This was a book I ordered from the library after reading another Cannonballer’s review – tip of the hat to PopCultureBoy! I think that review made me want to like this book more than I actually did: there were certain things that I enjoyed but on the whole it just never really clicked into place for me.
Told in the first person by Yvonne Carmichael, this novel is heavy with allusions of what is about to happen. It’s no secret – Yvonne is being cross-examined in court as the story opens, on trial with her lover. The story of how she ended up there and the significance of “Apple Tree Yard” is verrrrry slowly revealed as Yvonne recounts the story of her relationship with this man. There are many heavy-with-meaning allusions to what is still to come, a device I have never liked, no matter how pretty the language:
…I had no idea how that morning at the university and you would become linked in court, how a line would be drawn, as thin and tenuous as the strand that links a spider’s web to a gatepost. … There was no relevance but it would all be made to be relevant, as would almost everything else I have ever done, all woven together in a narrative, to glue us, the flies to the web.
I think by the time the story finally got around to the events that would see Yvonne in court, I almost completely missed it. As a narrator, Yvonne gives such painfully ponderous weight to every glance and utterance from her lover, that I was basically skimming. I actually caught myself in a “What the?!!” moment and had to go back a page and reread. I guess I find it hard to differentiate the skill of the author in surprising me with how much I disliked Yvonne and one particular metaphor at the heart of the novel. Not wanting to be a spoiler dick about it, but it was seriously disturbing.
It was Yvonne’s passivity that made me loathe her as a character: she loves her husband and her children, is highly regarded in her career and yet she has a void that she believes is filled by this man who only needs her to be an empty vessel. Maybe it’s an abdication of responsibility from the other areas of her life, maybe she needs to feel controlled for a change as a way to find release, but frankly, I just couldn’t stand her. This disconnect is probably what held me back from enjoying this novel more.