The Absolute Book

Finishing this book felt like a battle of wills

Book title

The Absolute Book

Author

Elizabeth Knox

Standalone or series

Standalone

First time reading this author?

Yes

Why I picked this

I liked the sound of the blurb.

Review copy or purchase

Purchase.

What it’s about

This starts with a hit and run and revenge murder then ends up with demons and fairyland and even Odin turning up at a book reading.

Review

Taryn’s sister is killed in a hit and run. When the culprit is released from prison she arranges with a hunter-guide to have him killed. Now the hunter is after her, as are demons, fairies and gods. All because of a book which can’t be burned.

Finishing this book felt like a battle of will, and I’m so glad to have emerged from the end of it. Not triumphant, but with a sense of achievement not to have given up despite the book seeming not to want to be read.

I’ve found this a very difficult story to keep a hold of. Every time I felt that I had all the pieces straight in my mind there was a chapter or action break and we seemed to skip over something indefinable and I was adrift again. The book manages a bizarre combination of being very detailed while at the same time skipping pieces of action which left me feeling unsettled. This may well have been the author’s intention, but it made for quite an uncomfortable reading experience.

As a specific example of this about three quarters of the way through the book we are introduced to a character called Petrus. A name which is familiar to the main character Taryn because “Kernow had mentioned Petrus. Jane had almost promised him.” But, in the previous 400-odd pages Petrus was only mentioned once, by Jane, and not in anyway which could be described as promising, just as someone who has lived in fairyland for 500 years. I only know this because I was reading on Kindle and could easily search for the name. Without that as a reader it left me feeling as if I’d missed a significant part of the book, one intended to foreshadow meeting Petrus. But, actually no previous clues had been given to the reader so once again I guess the author’s intention is to leave the reader feeing unsettled. Unlike many books where the reader is granted more insight into what’s happening than the characters, in The Absolute Book the intention seems to be to ensure the reader is always less informed than the characters.

It feels like reading The Neverending Story. Not the novel, but like I imagine Bastian would have felt reading the book within the book at the point where the book seems to be speaking to him rather than telling a story. Or, actually maybe it’s the feeling someone else would have reading the book which told half a tale with the other half belonging to Bastian.

I think fundamentally that’s the issue I have with this book. It made me feel unwelcome and unwanted as a reader. That the reader this is aimed at has a specific knowledge and context to make this story whole, and that it’s my problem that I wasn’t able to bring this together.

Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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