15 June 2010

A First Look: The Writing Circle

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BNBC went all digital for this month's First Look Book Club - all advance copies of Corinne Demas's new novel The Writing Circle were "handed" out via our digital accounts.  I got to read it on my nook; talk about convenient since I didn't have to track a physical copy down at the UPS depot (pain in my tail, let me tell you).

The Writing Circle has an interesting set-up: a woman (Nancy) working on a very personal novel is invited to join a writing group made up of (mostly) established writers in several genres (The Leopardis) as a replacement for the group's original coordinator, Helene (who, unfortunately, died before the novel started).  From there, the narrative of the story is shared between the members of the group, with a few non-group narrators, using a limited third-person point-of-view and this allows us to see the interpersonal relationships/problems of the group without too much exposition.  I have an affinity for novels written using multiple narrators because a) you get more perspectives and b) you have to decide which person has the most "reliable" voice. 

I can't discuss much more of the plot because it would give too much away; I will say I was surprised to see the novel head in the direction it did.  The structure of the novel with the shared narration among seven or eight characters did not lend itself to the climax of the novel which was essentially between two chracters.  I think at least one character from the group gets left behind in the narration; because the plot moves in an entirely different direction, his personal story (started near the beginning of the book and remaining oustide the writing group) becomes superfluous and peters out without any sense of resolution.

Demas has a very descriptive style and she does a great job setting up each member of the circle; the group members are all distinctly different from one another, so it seems a little too diverse a group at times, but at least I didn't get them confused.  The beginning of the novel is a bit ho-hum but Demas's strongest writing comes near the end of the novel and those two or three chapters are so strong, in my opinion, that they could really stand alone as a short story or novella.  We had a great FLBC discussion about several issues raised in the book (the idea of "trust" in a writing circle was important), the best discussion related to a plot point I can't talk about here because that would really give the plot away (sorry, but it's a new book and I'm not going to spoil the story just for the sake of review).

The Writing Circle will arrive in bookstores on July 6 so check it out.

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