Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review: Still Life by Joy Fielding

With over twenty books under her belt, Joy Fielding is bound to improve with every novel, yet occasionally produce work that feels like it is a step backward to her faithful readers. Still Life: A Novel, while well-written in spite of a tricky Plot device, still manages to fall short of what Fielding fans have come to expect.

The gimmick of having the books narrator spend the majority of the novel non-communicative yet fully aware of her surroundings in a coma, attempting to solve her attempted murder and prevent a successful second go at it, seems intriguing and inventive at the start. It is.

But the longer you read, the more you begin to realize that you've heard this story before. There isn't much extraordinary material in the book to separate it from other variations on the same theme, including the ever popular "ghost attempting to solve own murder" yarn, no matter how well Fielding handles the self-imposed restrictions of the plot device. Add to that a few instances of non-essential back stories that serve little more purpose than running up the page count, and you can't help shake the feeling that, as competent and well-written Still Life might be, it might have been better served as a short story.

Much like the book's heroine, Still Life manages to exist somewhere between a dead bore and a living, breathing work. You may not hate it, but chances are you won't love it, either. Call it a mystery on life support.

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