The Waiting Room

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Read 01/04/2016

Rating: 2.5 stars

I was given this book by the author after I cheekily replied to her comment about hoping I’d read her book with a “can’t promise but maybe if you sent me a copy.”

I read it in a couple of hours, while waiting for a train. It diverted me, and here is my honest review.

For a first novella, this isn’t a bad effort. The idea is an intriguing one – what happens to us when we die, and what happens to the ones we leave behind? And what would it be like to be stuck in limbo waiting for the one we left behind to join us, all the time having to witness them going on with their life? And what if this kept on happening?

That’s a top level précis of The Waiting Room.

One thing I noticed about it, which is common to a lot of first novels, particularly those that are picked up by small independent, often digital, publishers or those that are self published, is that it’s very dialogue heavy at times and the dialogue is used to move the story on. I prefer books that are more descriptive and rely less on people telling each other what’s going on as a means of informing the reader.

I couldn’t really engage with the central characters or their different iterations. They didn’t have a life together that interested me, and the to-ings and fro-ings in the waiting room didn’t really engage me either. I found it quite flatly written and it didn’t ever get going for me. It felt like I was reading a really good response to a creative writing workshop exercise rather than a fully formed novel. At times it felt like I was reading a treatment for a TV show.

With each new incarnation of Nina and Jude, we find out less about their new personas. Each new couple feels like a tally on a list, designed to tell us how many times Nina and Jude come back, rather than a new pair of lives to explore. It’s as though the author is galloping towards the conclusion. I would have liked more plotting of the story to have happened, because I think that would have given the book a better sense of direction. Perhaps more work on back stories for the characters, too. Even if the back stories weren’t used in the novel, it might have given the characters more depth, because the author would have had a greater feeling for who they were. Finally, more exploration of the lives of each new pairing would have produced a longer, richer story for me.

I wasn’t really grabbed by the religious and philosophical discussions about the meaning of life, either. It didn’t pique my interest as much as I’d hoped it would.

Over all, I felt a little frustrated by the book not realising its potential. It passed the time, but could have been something more than a book that just passed the time.

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