The Promised World
Simon & Schuster Washington Square Press (US & CA: 3rd August 2010; AU: 1st September 2011)
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CONTENT WARNING: Child abuse, gaslighting, maybe-incest, body-shaming, fat-phobia, controlling someone else’s food-intake.
“Suicide-by-police” – what does it mean? Police shoot Billy dead. How is that suicide? Anyway, apparently Billy wants them to kill him, and he gets his wish. I think “suicide-by-police” needs way more exploring, because there’s barely anything here.
The Promised World is contemporary Gothic, with themes of effed-up families, gaslighting, manipulation, maybe-incest, and a big helping of pretentiousness. Billy is basically “guy in your MFA” who thinks he’s top stuff, and there’s hell to pay if you don’t agree with his opinions – not just regarding literature, but about anything and everything. Ugh, he’s the worst, so reading Lila’s praise for (and everyone’s compliments about) him is so freaking annoying.
So Lila and Billy have an unhealthy bond, and it all goes back to their childhood – which Lila doesn’t remember much of; instead, relying on what Billy tells her happened.
As for Billy’s children, Pearl is very much a VCA-esque character when she lives with Barbara. Maisie’s too young to be given a subplot. And middle child William has his life endangered several times by his father, in a series of events called the Challenges, of which we don’t get enough detail.
This book should’ve been right up my alley, but the characterisation doesn’t work. I feel sorry for the characters (especially Ashley, Billy’s wife), but I don’t particularly like any of them. And when characters talk about literature and stories… Too meta-wank for me.