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The Standing Pool by Adam Thorpe

The Standing Pool

by Adam Thorpe

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423273,462 (3.25)2
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    Night Waking by Sarah Moss (alalba)
    alalba: In both novels a couple of academics with young children decide to move to a remote place to work on their research. In both there is a degree of 'mystery' involved.

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This is a book so suffused with ennui it's hard to find anything to like. I found it rather unsubtle the sense of menace not so much creeping up as being rubbed in endlessly and the characters were on the whole almost entirely unsympathetic, frustratingly so. The penultimate chapter feels like an author suddenly rubbing out what he has created as if to say, yes these characters are so done with. In many ways the final chapter is even more implausible. I felt this could have done with more light and shade. Some well written sections where the layering of atmosphere does work and some neat aphorisms on the purpose of history, unfortunately did not redeem this book for me. ( )
  culturion | Feb 24, 2015 |
The Mallinson family, Nick and Sarah (historians at Cambridge on sabbatical) and their three little girls, move for six months to a rented isolated house in rural France. The house has a grim past; the inhabitants of the region are less than welcoming; their lack of french adds to their sense of alienation, and makes them depend too much on the strange handy man,who becomes obsessed with Sarah. The novel depicts well the daily life of the family, the menacing atmosphere of the place , and the writer makes the tension grow steadily, while retaining a strained sense of normality. Although it is a gripping book it is also a very irritating one. The author devotes too much time to reproduce Nick's political/historical/pseudo philosophical rantings, which become even worse when the landlord of the property, Alan, visits them for a couple of days. To make matters worse, Nick has a single linguistic register, that of the intellectual academic, even when he talks to his daughters or when he muses about his own life. His character becomes a boring caricature, which has a certain verisimilitude but no depth. The same is true of Jean-Luc, the handy man, a disturbed character which is given many pages of inner dialogue which illustrate once and again that he is strange and unstable. Even the girls are depicted in a very irritating way, Alice, for instance, the middle one, jealous of the little sister and the bright older one, seems to be unable to say a single phrase without adding 'stupid' at the end. Even if she is well observed, due to endless repetition, she becomes a cardboard figure, like the rest of them. ( )
1 vote alalba | Jun 4, 2009 |
Throughout this story there is a sense of menace that left me wondering how and where it was all going to end At times the writer lost me particularly in some of the 'academic exchanges' but what I enjoyed was the way the really 'nice' Mallinson family were juxtaposed with the creepy handyman Jean Luc - it is this contrast, with the suggestion of something horrible about to happen, that kept me reading. I spent the whole of the book wondering exactly how dark things would become and it is only at the end that this is answered. On the whole a good read but at times I got bored with Nick Mallinson and the Mallinson children were unbelieveably precocious. ( )
1 vote judyb65 | Jul 13, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099503654, Paperback)

An idyllic, old farmhouse in France is the background to a gripping story suffused with tension.

Two Oxford historians, Johnny and Sarah Thomson, take a sabbatical with their three small and lively girls in a remote and beautiful old farmhouse in the hills of Languedoc. But the farmhouse has its own histories, rather more fraught and alive than those the Thomsons are used to dealing with on the page.

As the illusion of Eden retreats, the Thomsons start to feel the vulnerability of being aliens in this unpredictable wildness. While Sarah frets about the danger of the swimming pool and the night-time visits of well-tusked boars, Johnny is more concerned by the locals — particularly Jean-Luc, the gardener. Is his taste for hammering tiny nails into dolls, collecting arcane rubbish, and secretly photographing Sarah, more than a harmless pastime? And how should they react to his eager befriending of their girls?

The novel, narrated from several points of view (most importantly from Jean-Luc’s), is about being among strangers, and being a stranger oneself. Writing, as always, with linguistic élan, imaginative flair, and an alert ear for dialogue, Adam Thorpe allows the comic to occasionally seep through, before returning us to the terrifying mysteries that feed at the heart of this thrilling novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:52 -0400)

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Two Cambridge academics, the historians Nick and Sarah Mallinson, take a sabbatical with their three small and lively girls in a remote and beautiful old farmhouse in the hills of Languedoc. But the farmhouse has its own histories, rather more fraught and alive than those the Mallinsons are used to dealing with on the page.… (more)

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