Farundell – L. R. Fredericks

I mentioned last week how sometimes I will persevere with a debut novel because I feel debut novelists should be given a few more pages to get you – it’s their first novel after all. This could of course simply mean I am a soft touch; it can also backfire as it did with L R Frederick’s ‘Farundell’ which popped through my letterbox unsolicited a few weeks ago. From the cover and the blurb I thought ‘ooh John Murray have done well with matching this from what I like’ but as we all know you shouldn’t judge a book by a marvellous cover.

First up I just want to discuss the blurb actually or a bit of it, I know it should be about what is inside but I have to show you why I thought I would love it when it I got it. “Farundell is a story of magical awakening as a young man searches for meaning in the aftermath of the First World War, a young girl comes of age and an old man journeys through memory to death. There’s an enigmatic book, an erotic obsession, magic both black and white, a ghost who’s not a ghost, a murder that’s not a murder, a treasure that’s not a treasure. It’s about love, loss and longing; language, imagination and the nature of reality.” I thought this sounded really interesting and imaginative and something quite different. Well I was spot on with the latter.

Paul Asher has been fighting in World War One and been somewhat traumatised, though initially we aren’t quite sure why though we do get a small taster in the prologue. Not wanting to go back to his father in America he accepts a job writing down the memoirs of the elderly Amazon explorer Lord Perceval Damory and moving into the grand house of ‘Farundell’ and its surrounding lands and rather bizarre inhabitants. This was where I started to get a little lost, L R Fredericks really introduces too many within the first 40 pages as you have Paul’s back story, his London friends and then this host of characters living in Farundell. I had my notebook out and even then I was never sure who was related to who or how. Paul’s sudden desire to leave London and work in Farundell also really mystified me, I wasn’t convinced and even with the unbelievable (this was merely more slightly unlikely) an author should have you convinced.

Once in Farundell we start to meet this family who awake in the night outside their bodies (their ‘moon bodies’) and float around following foxes and watching sleeping guests. Again that’s fine. Yet they would then sit and talk about the whole thing for a few pages with lines like “I am not purposefully trying to confuse you” and “sometimes there is no answer” leaving the reader feeling very confused and actually wanting a lot of answers.

So why did I persevere? Well I kept hoping it would turn into something like ‘Atonement’ or ‘Brideshead Revisited’ which the publishers compare it to and are two of my favourite books – it didn’t end up like either. I also liked the magical surrealism yet it never led anywhere. To me this is a book that needed someone to reign the author in a little as rather than being a great post-WWI grand house drama or a surreal fantasy novel it seemed to end up not being either, not being satisfactory and going nowhere (even the love story didn’t interest me). I feel mean writing that about a debut novel but it’s the truth, someone should have edited it down, it feels a good 150 pages plus too long, and helped the author decide what they wanted it to be. A shame as it’s beautifully written it just doesn’t do anything or seem to have any purpose behind it or driving it. It does have a lovely cover though.

A book that will: either win you over and have you thinking it’s the most beautiful, enigmatic and imaginative novel or have you thinking its twee nonsense that promises a lot and goes nowhere. Sadly, and I genuinely mean that, I fell into the latter category. 4/10

L R Fredericks no doubt has great signs of promise but I won’t be reading this, or its follow ups (yes there is a series), and am not sure would give any future books not related to this a whirl. Should I write off an author after only one book? I actually think I should have stopped reading half way (as I have another debut since) as then I could have told people that it had promise but just wasn’t for me, now if I told people it had promise having seen the end result I would feel I was lying. Have you ever had any books like that, the ones where if you had left them unfinished you might have liked them more?

*Oops I originally called the protagonist Paul Auster – only becase I wrote the blog whilst mulling over if I wanted to read that author, my brain is truly overtaken with all things bookish it seems.

23 Comments

Filed under John Murray Publishers, L. R. Fredericks, Review

23 responses to “Farundell – L. R. Fredericks

  1. novelinsights

    You clearly didn’t like this much but sounds like you gave it a fair go. Love how you keep saying ‘but it does have a lovely cover though’ lol. I think I might have been put off by the words ‘magical awakening’ right from the blurb!

    • But it does have a lovely cover though hahaha. I finished it which for me was enough, it had to have something about it that I got to the end… I do think though that was more a hope something would really happen. Maybe it happens in the next one, I just dont think I will bother finding out.

  2. Deb

    I would have given up once I saw that the main character was named “Paul Auster.” That’s just too self-consciously “meta” for my tastes.

  3. Annabel

    Shame – as I got this one last week through Amazon Vine – which means I’ll have to read it! (Shallowly, I picked it mostly based on the cover). I too am a little put off by his calling the main character Paul Auster. While I adore Auster’s books, this may be an homage too far …

    • You might love it, it could have been my mood or simply just not for me. I shall wait for your thoughts (unless they are up in my reading blogs absence?)

      Its a lovely cover. Oh and the character isnt called Paul Auster that was me being a div!

  4. Jon Appleton

    This Paul Auster connection needs a thorough and deep exploration. I cannot believe a literary imprint such as JM would allow a debut novelist an ostensibly prosaic – and yet not – main character name as Paul Auster. Are we sure this isn’t a spoof written by Auster himself? Are we, peeps? Simon – you may have put your unerring finger on the hoax of the new decade …

  5. Jon Appleton

    Doh. It’s Paul Asher. Simon – despite your recent concerns, you’re clearly reading too much! You’re in an intertextual zone. Bless you.

  6. I think it’s alright to write an author off after one poor showing only because there are so many other authors out there who are likely a better fit for you. Why spend time trying a second novel from someone who didn’t work for you when you can try something new (or re-enjoy something old and loved)?

    • I have to say having given this book space and thought about it, its not one I will be reading the rest of the series of, though if the author then did something completely different I might have a nosey at a copy in the shop, maybe.

  7. The blurb makes it sound really interesting and I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.

  8. Too bad you didn’t like this one more. Sometimes you do just have to give up earlier. And I’ve definitely done that before and regretted it. Afterwards you wish you had just given up earlier!

  9. Thornton McCarthy

    What a savage approach you have to criticism–all surface slashing! I get the impression you read just to get through–that maybe as a child you were read to by someone wanting to get it over, no luxuriating, or pausing to wonder…. Those of us familiar with astral travel, dreams, and Hermes Trismegistes will be delighted to explore these realms with this gifted writer. Sad to notice that others plan to willy-nilly proceed on your recommendation or lack therof. After all, our world seems to be increasing its superficial approach life, while here’s a book that may inspire readers to go more deeply into their own inner lives.

    • Hi Thornton, clearly you have only read this post on Savidge Reads as if you had read more you would see I am a huge book lover who loves nothing more than getting lost in a good book and comes from a family of book lovers and reading as a child was always something we did lots and got read to lots.

      I didn’t like this book is all and I was quite sad about it as I really wanted to, but hey we can’t like them all. Some people will love this and I hope they spread the word. I dont think most readers at Savidge Reads will not read a book because I say so, they have more intellect than that and may just get it from the library rather than buy it.

  10. Pingback: A bit of Brideshead with lots of sex and astral projection … « Gaskella

  11. I enjoyed this book, even though I have to admit it took me a bit to get used to the whole atmosphere. The writing is beautiful, the story intriguing, but the reader has to look beneath the surface and start putting things together on his own. After I finished it I had some questions and was lucky enough to have the author answer them in a short interview I posted on my bookblog. That helped me understand the book better.
    The second book is called Fate and the first few pages are available for reading on the author’s website.
    Maybe that will help the readers make up their minds if they want to give this series a try. I know I will.

  12. Pingback: 3 from March 2011 - Handler - Reed - Fredericks - Annabookbel

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