Consumed this World War Two themed novel, Audrey Magee’s ‘The Undertaking’, in one sitting!
Beautifully written, although the author is a little over-fond of the verb ‘said’. Still, at least it doesn’t read like a piece of student coursework, with the over-contrived use of every single synonym for ‘said’ in existence.
On finishing the novel (which is available at Waterstones online), I find myself confused. On the one hand, I’m enjoying the love story and holding out for a happy ending, with a post-war reunion between the German newly-weds, Mr and Mrs Faber; and, on the other, I’m horrified by the indifference of the spouses to the horrors unfolding around them – and, indeed, by their own contributions to the blood bath.
The main theme running through the book, seems to be one of the innate selfishness in all that calls itself human. The majority of the characters are weak and spineless, chopping and changing their allegiances to ensure their own survival, with total disregard for the costs of their words and actions to others.
Are any of the characters even a little bit likeable?
Mr Spinell is at the extreme end of odiousness – happy to sacrifice the well-being of his daughter, and his wife, to the Party cause.
And, at the other end of the the likeability spectrum? Natasha, the Russian housemaid? A difficult character to assess – she has no character! She barely speaks (perhaps out of fear), and we learn nothing about her past, or her personality, because Mrs Faber’s words reduce Natasha to being a mere ‘dull to look at’ face.
So, does the reader ever emerge from the coldness, carnage and cruelty to the relief the long-sought-after happy ending?
That would be telling!
Copyright owned by Jay Cool, June 2019
P.S. But, here’s a clue! Take a look at what I’m now holding out for:
A large bar (or four) of my favourite chocolate, accompanied by my next read!
Other book reviews by Jay Cool: