A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside

It seems so obvious that poets should stick to writing novellas – nothing bigger – doesn’t it? This should be 150 pages long, as it stands being tediously repetitive, full of lovely sounding sentences that have no right to be in the story. If the author was paid by the word, I take this back. I am also not at all convinced that one is allowed to write a story like this that has, by its own definition, no obligation to make sense. I advise that if you don’t have an interest in the supernatural, this book is unlikely to be for you. It’s sort of like a murder mystery with no plot, only dead bodies appearing – or not, as is sometimes the case here – with no need to explain why.

I recommend ignoring the spin from professional reviewers on the cover and moving on. Perhaps, if it comes to that, to one of his poetry books, since I imagine that precisely what fails to work in novel form will be exquisitely beautiful and memorable in short lines on small pages.

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