Tuesday, 14 July 2009

All Names Have Been Changed by Claire Kilroy

All Names Have Been Changed was recommended by my boss. I usually jump at the chance to read something recommended by a 'real life' person as I know so few readers that it's nice to read something I could then talk about with someone. And he's usually quite good with his recommendations but I think when I get to work tomorrow, we're going to be disagreeing on this one. It's not that I disliked it, but he raves about it, and I thought it was passable, an interesting read, but not brilliant.

Set in Ireland in the 1980's it's a pretty bleak setting with mass unemployment and drug addiction a theme, although not a central one. The book is based around a group of five creative writing students, supposedly under the tutelage of the famous novelist P.J. Glynn, who it is fairly obvious they idolise. Narrated by Declan, the only male in the group, it moves through a year in their lives, showing how their relationship with the writer affects each person's life and the lives of others around them. Glynn himself is an alcoholic (now if that counts as drug addiction then I suppose it is a central theme), and the group spend a lot of time drinking with him.

Declan is always slightly outside the group, and never seems to quite fit in, but this doesn't stop him being affected by Glynn, and the relationships that develop and then dissolve during the course of the year. I think one of my key problems with this book is that Declan is the only distinctive character. The four girls in the group all seem to merge into one. One was divorced,one was a goth who didn't really want her real self to be revealed, one was a sweet nice girl, and one was a battered wife but I constantly had problems remembering which was which. For a novel that was supposed to be all about interactions between characters, this as quite a problem!

I did however like the way that the characters lives seem to be mirroring the plots in Glynn's novels, even Glynn himself. As said at the start they all idolised him, and could quote story lines, publication dates an numerous other facts about his work. It is Declan that first realises this and Declan that finally changes the pattern when they go their separate ways at the end of the book.

All in all,their were some parts I liked and some parts I didn't, and I didn't think it was fantastic but it was interesting. And I think all the chapters were titles after Irish literature or music, but most of these passed me by. I didn't actually realise this might be the case until the chapter titled 'I don't like Mondays'. Obvious I know!

1 comment:

Anna said...

Hmm...I like books with a lot of characters and their interactions, but not if they're hard to keep straight.

Diary of an Eccentric