Archive for September 14th, 2009

14th September
written by Steph
It's oh so quiet... shhh, shhh!

It's oh so quiet... shhh, shhh!

Disquiet is a slip of a novel – the cover simply calls it “A Story” – so I will try my best to write a review befitting its size, rather than outstripping it. It made many “Best Book” lists in 2008, so when I saw it sitting on the New Fiction shelf at the library this past weekend, I figured it was worth a shot. If nothing else, it wouldn’t require much of my time! The writing is sparse and haunting, befitting the somber story that unfolds. An abused woman returns home to her ailing mother’s chateau in France, her two young children in tow. Her visit coincides with that of her brother and his spouse, who have tragically just given birth to a stillborn daughter.  The bulk of Disquiet (if such a thin tome can be said to have bulk) is spent circling around this family, plunged in different kinds of grief and agony, trying to keep their heads above the waves of despair and keep from drowning. Much of it is spent with bated breath, as Leigh’s writing imbues us with a sense of unease and uncertainty, as though if for all the misery, this is just the calm before the storm. In a relatively spare number of pages, Leigh quickly ratchets up the tension so that the eventual release provided by a thunderstorm of emotions and events is a much-needed relief. For a quiet novella, I felt there were great depths to plumb in terms of the sorrow it conveys. I was impressed by how much Leigh accomplishes so quickly, both in terms of establishing atmosphere and tone, as well as the story she tells; it is a great example of showing rather than telling. But I couldn’t help but feel that with even just 20 or 30 more pages, I might have found this book more satisfying. In some ways I felt the story she set out to tell was incomplete – one storyline is finally resolved, a breath held from deep within can finally be exhaled, but I felt I still had questions that needed resolution on another front. Perhaps my sense of mild dissatisfaction stems from my general preference for novels over short stories, but nevertheless I felt Disquiet straddled the void between inchoate tale and complete narrative.  It is the kind of read where you finish and wonder, "Well, what can one really say about this?"  I suppose, the answer is that I can say what I already have, as well as this:  Next time, I hope Leigh gives me a bit more to hold onto. Rating: 3.5 out of 5