callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

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The Angel Makers

The Angel Makers, by Jessica Gregson, arrived in the post last week courtesy of Scott Pack. I was going to put in spoilers but I see there is a synopsis on Amazon for anyone to read, so I won’t bother. The story is set in an isolated village in Hungary just before, during and after the First World War and is apparently based on actual events. As an imaginative attempt to describe how they might have happened it is very good indeed. The prologue, in the first person, draws the reader in with its ‘the things that I’ve done…those eight women swinging…’ What have you done? wonders the reader, and reads on to find out.

My complaints about the book are firstly, the lack of a sense of place. If it weren’t for the names I wouldn’t have known it was set in Hungary. It’s also a complete mystery how this village supports itself. Farming, one assumes, but then what happens when the men go off to war? No one has much money but no one starves, either. Secondly, the partisan support for the women. The blurb says they are reluctant to give up the freedoms they’ve had during the war. You might think they were up to wonderful co-operative feminist activities but what they were actually doing was sleeping with the Italian POWs at the nearby camp while their men were away fighting. What left me feeling annoyed at the end of the book was that it seemed partial to a bunch of serial murderers, particularly Sari, the heroine. Call me old fashioned, but this is totally amoral, as are many of the characters. It wasn’t until the end that I appreciated the sinister implications of the title. Duh.

I got stuck half way through the book, when things slowed down, but picked it up again and finished it very quickly. Then I found that the last two pages consisted of a handy list of questions suitable for discussion by book groups. I do think this would make a very good book club book. It’s short and there’s plenty to argue about: I’ve just seen that Dove Grey Reader has a completely different take on the book from me. I’m happy to pass this on for someone else to read; first come, first served. You should be able to mail me through LJ.
Tags: book groups, jessica gregson, new novels

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