There's nothing like a review by a respected writer to alter your perceptions of a book you may have misunderstood, or worse not even understood at all, so I must correct and enhance my thinking on The Missing Person's Guide to Love by Susanna Jones which I posted on a few weeks ago here.
You may recall I had enjoyed the writing but just hadn't understood what had happened at all. In my mind this was most certainly becoming a fine example of The Author - Reader Theory of Misunderstanding espoused by Zadie Smith; I'd foolishly stepped up to play the Grade 8 music placed before me by the author when I'd only just passed my Grade 3.
The Literary Review arrived on a wet and windy Saturday morning and with the delivery of croissants, tea and the post I could come up with no good reason to stir for a few hours so I rested up and read my favourite review magazine which I've now been subscribing to for eleven years.
I always read the Editorial piece first. For many years From the Pulpit by the esteemed Auberon Waugh and since his death the pulpit has been filled by a succession of leading literary names. This month Kathryn Hughes, Professor of Life Writing at UEA with a warts and all take on the author's view of the Literary Festival plus helpful hints about what you might chat to Salman Rushdie about when you find yourself sitting opposite him at breakfast.
Now I read that last line I see it could be misconstrued so please don't jump to conclusions, that's how gossip and rumour starts. Poor Kathryn just found herself having to fill the only vacant seat and that was it. Now I'm thinking why did no one else want to sit next to Salman?
Once I've had my fill of editorial I head for the index and see which fiction titles the magazine is covering this month and who has written them and there it was, a stunning review of The Missing Person's Guide to Love.
Written by Martyn Bedford, who is something of an authority on her writing (perhaps because he lectures on the MA in Creative Writing course at Manchester University and Susanna Jones took an MA in Writing at Manchester) was able to explain in some measure that Susanna Jones speciality is "deliciously disorientating fictional worlds". The likelihood is that her writing will leave you "enthralled and disturbed". So reading on I discover that Martyn Bedford considers this book to be "by far her most audacious sleight of hand in terms of a storyteller" and that when the revelation comes it is "breathtaking".
It would seem this is a book about far more than I had detected on first read and some internet delving reveals these thoughts on Susanna Jones from another reviewer Garan Holcombe
"a sharp mesmeric intelligence which she uses to shock with subtlety, in throwaway detail and quiet changes of direction. She cuts her stories from the finest cloth. Before presenting them for inspection she ensures the stitching is not only beautiful to look at but does exactly what is required of it in a practical sense: holds everything in place. There is something undeniably exquisite about Jones’ writing; it has a crystal clear beauty. She is an extremely gifted writer and it is only to be hoped that there is much more to come."
There is clearly a great deal that has passed me by here so I plan a return to more of Susanna Jones writing soon, especially The Earthquake Bird, but all that aside I still don't understand what happened in The Missing Person's Guide to Love and I wish someone would tell me, anyone, just e mail me and put me out of my misery, because I'm feeling as thick as two short planks.