Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

The Testament of Jessie Lamb deprived me of sleep. I read most of it in one sitting, then since it was late, went to bed, but then I couldn't get to sleep through thinking about it, so I just had to get up and finish. It was worth it because the ending was perfect - open without being unsatisfying - and also rather beautiful.


Jane Rogers manages to portray the adolescent I was. I'd forgotten the ideological smugness, and the feeling that I'd make a much better job of things than my parents had managed. I'd forgotten how I'd noticed and thought about the world around me, such as this about people in a crowd: 'It was weird to imagine there was no possibility, ever, of getting to know even one of those strangers'.

I also liked the fact that the novel is based locally in the northwest of England. When stations and cafes were mentioned I knew exactly the ones she meant.

The narration is suitably simple but convincing. Jessie, the first-person protagonist, is a serious girl, somewhat self-absorbed, and as she considers and comes to a quite unreasonable conclusion about what she must do, I felt as frustrated as her parents. Like them I would have felt desperate enough to imprison her, but such was the skill of the writing that I could see the dilemma through Jessie's eyes too, and could see exactly why she was doing what she was doing.

I had just finished listening to Margaret Atwood's 'Onyx and Crake' on audio, and also watched the film version of Kazuo Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go' on DVD, and I know this is just a question of taste, but to my mind, certainly in terms of form, 'The Testament of Jessie Lamb' was superior. Jessie Lamb is shorter and so there is less packed in, but this allows greater emphasis on the important point of the novel: the motivations and pivotal moments of the characters.

6 Comments:

Blogger Maxine said...

Lovely review, Clare.

Tue Sep 27, 08:18:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Maxine!

Tue Sep 27, 08:48:00 pm  
Blogger Anne S said...

I've been humming and haahing about downloading this to my Kindle after reading several less than positive reviews. But as I trust your taste and liked your review I will do so very soon, when I've finished my current read of Neal Stephenson's thriller Reamde.

Wed Sep 28, 08:34:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Anne! I did think this book was great. It's short, not written in a particularly literary or trendy style so I think it's easy to come to (what I consider to be) the wrong conclusion. However, I found that by the end it was making me think a lot, and doing all that I want a novel to do: convince me, and make me see the world in a new way.

Wed Sep 28, 10:55:00 am  
Blogger jem said...

Can't wait to read this now - it's waiting on my shelf. I fancied it from the off, but like Anne S. I read lots of bad stuff about it. But I trust your review much more - and putting it above O&C and NLMG both of which I love is even more compelling.

Wed Sep 28, 12:14:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I do hope you like it too, Jem! I stand by my words. I do think it superior in terms of both O&C and NLMG in terms of form, but then these other two are much longer novels and have other things to commend them too. Both of them excellent books, but at the end of reading them I just didn't feel the same way as I did after finishing this book.

Wed Sep 28, 12:30:00 pm  

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