"Between lifting the poker and smashing it down.. there must have been a moment when I thought about what was going to happen..."
"But if there was such a moment, I don't remember it."
'Broken Flowers' by Kate McQuaile is the story of a woman who decades earlier fled her youthful dreams and a house called Paradise Place with devastating secrets she hoped she'd never have to address again. Upon arriving in London for her estranged son's wedding, she finds herself looking up at the very home she ran from all those years ago. The voice and face of a man she longed to forget, already plaguing her mind.
The narration shifts constantly between characters and unfortunately lacks any distinction of 'voice' leaving the reader to rely on overt statements to remind them who's telling their story, despite the name appearing at the start of some chapters. But the story itself is interesting, if not a bit overreaching at times.
It very much so feels like a novel that was written with plot points first as the writer tried to weave her way toward the scenes she envisioned and moments she felt were crucial. Now, it's not uncommon for a book to be approached that way, but I don't often find myself feeling it along the way as I read.
Nan, our main character, has a strained relationship with her son.. to say the least. I think McQuaile does an amazing job at the emotional narrative between those involved in her story. Most of the interactions seemed very genuine and though I didn't yet know exactly how these people had failed each other, their pain felt reasonable and I wanted to champion their attempts to bridge those gaps.
"I've become one of those pathetic women desperately hoping the man of her dreams will see her as the woman of his."
Almost all the characters have a relatability factor to them, regardless of their strengths or social statuses, they have realistic vulnerabilities. They're likable and I even found it difficult at times to choose how I would have wanted things to work out. For even the 'villains' certainly didn't see themselves as such and admittedly, I didn't entirely either.
"..it seemed that nothing I dished out, regardless of how rude or even cruel, could faze her. In fact, I credit her for turning me into a human being again."
Puzzle pieces were delivered slowly, but sometimes felt ill-placed as if the author felt they were necessary in that moment to turn the direction of the story she wanted to tell. In all fairness, I'm just picky about how these things are handled. I like a natural pattern to emerge and feel that if you have to use another character to insert information in order to create a turning point, you should reassess. But make no mistake, that's my preference and this author still did a wonderful job of driving her story steadily toward the crescendo she foresaw.
Though I traversed the majority of the novel with a relatively accurate expectation as to where certain aspects of the story were going, McQuaile does hit us with a bit of a 1-2-punch in the reveal, which I'd only half considered. From there, the landscape is a steady shift of change. In fact, she did so much 'footwork' in the story throughout the last chapters, I was unsure to the last moment which outcome I was going to get.. and I applaud her for that.
It's certainly not as finessed as classic thrillers like Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' or 'D'entre les morts' (the novel from which Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' was born) by the French duo known simply as Boileau-Narcejac, but I do believe fans of these titles would find 'Broken Flowers' highly enjoyable and I'm happy to recommend it despite my small misgivings.