In the Neighbourhood of Fame by Bridget Van der Zijpp – 2015

FameOh dear, having read reviews of In the neighbourhood of fame after reading it, it would appear I am out of step in thinking it not well constructed and over-written.  It deals with fame, what it is, how it affects people and how damaging it can be when the media and social media become involved.  A great idea, as is telling the story from the points of view of three women who are circling around ‘fame’ in the form of Jed Jordan, a once idolised rock star, now a pepper grower and in-the-shed music tinkerer.  The three women are Evie, recently returned to the neighbourhood along with her teenage son Dylan; Jed’s wife Lauren, the manager of a theatre, a job she got through her father-in-law.  And finally there is 15 year old Hayley, who meets Jed at the local park while they are walking dogs.  The voices of the three women are distinguished by writing style – but quite intrusively. Evie’s sections are straight first person, Lauren’s in an odd third person view “”You understand what he is really suggesting, and you know too that …”, and Lauren with an annoying and inconsistent lack of personal pronoun: “ Say: ‘I’m fine.”  Although the interweaving of the stories is clever, the ‘message’ of the book is spelt out rather than emerging from the narrative, and it wasn’t clear why each of the strong women revolving around the passive man had to be horribly taken advantage of by various men throughout the novel.  The writing is overworked: “This morning as you’d stood together at the window watching your awkward boy stooping in a vaguely incompetent way towards discovery, poking about with a stick like a half-blind peasant woman grubbing around for the season’s last potatoes, the tentacles of your heart flailed wildly towards what was in front of you”; “… it’s like I’ve accidentally kicked over a nest of irrational wasps and I‘m trying to get away from them, and just when it seems I have, I look back over my shoulder and there they are, busy creating a new kind of havoc”.  I often found the dialogue unconvincing and thought it very odd that one of the crucial conversations – where Evie finally becomes honest with Jed about their shared past – is glossed over, being reported in just one sentence.  But that’s just my view – I would be very interested in other readers’ thoughts …

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