19/08/2007

Country Life (by Charlotte Bingham)

Charlotte Bingham's books are variable, in my view. Some are very enjoyable reads, some are less so. Her plots tend to be interesting, but her characters are rather flat.

'Country Life' is the sequel to 'Belgravia', a satirical look at life amongst the upper classes in England. It's no longer in print, but often turns up at charity shops. I mostly enjoyed Belgravia, while feeling a little overwhelmed by the characters. But I read it ten months ago, and had entirely forgotten all the people - they were not remotely memorable. It would probably have helped if I had read it more recently, even though this book can stand alone.

There's no real plot to this book, but there are a large number of sub-plots. Or, at least, ongoing situations. Jennifer, one of the stars of 'Belgravia', is reasonably happily married to Pember, although he finds her a bit trite at times due to her lower middle-class background. Georgiana, the other star, is still unmarried. She's a remarkably shallow person, caring more about her perfect appearance than anything else.

Then there's Patti, married to Lord Tisbury, whose roots are common, but who is good-hearted and friendly, and seems to attract any male who comes within sight of her. Oh and Jennifer's mother, Clarissa, a ghastly woman recently married to Andrew, who has had enough of her by about two days into the honeymoon.

The most memorable characters are Elliot and Fulton, two middle-aged gay decorators, who have slightly more character and humour than the others in the book. And there's a strange threesome, whose names I have forgotten already. And more. Far too many people for my tastes, and although I could appreciate some of the satire - and some clever writing - I found the book rather tedious, on the whole. Nothing much happens, none of the characters have much depth, and it's all a bit depressing, really.

Perhaps that was the intention, but the result, at least in my view, was an eminently forgettable book, not really worth reading unless you want something very light (and are good at remembering dozens of names) that won't stretch you. I doubt if I'll read it again.

1 comment:

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