Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Wishing Game: a review

It's not often that I subject my readers to a book review, even less often that the review says, "Don't bother with this one". The Wishing Game by Patrick Redmond is not a recently published book. (I seldom read really new books as I am too mean to buy them. The books I read are mostly borrowed from the public library (free) or acquired at the Lions' monthly book fair where we charge only 50p a book.) But to get back to The Wishing Game.

Although the story appears to start in 1999 (which was when the book was first published), we are very soon transported back through time to a minor boys' public school in 1954. The plot involves one 14-year-boy befriending another and what resulted from that new friendship.

I have three main gripes about the book. First, I found the basic concept of the plot scarcely believable but I read on hoping for some explanation, in particular some explanation about two aspects of the plot. The final explanation was not convincing - not to me, at any rate - and it left in the air the two aspects about which I was so puzzled.

Neither was I happy with the characterisation. Most of the characters in the book are pupils at the school and the majority of them are aged 14. In my experience (and I once was a 14-year-old boy myself although I didn't attend a public school) a 14-year-old boy doesn't cry on another boy's shoulder because his best friend has become the best friend of someone else. Mr Redmond, however, seems to think this quite normal. Indeed, his 14-year-old boys seem to turn on the tears for almost any reason. On the other hand, Mr Redmond has them more perceptive than many an adult about the reasons for other people's actions. No, these are not characters in which one can easily believe.

I think that I could perhaps have excused the poor plot (or, at any rate, the denouement) and the abysmal charcaterisation, but how the punctuation ever got past an editor is something I just cannot understand. The dialogue has more sentences ending with exclamation marks than I have ever seen. In most instances I failed to check just how many consecutive sentences ended that way but in one place I did notice four. The first of those sentences was actually a question and that, like many other questions, is closed with not only a question mark but an exclamation mark as well - ?! - something I have never seen before. On the other hand, there is a distinct lack of commas. I particularly noticed this in dialogue when a proper noun, ie the name of the person being addressed, was inserted in the speech. For example, "I did think David that you would agree with me". There should, of course, be commas after "think" and after "David" - but not according to Mr Redmond or his editor. There is no instance of a similar situation where the punctuation is correct.

Taken all round, this was a most unsatisfying read.

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