Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Review: We are all Made of Glue by Marina Lewycka

After her husband walks out on her, Georgie finds herself becoming involved in the life of her glamorous and eccentric neighbour, Mrs Shapiro. Mrs Shapiro lives with an army of cats in a dilapidated and filthy mansion, and when she slips on ice and breaks her wrist, the local estate agents begin sniffing around in hopes of buying the property from her. Georgie takes on the task of keeping the house safe, with the help of a Palestinian builder and his sons. Meanwhile at home, Georgie's teenage son is behaving very strangely, having turned to religion for fear that the world is going to end. 

The characters are written with great attention to detail, and Lewycka delights in describing all the horrible details such as the state of Mrs Shapiro's house, her clothes, and the disgusting food she serves. The estate agents and social workers are comically evil, like pantomime villains. However, beneath all this shock and humour is the harrowing story of Mrs Shapiro's past, narrowly escaping the Holocaust in 1940s Europe. There is also a thread focusing on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as told by Ali the builder. These two storylines sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable when placed side-by-side with the slapstick of the present events, and the sudden shift from the horrors of war to 'Wonder Boy' the cat doing something silly can be a bit jarring. I also found the storyline about Georgie's son a bit unnecessary; it didn't seem to add anything to the plot. It feels a bit like Lewycka has tried to fit too many stories into this book, and they don't fit together particularly well. 

However, Lewycka's trademark dark humour and vivid characterisation make up for the somewhat stretched plot, and I found this book enjoyable to read for the characters alone. I would say that this book feels a bit weaker than Lewycka's previous novels, but is still worth reading if you are a fan of hers.

3/5 - great characters and description, overly complex plot.

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