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  • Amateur Dramatics

    3.5 Stars Somehow this book just all felt a little confused and, in places, plain old confusing. There is a varied cast of characters that we are introduced to and the conceit is that they are all drawn together through their casting in an amateur production of an aspiring playwright's play Death By Dying. To be honest the snatches of the play that we see through the regular rehearsals (held, unsurprisingly, at half past seven on a Thursday evening) it is a rather dire attempt at an Agatha Christie style murder-mystery. The real miracle is that they manage to put on a full week's worth of performances after only 6 weeks of rehearsals - seriously not going to happen with only once a week rehearsals. As with all Roisin Meaney books, and by now I have read a few, there is only the loosest of plots with the book really being about people. The charm of her books relies almost entirely on the people that populate them. Unfortunately there are just too many people to get to know here so each one is painted with the broadest of brushstrokes and I never really felt like any of them was given sufficient page space to develop them beyond one or maybe two overarching themes. Edward Bull is irascible, a stickler for punctuality and is still reeling from his wife's affair. We do get to see glimpses of the kinder, nicer man behind the bluff and bluster but not enough to really care about the issues in his life or to really understand why he is so conflicted. Thea De Courcy - Loud and brash and suffering from alopecia, she works as a waitress has two children many years apart and is struggling to keep everything together. At least that was the impression I came away with, she really is only a minor character and is almost exclusively defined by her bright clothing and pink wig. Maria - Unhappily married with an autistic son. One of the few characters we get to know a substantial amount about, most of it is sadly unremittingly grim. Ellen - Maria's sister and the only other major character in the book. Still grieving the death of her boyfriend/fiance - I was never really sure - she has a string of one night stands and appears to hate herself. We at least get a reasonable feel for her character and she is the one who shows some character progression and a positive light. The others Robert, Henry and Janet(?) the retiring school teacher are all pretty much caricatures rather than characters and apart from the schoolteachers prodigal son issues not really noteworthy. Robert is particularly annoying when he decides he wants his wife back after he was the one catting around but as soon as she has a sniff of a new romance and a new life for her and their twin sons he realises it was her he needed all along - infuriating man. Either the book needed to be longer to properly explore each character or it needed paring back so that we had only 2 or 3 voices throughout with the rest of the cast and their various partners, families and work acquaintances playing peripheral roles. As it stands there are too many voices vying for page space and this leads to none of them having enough depth to absorb you in the story.

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