RE: Bookclub: The discussion of The Bird That Nobody Sees (contains spoilers)
I've never had such a mixed experience with a book and I can see why people are so enthusiastic about it. I very nearly abandoned it out of frustration but was glad I kept going in the end. I liked the main characters Rod and Liz and became very invested in what happened to them, and I would happily join the Free Rod campaign. The signals about Liz were clearly there but she remained the lesser character though I found her as sympathetic as Rod. Her utterly silent revenge on him "out of the blue" as far as he was concerned must leave him completely baffled and none of their relationship remains in any sense satisfactorily resolved. He simply sits in jail thinking "what a wonderful world" - surprised no reference to Louis Armstrong - while she goes off with the exquisitely awful Dave to a new life in Spain.
I also quite liked the male group - bit stereotypically laconic and pub oriented, with strong Nick Hornby influences, but also rather funny and occasionally more than one-dimensional in the form of Alex, but his different take on the world is never brought into contact with the rest of the group apart from the moment of Rod's "conversion".
I found the central premise "we are all angels, and we can all do good in the world by saying good morning to a stranger" rather sugary for my taste. The remarkable thing was I have never seen a book's organising idea so comprehensively destroyed by its own plot as this one. No sooner had Rod come over all Jerusalem and jollity than he got completely shafted - probably for about 15 years, I'd say. More to the point, the authors of this destruction and confirmation of the reality of evil had been a bunch of self-appointed "angels" whose bungling naivety (and self-deception) had led Rod and Liz completely up the garden path. If ever there was an argument against goodness this book was it. And what "the bird we never see" was about even the epilogue did not enlighten a miserable old curmudgeon like me!
Rather more problematic from the reading point of view was the very uneven writing style. There were some really excellent bits - the Irish pub amongst them - and overall the beginning and the end were better than the middle, apart from the wacky fantasy of being back in the park. However much of it did not work for me. I think Stuart is trying hard for a "literary" style which works very well indeed sometimes but does not come naturally, and is often very stretched, at times becoming incomprehensible or trite. He has a very annoying habit of using rhyming words - "the rain tumbles and the sky rumbles and the earth crumbles" (loc 631) - which I found grated to the point that the only thing I could do with my annoyance was to highlight them for later execution which gave me much pleasure. I found myself varying within the compass of a "page" between enjoying some good writing to having to think why the next passage fell flat.
I think Stuart is potentially a very good writer but he is in desperate need of a patient editor or possibly a writing group that will "slaughter his little darlings" as the phrase has it and encourage his real talent.