Saturday, 15 November 2014

Book Review: The Sound of Gravity by Joe Simpson

As her hand slips from his grip, Patrick's life is shattered, forever changed. The Sound of Gravity is a harrowing, dramatic and powerful tale of love, loss and redemption as that haunting split-second memory changes the course of a lifetime. Trapped high on a stormbound mountain face in the icy depths of winter, the stricken young man is forced to fight for his life. Half a lifetime later, haunted by grief and guilt, Patrick is freed from his self-imposed vigil when at last the mountain releases his heart-rending secret.

My Review:
I have really enjoyed the author's non fiction books which were funny, harrowing and gripping. I was really looking forward to his fiction about loss on the mountains but this book was a major disappointment.

I liked the idea of the story-a man stuck in the mountains during a storm, facing up to his partner's death when she falls over the ledge. I was looking forward to reading about his pain and fear, something Mr Simpson wrote so well about in his non fiction books. I liked the chapter that told of the fall from her point of view. Sadly I found the rest of the book unsatisfactory.

Firstly, it was one of the most over-descriptive book that I've ever read and for me this is not a good thing. It took fifty words to convey an idea where ten well chosen words would have been better. There were endless paragraphs of description and the same things were continually repeated. For example I don't know how many times we were told that the wind was a predator coming to get him. It just seemed to go round in circles.

The language was flowery and old fashioned, and so many words were used that it left me struggling to imagine what it was he was describing or trying to show. It got very confusing and difficult to follow and the story did not flow smoothly. When you are having to reread sections to try to understand what is being said, all it does it frustrate the reader and give them a headache. It seemed to me that the author was trying to use every word in the dictionary and ended up getting too clever when just telling the story simply would have done nicely.

When Patrick is doing things like trying to find her after the fall, the way it is described is strange. It is written in such a format and with a strange choice of words that you are left unsure what is actually happening. Was he taking parts of her away each day or just exposing them? If so what was he doing with the parts? Why is the other paragraph saying he has found her as if sleeping and the guide says we'll get her off the mountain, then the body parts seem to already be in a chest? Then it said he was coming to get her the next day but failed and was unable to get a search team. Yet he's sitting there with the body now? It's so confusing and jumbled! I found the storytelling to be weak and lacking cohesion in many places.

I struggled to follow the story and I have read a lot of climbing books but for anyone who hasn't read climbing books or climbed themselves, this book would be very hard to follow. There is no attempt to describe the climbing equipment or terminology for non climbers who might have been attracted to the idea of the story. That limits your target audience a bit. And there are only so many times that you can read the same things being endlessly described before you start to get bored. Cutting this book in half might have been a good start as it was too long and lacked enough of interest to hook the reader.

This was not well written by any stretch of the imagination and I won't be reading any more fiction by the author.
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