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Book Review: On Our Own by Anne Atkins


Drew Payne

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The plot of this novel is riddled with cliches. A novelist, Caz, who is staying in a country cottage to write her next book. She meets a young fan, nine-year-old Theo. Through Theo she meets his mother Ann and finds out that Theo's father Alan was murdered three years ago in strange circumstances and the killer was never caught. Then Theo confesses to Caz that he killed his father. Caz and her boyfriend Will set about finding out who really killed Alan. They do and everyone lives happily ever after, except the murderer of course.

After finishing this novel all I felt was that I was waist deep in clichés. Atkins doesn't seem to have any understanding of the nature of human emotions. Her characters only acted within the narrow limits of her very thin plot. I found no insights, no character development or emotional depth in this novel. All I found was a very predictable plot and propaganda for family values. The novel ends with both female characters walking off into marriage and the murderer turns out to be an archetypical threat to family values: he is "mentally retarded" (Sic), a petty thief, envious of a family man, probably a paedophile and is dying from Aids.

At best Atkins' characterisation is one-dimensional. A writer who thinks of herself as a free spirit yet happily walks off into marriage. A child genius who talks and acts a like a small adult, not a real child. Without any explanation, halfway through the novel one character is revealed as a wife-beater. The characters just move within Atkins’ plot without any real human emotions.

The minor characters were so badly written as to be patronising. A feminist who is dismissed by a man's "winning smile". A caretaker who meekly actually tipped his hat to a "lady". An Anglican priest who’s unmarried, opposed to women’s ordination and can’t even boil water.

If there hadn't been a mention of Caz's laptop, I would have believed this novel was set in some idyllic, middle-class 1950s fantasy. A   village straight off a chocolate box, the village shop is still open, friendly yokels everywhere and no problems with commuters moving in.

Who allowed such a badly over-written novel into print? It is littered with flowery and overblown passages that serve no purpose. The dialogue is stilted and flat, the description clichéd and the characters only there to serve the plot, a very unoriginal one at that.

I haven't read such a bad novel in a very long time, but I don't intend doing so again so whatever Atkins' next novel is I won't be reading it.

My advice, avoid this novel at all cost. There are so many better writers out there to spend time with.

POSTSCRIPT: I originally wrote this review back in 1997 and it was the first review of mine that was ever published

Edited by Drew Payne
editing

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