship and her doubts about continuing it. She’s contemplating “ending things” during a road trip to visit her new boyfriend’s parents. There is much reminiscence and hindsight about how they met and what they’ve talked about. Eventually, the visit home takes place and then the couple heads for home, but an unplanned diversion leads to terror and murder, with a big reveal at the end.

I was anticipating the big reveal based on what I knew about this story, but have to say it was a big letdown. The road trip detour that leads to the denouement is wholly unbelievable. And the ultimate resolution feels copied from other better stories from other better authors. Throughout the book there are some sidebars that hint at the outcome, and these are hugely distracting and give away far too much of what’s coming to be anything other than bad spoilers.

More significantly, the story narrator (the woman) is inherently unreliable and mostly unlikable. Her rationales for “ending things” are not well stated or thought out, and make her seem shallow and mean. Other reviews commented on this as well, and I think the root cause is the lack of empathy/understanding by a male author for the female perspective (I hate genderizing, but it was sooo much a problem in this book).

Lastly, the writing is just poor. The dialogue is clunky and unrealistic, and the style of the narrative varies from conversational/contemporaneous to distant/remote throughout the book. And there are lazy sentences that could/should have been easily addressed with more careful editing. Example: “I appreciate the fresh air, but it’s frigid, not fresh or crisp.” Well, is it fresh or isn’t it? And do you appreciate it or don’t you? There were several other examples of this lazy writing that I didn’t bother to mark, but I recall stopping to read them out loud in order to be sure I wasn’t just being pedantic. It wasn’t me, it was him.

How this book made it on to the best seller and “best book” lists for 2016 is beyond me. I was thinking of ending my reading of it half-way through, but pressed on if only to get this out the door.

Fate: charity shop.

6 – an author’s debut novel
8 – a book that has been or is being made into a film
24 – a book by an author whom you’ve never read

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