Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"The Behaviour of Moths" by Poppy Adams

I've been reading a lot this year. In fact, this has been the year I've managed to read the most since passing out of b-school. I decided I'm going to try and put down my thoughts on some of the stuff I've been reading, sort of as a practice run for some book review programs I am interested in.

"The Behaviour of Moths" is the story of two sisters - what I thought would be a family drama (and it's one of my favourite genres) slowly reveals itself to be a delicious Gothic suspense. The story is told through the voice of Ginny, the painfully shy and socially inept older sibling who become a lepidopterist (a moth specialist!).

Ginny, who's now in her seventies, has lived in the family Gothic mansion all her life. The return of her vivacious younger sister Vivi to the family home after 47 years brings back many memories of their childhood and younger years. And through these memories, we realise it's not the happy family we think they were - jealousies, alcoholism, surrogacies, rifts emerge in the family - but all this is hinted, not clearly laid out, building up the suspense.

Adams is very successful in creating a very atmospheric novel. The large, rambling mansion they live in and the surrounding countryside form an almost perfect backdrop to this story. Adams gets off to a great start; the sisters’ childhood is depicted with care - their wildly different personalities, their closeness, and their feelings towards their parents. And the young women these little girls grow into are also very believable. And through Ginny’s reminiscences, we realise all is not well, and the happenings in the house and within the family, though they have happened long ago, take on a new meaning when Vivi returns home and it emerges that both the sisters have very different views on their childhood and their parents.

We gear up for the big reveal - whose version is the truth? Why did some of the characters behave the way they did? Why did some events happen? Does Vivi know something that Ginny doesn't? We gear up for the big reveal - but Adam subverts this with an ending that has you completely taken aback.

Unfortunately, I think this is also the books biggest weakness. While it totally works for it's shock value, it also means that a lot of the events and incidents are left unexplained. See...it's great to leave something to the readers imagination, it's good to have an open ending where the reader is left wondering about various interpretations; but in this case, Adams doesnt quite manage to achieve that and leaves the reader a little annoyed because of all the loose ends.

That said, it was still a very well written book, and I couldn't stop reading it. I finished it in one sitting on the overnight train journey from Kasargod to Bangalore. And despite my annoyance at the loose ends, it made for an enjoyable read.

1 comment:

Abhishek Ghosh said...

Nice review... crisp, review more books

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