Melmoth - Sarah Perry

So. This book. It’s supposed to be Gothic, and it is written in the Gothic style, but it isn’t the least bit suspenseful or spooky. It starts out promisingly enough (if you don’t mind tales told in the present tense by overly dramatic omniscient narrators—which I do mind but will overlook for a good story, but ugh, getting ahead of myself), introducing Helen and Karel and Thea, three broken friends dealing with various issues. Helen is punishing herself for some past transgression and has been denying herself pleasure of all sorts for two decades. Karel and Thea are dealing with the fallout of Thea’s stroke, which has drastically altered the shape of their life together. So far so good, right? Interesting people with interesting problems. All the makings for a decent literary novel.


Then in came Melmoth, the legend they all obsess over to some degree, and that’s when the wheels fell off and the train crashed and my enjoyment died in flames. Screaming. (Now who’s being overly dramatic, eh?)


The story of Helen, Karel, and Thea is interrupted every so often by other stories, letters and diaries and memoirs that all relate testimonies of or encounters with Melmoth the Witness. I don’t know if it was the abrupt tonal shifts, or the odd mixing of narrative styles, or an inability to connect with or care about the little vignettes of tragedy being thrown at me, or a combination of all of the above, but these were the dullest, dreariest parts of the book. I probably would have stopped at the second one (about 75 pages in), but I was actually invested in Thea, at least, and I wanted to see where her story would go. So I did a lot of speed reading, which I haven’t done in over a decade because the fibro fog pretty much guarantees that I’ll retain zero vital info that way, but I couldn’t be arsed giving this my full attention and I don’t care if I can’t remember it later this afternoon.


TL; DR, the title character ruins what could have been a perfectly good book about much more interesting characters. Alas.


I read this for the Halloween Bingo 2018 Free square.