21/06/2006

Rich Hours (by Magda Sweetland)

'Rich Hours' is a complex tapestry of a book by the relatively unknown Magda Sweetland who doesn't seem to have a web-site - although I see from Amazon that she has written a few other books too. The book covers a year, one month at a time, with the main protagonist being Morgan, an art dealer who has recently separated from his wife after the tragic loss of their student son.

It also features Else, a painter, and a vast number of not-quite-minor characters - more dealers, designers, writers, and general friends and neighbours. I had a hard time remembering who was who, although much of the time it didn't seem to matter. The backdrop is mainly London, with some forays into the countryside. It's well-written, but rather too full of detail and business for my tastes. There were a lot of subplots all interwoven, some of them cleverly spread out through the book, but having finished it I'm not sure what it was really about. The art world, wheeling and dealing, dishonesty, personality clashes, privacy and openness.... all these themes appear, but none of them is over-riding.

I read the book slowly, just half an hour or so each day for a couple of weeks, and didn't find it gripping at any point. It was actually quite useful in a busy period, since I had no compulsion to sit down and read when there were other things to do. Indeed, sometimes I could barely find the energy to pick it up again: it's not an easy read. No horror, nothing too extreme, although there are hints of pain and unpleasantness throughout. But I couldn't really feel rapport with any of the characters, or even much sympathy for them.

Probably not one I'll read again, but it might be enjoyed by people interested in the art world, who like relatively slow-moving books full of fine details and observations.

No comments: