Saturday, 29 October 2016
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet Review
I honestly feel like the requirements for getting on the Booker Prize shortlist are for the novels to: bore you to tears, make you question the very act of reading for pleasure, and make you want to strangle the author out of sheer misery - because that’s what reading His Bloody Project did to me!
Set in the 19th century, a Scottish wanker kills some poor Scottish bastards and goes on trial. That’s the story.
The author’s ponderous, tedious introduction to the book should’ve been a warning sign for me to not bother going any further because he unfortunately carries on in this style the entire time. Graeme Macrae Burnet unconvincingly attempts to make it seem like this is all nonfiction and he stumbled across these documents while being a boring sod and here are his findings, blah, blah, blah. It goes on and on and on, blathering about something that should take a sentence or two at the most to say.
The novel is made up of a memoir by the murderer Roderick Macrae, as well as witness testimonies, trial reports, medical records, and a psychologist’s assessment. The memoir is mostly about recreating dour life in the Scottish Highlands’ crofting communities rather than tell a sensational crime story which is what I’d hoped for when picking this one up. It is maddeningly dull. Yes, it’s detailed, and boy do I wish it wasn’t! This is not good fun to read to say the least.
And the other things like the trial reports, etc. - yes, they’re realistically written but have you ever tried reading official reports of any kind? Mind-numbing almost describes the experience, so why would anyone try to recreate that for anyone not being paid to read them?! That’s why I read novels in my spare time instead of sitting down with a pile of dry, near-unreadable court documents!
The author trudges - and I mean really, this thing makes glaciers look like they’re speeding! - through his non-story which is actually about informing everyone how much research he put into this time period, before throwing in yet another hoary literary device: the unreliable narrator! Sigh. So clichéd, so lame – you see this nonsense used in so many Booker-nominated novels. And then finally the torture is over.
For a Booker shortlisted novel, it has very few literary merits. It provides no relevant commentary on this lost culture, creates no great characters, tells no good story, fails to dazzle with any original literary tricks or show any clever usage of old literary ploys, it’s written in this exceedingly dull and unremarkable prose, and provides zero insight into the psychological makeup of someone who murders. It’s just miserable people doing miserable things to each other in a miserable place which this miserable writer has rendered into a miserable novel - dreary, dreary, dreary!
His Bloody Project is bloody awful so it’ll probably win the Booker – usually only the shittiest reads take home the prize!