To begin with half our number admitted they hadn’t finished the book, despite not wanting to admit defeat, they’d found the disjointed, stop and start format of the book difficult to read; aspects of the book gratuitous; and the writing style off putting. Not a great start! Those who had powered through to the end appreciated the comments about the disjointed nature of the work- the shorter mini stories of the inhabitants of 10 Luckenbooth Close took the reader from 1910 to present day and were often inconclusive. The book was the story of the tenement block as much as of the inhabitants, and the final chapters were more satisfying, as they drew together key elements of the story of Jessie (the devil’s daughter, we liked her horns!), her child and her beloved Elise, and gave some sort of conclusion to the story. We enjoyed the stories of light-phobic miner Ivan, Agnes the medium, and the homeless Dora. We weren’t so keen on William Burroughs’ strange appearances, or the insertion of the Triads into the novel. Our readers wanted more from some of the story arcs, and the unfinished tales reinforced the idea of the book being the story of the building, and Jessie, and their impact on the inhabitants, so we saw little of them outside of Luckenbooth Close itself.
Not for the faint hearted, there are a lot of sexual references in the book, and a fair amount of violence and drug taking too. There’s a dark, evocative rendering of Edinburgh itself, which our resident Scot (who’s from Edinburgh) informed us was well done, and that the shops, pubs, and locations in the novel brought back memories of the city. Our readers remarked on the fast pace of the book, and when one reader described feeling exhausted at the end of the book, it rang a bell with others. There are a lot of passages in the book which rely on lists of words to describe places, people and feelings, which some of us found tedious, and skipped through.
The reading group couldn’t decide how to describe the book- dark fairy stories? Gothic? Not a horror novel, but most definitely not an easy read. Not many would recommend it, but as ever, some of us were glad we’d read it. Our wellbeing reading group is about taking time to read, making space for the pleasure and relaxation that books can bring, and trying new, different books that we might otherwise not have chosen for ourselves. Luckenbooth definitely ticked that last box!
Our next book is My mother, Munchausen’s and me by Helen Naylor. Copies are available to pick up from GEH or SWFT libraries, and we’ll be discussing it at the start of May, date and time will be advertised on our reading group web page.