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16 February 2010

Glen Woodroad

A few days ago a woman called at my door, which is exciting enough in itself. She was selling copies of a book that she had written and self-published, called Glen Woodroad*. Although I didn't hold out much hope the book would be very good, I admired her initiative and bought a copy, which I've just read.

It isn't very good, but it's short. I don't know exactly how short, as the pages are unnumbered. It took me about an hour to read it. As she explained, it was a cheap printing job, and that shows up in the way the print size varies from time to time. It's also clearly not had even a basic level of editing: some obvious typos and punctuation errors throughout; let alone the service of a professional editor.

A professional editor could improve it, but what's striking about it is the form. It's basically soap opera: a series of events linked by character, mainly concerning the question of whether the central character can trust her partner. (The answer is mostly no.) Halfway through the book the original central character dies; her daughter then steps into the role, grows up very quickly, and has similar problems.

But right near the end there's a hint of the novel that this might have been. Earlier, there'd been the hint of a secret - a mysterious reference to someone called Glen in the mother's papers At the end the daughter finds herself in a wonderful dreamlike landscape and meets someone called Glen Woodroad, a kind of guardian angel, who gives her the mental strength and courage to rebuild her own life, using the power of love.

One of the big drives for reading is to find out what happens. When the mother died in this book, it felt like the end. There had been enough detail of her life to make it interesting, whereas the daughter was a almost entirely new character. There is a link between the two halves of the book but it's completely underused. The Glen character should be the unification, and could stand for all kinds of things, from the supernatural (she's an angel) to the earth-feminist (she's the indomitable spirit of woman), but instead she's a vague wish fulfillment (who, incidentally, turns up when things aren't nearly as bad as they have been).

It's maybe only when you read a book like this that you realise how artificial fiction as we normally know it is. Here things happen generally in sequence, and are explained as they happen, apart from the could-be big mystery in the middle.

*I've changed the name. It's unlikely, but the author might otherwise find this, which would be unfair.

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