The ads on the Tube for the Amazon Kindle display the first page of William Boyd’s novel Ordinary Thunderstorms. I reviewed this when it came out and I have to say I’m baffled as to why this particular page of this particular book was chosen for the campaign. It’s London-themed, OK, the name Adam Kindred sounds a bit like Kindle, fine, but here’s the thing.
It’s an absolutely dreadful bit of writing.
The novel as a whole isn’t a total disaster, but just look at this opening.
“Let us start with the river” (I am storyteller. I am going to jackanory tell you a story.)
“all things begin with the river” (the blood of James Joyce flows through my veins.)
“…and we shall probably end there, no doubt” (I am magisterial storyteller. But I’ve forgotten the ending. But it’ll probably be great, no doubt. Read on.)
“at Chelsea Bridge, in London.” (In England, in the world, in space)
“There he is – look” (Yes, you, reader! Isn’t this exciting, our fictive relationship! I wonder if I can sustain this magisterial voice for the whole novel? Clue: I probably can’t, no doubt.)
“early thirties… his name is Adam Kindred” (So, I know his name, but can only guess his age. What kind of storyteller am I again?)
“the usual tense encounter, with a lot at stake” (I am magisterial storyteller, but I do voiceovers for The Apprentice to pay the bills)
“The recent interview explains why, beneath his expensive trenchcoat, he is wearing a charcoal-grey suit…” (What do you mean, there was nothing to explain, because I hadn’t yet told you what he was wearing? What do you mean, show not tell? What do you mean, I can’t decide whether I’m an omniscient or unreliable narrator? I AM STORYTELLER!)
I like Boyd, in general. But this… Bleak House it ain’t.