Monday, 28 November 2016

All That Man Is by David Szalay

review by Maryom

Nine men, nine separate stories, exploring 'manhood' in its various guises - from teenagers exploring the world on their own for the first time, to a middle aged millionaire losing all his fortune, and an elderly man trying to come to terms with the fact that his life may be reaching its closing years.

When this book was offered on Netgalley for review I jumped at the chance - after all, it was Booker short-listed, so I was expecting something fairly good. Unfortunately, for me at least, it didn't deliver on its promises. 
Basically, it just didn't grab me.
Firstly I found I didn't much like the format. It isn't a novel so much as a collection of short stories. There are loose links between them with a person or object appearing in more than one story - but to be honest that connection didn't really add anything. Also, they don't feel as rounded or finished off as I like a story to be; more like chapters, than fully stand-alone pieces.
Then there are the men these stories are centred on - and 'centred' is definitely the right word! Whatever their age or circumstances, the trait they have in common is believing the world revolves around them; friends, lovers, wives are just there to cater to their various wants and needs, and no real thought given to how they may feel. Now, I think it's perfectly possible to read a novel with an unsympathetic main character and still like the book - after all, faults make characters more interesting and a perfect person wouldn't have much of an interesting tale to tell - but reading story after story about guys for whom I couldn't feel a shred of empathy just became tiring. 

And, surely, not all men are like this, are they? Maybe that's the question the author is asking. Maybe I'm over-thinking it.

Maryom's review -  3.5 stars
Publisher - Jonathan Cape
Genre - adult fiction, short stories, Booker shortlist, 

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