Sunday, 27 January 2013

Let's do some reading 2013: The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller

This was a strange one. I feel like I could easily say that I really disliked this book but at the same time it had some really good aspects. I think that sums up the book quite well if I'm honest - I just don't know what to think. It was hovering so close to the brink of being a good read but it just came up short on too many occasions. I didn't know how I felt about any of the characters, I didn't know if I cared what happened and I still don't really know why I didn't give up on it. 

There were parts that I liked, Speller has a lovely way of recreating the world as it was left after the devastation of the first world war and I loved learning about things that I hadn't known had happened during the war, however I still feel like I don't quite know what the book was about.

First of all, something that is very important to me as a literature student is for a book to read fluently with no grammar/spelling or punctuation mistakes. When you're living with your characters in a world outside of your own, mistakes or difficulties in the text bring you violently back into the real world. Whilst there were no major errors, the use of ''he should of'' instead of ''should have'' got on my nerves increasingly throughout the novel. Although this was in speech, so could be put down to the accent of the character, it wasn't consistent, with ''of'' and ''have'' being used interchangeably.

Second of all, the way that some sentences were worded meant that I repeatedly had to re-read parts before understanding what they said. I know that in English our use of ''his'' is rather ambiguous, with ''he kissed his wife'' implying two very different scenarios for example, but the text just wasn't clear enough about certain things to the extent that I often wasn't sure who it was that was talking until something was said that linked back to the character. Additionally, although  I loved learning things about the war, there was a certain degree of assumption that the reader would be familiar with certain terminology or recall certain events, which were mentioned all too often with no explanation of what they meant or what significance they held.

Finally, I just didn't feel gripped by the story. I wasn't on the edge of my seat. I expected a huge twist, for the murder mystery to turn out not be a murder after all (explaining the 'return' part of the title), or for the least expected character to emerge as the villain. However, it was rather disappointing when the antagonist was finally revealed. It didn't come as a shock. Granted, it wasn't someone that I had suspected, but it was such a weak part of the story that I was happy to get to the end and didn't even bother to read the epilogue or afterword.

I think it was nicely written, but not feeling any connection to any of the characters held me back from really getting involved in the story. Having read a crime novel immediately after that had me turning pages in anticipation and excitement, I can now say quite confidently that this book was not my cup of tea in the slightest. 

the little nordic cabin


  1. Thanks for the review, will not bother putting this one on my books to read list!

  2. Books with grammatical mistakes—especially comma splices—bother me, too. I don't think I'll be reading this one.

    Thanks for your review!

  3. I give you credit for sticking it out and finishing the book. I will abandon books if they don't hold my interest or contain mistakes like those you described!

  4. FYI, every time I add this URL to my 'dashboard' for following, it takes me back to your old blog. I don't know why it still won't work. :(

  5. Nikki, your blog is both beautiful and informative. Thanks for the review, comments and opinion of this book. I commend you for sticking it out and completing this one. It probably would have gotten on my nerves that it didn't flow along smoothly. If a book doesn't grab me from the start, I have to really make an effort to get on with the rest of it. I won't be reading this one.

  6. Those grammar errors would really get to me too.

    But hey, I can't believe it's been so long! I was actually wondering why I didn't see any updates from you in my blog roll. Turns out, I still had the old link in my blog roll. And a while ago when I tried to add your new one, the blog roll didn't take it. I didn't know why at the time, but I do now. I deleted your old blog from the list and the link to your new blog was accepted without problems. D'oh.

    Hey, I've got an award for you. I've always enjoyed your blog and it's really versatile. So come and grab it if you're interested. :)