Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No Regrets

I pinched a copy of Mrs Osbourne Regrets from a friend. He got the book directly from the author in return for allowing one of his photographs to be used as the front cover, and I pounced on it when I saw it lying on the dashboard of his car.

It's self-published by Lulu and, to be frank, isn't too prepossessing to look at, with blurred text on the front cover, and the photo my friend took has been altered to make the women in it look like she put her lipstick on in the dark.

Still, I'll read most things and, even though romance novels are probably my least favourite genre, nothing ventured...

It's a slightly peculiar book, in that while the dialogue was at times leaden and one of the two romantic leads was a misjudged cliché who often slipped into horny-handed yokel territory, the 100 pages of the novella slipped by quickly and enjoyably. In many ways, it reminded me of the description of another writer someone mentioned to me recently - Karen Mason is clearly a writer, but she needs to learn to write better. She's a storyteller who can tell a good story and tell it interestingly, but the actual mechanics involved - the specifics of writing a realistic novel, the craft maybe - still need some work.

Down to specifics then.

I've no idea if the background to 1950s high society was realistic or not, but it felt reasonably true to my own vague understanding of the era and Angela Crawford, the middle class good time girl who married rich, rang particularly true, and could have been used more by the author had the work been longer. This is a general fault of a sort, actually - the book is too short, with the result that events are skimmed over when more detail and a more in depth view would have been helpful (the ostracism of Mrs Osbourne by her erstwhile friends, for instance, is over in two pages, and thus feels rushed and unconvincing).

Mrs Osbourne and her family also happily approached the three dimensional, even if the shortness of the work again meant that they often filled convenient and specific personality trait shaped holes (dutiful wife; steady, but selfish daughter; rebellious but loyal daughter; selfish gay pervert of a husband).

That last actually is the least satisfactory element of Mrs Osbourne Regrets. Charles Osbourne, MP, is portrayed as a wholly one dimensional, pleasure-addicted roue, whose only thought once he is caught cottaging is to have sex with as many young men as possible, prior to moving lock, stock and barrel to Morocco. He ignores his family, shacks up with a dissolute actor and his coterie of rent boys, and almost over-night becomes fat, dirty and repellent as a result.

Obviously the charitable way to look at this - and the unpleasant way in which every character seems to be under the impression that homosexuality is primarily concerned with buggering young boys - is to allow that these are the views of the characters and not the author.

There is a very funny scene for instance in which Mrs Osbourne's prospective son-on-law tells her that he had to have the family doctor explain to his homophobic mother that any children of the union would not be automatically homosexual themselves (bringing to mind Homer Simpson's concern that Bart would 'catch gay' from John Waters). That he immediately undercuts this by continuing that homosexuality is a 'perversion' and a 'lifestyle choice' is unfortunate, but it doesn't detract from the sharpness of the wit nor the cleverness of the pastiche of homophobia in the preceding lines.

It does seem odd that not a single character appears to view gay men as anything other than perverts, not even George the builder (who expresses some pity for Charles, if not for his 'ways'), but I'd hazard that this is an over-sight on behalf of a relatively inexperienced writer than anything more deliberate.

Overall, the most positive thing I can say about this novella is that I read it quickly and found myself opening it for a quick glance as I walked from the car to the office or waited for the kettle to boil. There's some awkward turns of phrase and the story needs more room to breathe properly, but any novel which has me reading it at every available opportunity is to be recommended. to buy a copy.


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Blogger Author Karen Mason said...

Hi Stuart

I'm the mysterious Karen Mason. Thanks for the review of Mrs Osbourne Regrets. To be honest with you, I only wrote it as a little taster to advertise my other books. It was written in two weeks and I found it unbearably frustrating limiting myself to 25,000 words.

I can assure you the views of the characters in the book are not my own. If you ever read my other book Mad About the Boy it contains what I've been told is one of the best gay characters ever. I'm definitely not homophobic, the book's more of a reflection of the views of that time and the double standards of society.

I appreciate your honesty and that you took the time to read it. All publicity and all that.....


8:03 pm  

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