Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hunting Unicorns

London: Pan McMillan, c2003.

I wanted to read this because the title and the author's name are both so unusual! Unfortunately, though the story was quirky, it didn't live up to its promise. The writing was pedestrian, the characters a bit stereotypical and the story very predictable. However, if you were looking for a very light summer read this would probably fit the bill. On looking further into it, I discovered that this story started out as a screenplay, and that is what it would be perfect for, a light romantic comedy, of the type that sadly I don't much enjoy.

This is the story of Rory and Daniel Jones, scions of an aristocratic house which has fallen on hard times like so many others. Their parents are alcoholics and Daniel has followed the family tradition, while Rory has become a strict teetotaller. Into their story comes American reporter Maggie, who is a distinctly unlikeable character, obnoxious and pushy. Although I think she's supposed to come across as quirky and lively in opposition to the stuffiness of British culture. In any case, this journalist with no family ties comes into contact with Rory, who is overwhelmed with family responsibilities. They fall madly in love and end up together after many misunderstandings - this is fairly obvious from the beginning and they do pair off despite the lack of chemistry in evidence.

The story is a light and amusing read as long as you're not expecting much from it. It is a long string of anecdotes about staying in country houses, eccentric aristocrats, drunken relatives and lovestruck secretaries. Added to this is the 'serious' element of the American hard news journalist reluctantly assigned this puff piece in England. Her boyfriend, much older, is involved with Doctors Without Borders and appears wherever she is staying, for a break from his traumatic day job. Rory meanwhile has given up his preferred career of archeologist to open an agency matching rich Americans and tv shows with aristocratic settings - the only way he can see to bring in enough money to keep some of these people and their mansions going. He has the added incentive of now being responsible for his parents and their crumbling estate as well.

I kept reading because there were funny bits, and I was hoping for something to happen, for something to surprise me. There was so much potential but unfortunately it just didn't coalesce into a great book. What I did like, which is an element that others have not enjoyed as much, was the shift in narrators. The chapters are told from the point of view of either Maggie or Daniel, and this is intriguing because Daniel has a run-in with a bus in the first chapter and from then on narrates from the afterlife. Rory's struggles to deal with his beloved older brother's death are detailed from Daniel's point of view, which makes it rather interesting. Also, Daniel makes the perfect omniscient narrator, from his all seeing vantage point.

If you enjoy watching romantic comedies where the heroine is klutzy and/or socially inept but wins everyone over with her personality, or like stories where brashness carries the day, then you will probably enjoy reading this one. It wasn't a horrible read, but just not the one for me.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you - this was a disappointing book. I thought the use of urban myths was especially annoying - it just seemed so contrived. It is a shame, as the title is so good!


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