I just finished reading The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman by Bruce Robinson. It’s by Bruce Robinson so obviously it’s good. Written by him, there’s no way it’s going to be anything less great. That established, what can I tell you about it? It’s an apparently autobiographical, coming-of-age story and, as such, it’s pretty well trodden ground. It’s entertaining, funny, touching and poignant but I didn’t really feel that it was enough of any of those things to make it a true classic.
The best bits are where Thomas is one-to-one with another character especially his girlfriend Gwen or his frail Grandad. Those sections feel passionate and from the heart. Conversely, the parts concerning the family as a whole seem a bit filmic to me; like Robinson has been visualising the thing as a film (with funny dialogue and quirky set pieces) when instead of doing it straight from the heart (or gut!). I bet there’s been moments during the writing of this when Bruce Robinson has laughed his head off imagining the reaction of an audience in some cinema auditorium somewhere.
I find this can be a problem with many writers who do screenplays as well as novels. If they’re thinking of a film while writing a novel… it never works. A big giveaway that the author is doing this is when there is lots and lots of dialogue. Then again… who am I to criticise? Producing ANY writing is a miracle (believe me, I know!) and then you get some faceless blog person picking stupid little holes in it. The book’s good and well worth a read. Go and read it. That’s all that matters really. Over and out.