Review : The Hunting Party

Huntin'Party

Author : Lucy Foley

Publication Date : 2019

Publisher(s) : Harper Collins

Plot Summary :

A group of old friends have come together to celebrate the New Year of 2019 in a remote Scottish hunting lodge . There are Giles & Samira – the new parents , Nick & Bo , Julien & Miranda – the ” Golden ” couple , Mark & Emma and finally , Katie – the singleton in the group . Then one of them is found dead . It does not look like an accident . . .

My thoughts about the book :

The Hunting Party is described as ‘ Gripping ‘ by Sophie Hannah . It also has other one -adjective praises by authors like A J Finn and Laura Marshall . I picked up this book on seeing these praises and am resolved in future not to pick up any book based on any author ‘ s recommendations alone . . . The most questionable adjective that can be given to this book is from Laura Marshal – ” Eerie ” .

The narrative covers the period from Dec 30 2018 to Jan 2 2019 . The story has 4 first person narratives  from Miranda , Katie , Emma and Heather ( the Lodge manager ) and a third person narrative  for Doug (  the Lodge gamekeeper ) . There were a few aspects of the writing which did not sit well with me . . .

Too many dandelions :

I seemed to trip upon the dandelions – sometimes a lone one and sometimes in clusters almost in every single chapter . I was trying to make allowance for one or two popping up occasionally , but the more often you encounter them , the less patience you have left to deal with them . When I trip upon a dandelion , my brain goes – ” Here comes the next one . . . Doesn’t it sound . . . “  . I get interested in the choice of words put together for the newly – minted simile / metaphor and for the next 5 minutes this one is going to have my attention .

” And there is a red bloom around her head where it has struck the rocks – a starburst , a supernova of red . . . “

The problem with the current crop of suspense / detective fiction writers  is , they try to emulate the literary fiction in terms of  language & narrative  – with disastrous results . While experimenting with hyper-realistic narratives and flowery language , the current breed of crime fiction writers seem to forget that they are writing for the suspense genre where a good pace is the key to guarantee the reader a great reading experience [ ” the ending that leaves the reader breathless ” , ” the shocker that you can never see coming ” and other similar reactions . . . ]

Thankfully , the author stopped with the flowery language and did not go for the hyper – realistic narrative . Perhaps , none of the characters  are portrayed with a depth that would require a hyper – realistic approach or any innovative narrative technique to actually peel off the layers off the character the reveal the real person .

The usage of  ” millennial ” slang  in the narratives :

While the narrators are millennial , trying to capture that in the slang is not a good idea . I never realized millennial conversations ( with those filler words ) , when put on paper looks so bad . . . There is the liberal mindless usage of the f*** word , the afterthoughts without which some characters can’t seem to finish a sentence without – all these were major put – offs . Here is one :

” ‘ But who wants Westminster – all those sweaty bodies pressed together – when you can have this ? ‘ Emma asks . ‘ This place ‘ , she spreads her arms wide , ‘ and best friends . ‘ She links wit her arm with mine , and smiles at me , a proper , warm smile . I want to hug her . Thank fuck for Emma . ” 

The thing which amused me highly is this one :

There is a chapter which is narrated by the character when she is drunk . ” Being in a temporary state in which one’s physical and mental faculties are impaired by an excess of alcoholic drink ;  intoxicated ” is the definition provided for the word drunk . And here , the narrator is perfectly aware of her surroundings .  Here is a second one from the same narrator  –

” It’s the way he says it : so quiet , under his breath , so that no one else can hear . I suddenly feel cold in a way that I don’t think has anything to do with the freezing air . I take a step back . . .” 

For someone who says ” I feel numb . I’d forgotten I had so much wine before the champagne . My thoughts are jumbled , my mind fuggy . . . “ , she sure has a heightened awareness of self and her surroundings to be able to pin down even the smallest reaction she had to somebody ‘ s words . . .

Frankly , I was so disappointed with this one – I was looking for a solid closed circle mystery  and the setting looked promising for a good mystery . Instead  the average writing and a not-very-convincing solution to the question ” Who is the killer ? ” only made me wish that I hadn’t bothered with this one . . .

Rating : 2 . 75  / 5

Is there something in the post you disagree with ? Feel free to write about it as well in the comments section . . .

Until the next review then . . .

A final note :

This might be the last post for this year – unless I get a short read I need to rave about . . . Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year in advance . . .

Book review : 10 Minutes 38 seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

download (3)I had guessed it right that this book would make it to the Booker Prize shortlist . The premise of  a life – story told through the final string of memories that the clinically dead person has , before the brain shuts down , was fascinating . During the final moments , when the brain tries think in its oxygen – deprived state , obviously it is going to throw up the memories / impressions which it had formed strongly . . .

The book is divided into three sections – Mind , Body and Soul .

Mind

As it can be easily guessed , the Mind section tells the story of Tequila Leila , through her swansong – memories . Somehow , the mind seems to ” remember ” every object of her memory by its smell and taste  – curious , isn ‘ t it ? With every ticking minute , Leila ‘ s brain throws up another deep – seated memory – the taste of spiced goat stew , the goat sacrificed by her father to celebrate the birth of her brother ; the taste of the home – made lemon & sugar waxing mixture used by the women in the neighborhood to wax their legs ; the taste of cardamom tea shared with a handsome University student whom she fell in love  with , when he takes shelter in the brothel where she works ; the smell and taste of watermelon and the memories of a summer vacation with family . . .

Every memory gives us a glimpse into a key event in Leila ‘ s life and the friend she made because of that incident . . .

Leila & her friends – their story 

Leyla Afife ( full of virtue )  Kamile ( high in merit ) , the daughter of a tailor in the city of Van , rechristened herself as Tequila Leila ,  following her elopement from her home and subsequent entanglement with prostitution in Istanbul . Yes , her middle and last names seem to make a mockery of her . . .

She has five close friends in the city of Istanbul – Nostalgia Nalan , Sabotage Sinan ( the only man in this girl gang ) , Jameelah , Hollywood Humeyra and Zaynab122 . Each has his / her own story on how they ended up where they are today and how he / she became friends with Leila . Their stories are as fascinating as Leila ‘ s . Like her , they are from the fringes of the society and Istanbul ,  the  bustling Turkish capital would not miss them if one of them turns up dead one day . . . Like Leila , they too , might become news on national television if they were also murdered gruesomely ; the newspapers might carry reports about their deaths , but they will first seek to reassure the ” normal female citizens ” that there is no threat for them . They had known all of this but until Leila ‘ s death they had not been slapped on the face with it . . .

The author uses several significant events of Leila ‘ s short life as pointers to the patriarchal society ‘ s aspects  . Some of them below :

  • how her mother ‘ s frequent miscarriages ( a few even nearly fatal ) except for Leila ‘ s birth  did not deter her father to keep trying for a son . . .  And how her mother relies on the birth of the child ( preferably a boy ) to cement her place in the family  , her being the second wife of  Leila ‘ s father  .
  • how right – wing ideologies slowly infiltrate ordinary families when the men of the family , like Leila ‘ s father ,  are brainwashed by right-wing ” spiritual leaders ” into restricting the women folk  and the children of the house  in order to  ” put an end to this man – made regime and bring back God – made sharia ” .  So , meetings with any of the progressive neighbors , ” alla franga “ magazines ,  newspapers , TV – watching  – almost every single aspect that had provided the ladies some news about the world outside their doorstep had to  be banned . . .
  • how the ” reputation ” of the girl was more important than addressing the abuse the girl had suffered . . . Everything else should be swept under the carpet . . .
  • how her being a prostitute , seemed to imply that there is no need for sympathy in the way she met her end ;  how , even the youngsters , had been taught to view her as a ” fallen ” woman who had no  claim to their  pity / sympathy but only deserved all the  scorn and revulsion one could muster .
  • how Leila had to deal with every random ” righteous ” man ‘ s ire as she is seen as a blot on the society . . . Finally , she had to die in the hands of one such man who had taken it upon himself ” to turn whores into angels ” .

There is  no forced inclusion of plot elements to illustrate these themes  – the story rolls seamlessly .  The author has tried out some new analogies which are interesting .

What is the story of Tequila Leila , the prostitute whose body was found in a dustbin in Istanbul ? What are the friends ‘ stories and the stories behind some of the nicknames ? 

Body 

Now , having been forced to face the society ‘ s apathy and worse still ,  the judgmental opinions , they decide to give their friend a decent funeral . Normally , people like Leila ‘ s and her friends will be put up in the Cemetery of the Companionless when they died . The fact that Leila had friends who were ready to give her a proper funeral did not matter to the state – when a body is unclaimed or refused by the family , the person is buried in the ” Cemetery of the Companionless ” in Kilyos , no more questions asked . . .

So , the five friends make a rash decision to dig out Leila from her grave in the cemetery at night . . . They go about muddling in the Scooby – Doo gang style . . . [ perhaps this parallel is due to Scooby Doo  being in the news very often , these last few days . . . ]

What happened to their mission ? Was it successful or not ? 

Soul

Finally , Leila ‘ s soul gets free and makes an acquaintance she had long wanted to . . . Who is it ??

Summing it all up –

To sum it up , the writing & the story has the reader turning the pages fast . . . With the life story of a prostitute , the writer has had the space to pack several segments which mirror the society ‘ s attitude to the people on the fringes and it ‘ s misogynistic tendencies and she has done a commendable job . . .

In the backdrop of the characters ‘ lives , history is always in the making – the construction of the Bosphorous bridge , the massacre in Istanbul on International Workers ‘ Day ( 1997 ) . . . Sometimes , characters are present in the moment when events , which had made to the history books since then , were being enacted – often without them realizing it . Of course , we all are or will be . . .

Perhaps , the midnight grave digging and all that drama , brought this book down  to sit with all other populist contemporary fiction in the bookshelves . . . With only the first section , it would have been in a league of its own . . .

Still , I hope the questions might have sufficiently intrigued you  to add this book to your TBR . . .Yes , I would recommend this book . . . I only wish that Elif had known when to stop writing . . .

If you have already read the book , tell me your thoughts about the book in the comments section below . . . Is there something in the post you disagree with ? Feel free to write about it as well in the comments section . . .

Until the next review then . . .