Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Girl on the Landing

In November, the group read Paul Torday's The Girl on the Landing. This was a novel we found to share comparisons with 19th Century sensationalism/ghost story novels. It was written in a style akin to that where we thought it may be set during an earlier time not that of a more contemporary time. The novel is original, not plot prescriptive and is suspense story more than a thriller, with a touch of Rebecca and Turn of the Screw to it.

To begin with we all found the characters to be unlikeable but then as time went on we did start to feel sorry for them. With the narration of the novel alternating between Michael and Elizabeth Gascoigne, it certainly aided in the character development throughout the novel as well as creating an atmosphere of suspense.

The novel covered very topical subjects including racism, schizophrenia/mental health issues and genetics. Issues that raised a lot of debate and discussion over them.

The novel sparked a great deal of discussion amongst all the members in terms of whether Michael Gascoigne was suffering from schizophrenia or was it the supernatural. It was a bit 'muddy' at times and, looking at it from a critical viewpoint, we felt it had to be more plausible at times. With the dog sensing the supernatural, it really was left open to the reader's own interpretation.

We debated the relevance of certain things, e.g. the linen press and the dog disappearing. Again, it seems to be left open to the reader's own interpretation.

The nature of the story led naturally into a discussion on mental health in the community and the question of how far do you go to medicate someone and change them completely? We also discussed the possibility of there being people who operate on a different level of sensitivity. There was varying opinion in the group on whether Michael was on a different level of extra-sensory sensitivity, mentally ill or just plain bad.

Several members of the group were disappointed with the somewhat rushed ending of the book. Overall, the general consensus was that this was an enjoyable novel with many of us considering reading more of Paul Torday's work.