Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan (Canongate Books: 2012). The second in Glen Duncan’s werewolf trilogy, following Talulla Demetriou as she tells us of her new, dark life. She gives birth to the baby she was left with at the end of The Last Werewolf, and from then on, everything seems to go wrong. Or more wrong, anyway.
I missed last week. Sorry about that. I was living it up in Toulouse, courtesy of Mrs GBR.
Just an apology this time though. No poem I’m afraid.
And something else to apologise for too. This is the last time I’ll do this to you this year. I promise. I’ve shown a shameful lack of self control when it comes to reading stuff I like in the last few months. I’m supposed to diversify for you. But I’ve indulged myself lately. I know this, and I admit it freely. But for one more
GBR in 2012 at least, I’m going to tell you about Glen Duncan.
This time, it’s the second of his werewolf trilogy, Tallula Rising. I reviewed the first of the trilogy here. So I won’t go on about that.
I also told you here how Duncan is forcing himself to be more plot driven in his writing. “Injecting more story” as he put it, to try and win a wider audience. The result is a distinctly different Duncan to the one I fell in awe with initially.
I’m conflicted about this. It has all the hallmarks of a Duncan book that make me go gooey eyed. There’s flashes of stunning, literary pontification. The observations he makes, and the insight he gives to human (and monster) character still blew me away every now and then. His wit was still sharp, and his ability to create deep characters and draw complex but relatable links between them all was also still in attendance.
But then there’s all this plot. This bit he’s doing to try and take his talent to a wider public.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s good plot. It’s brilliant plot really. There were some genuinely surprising twists. There was high action. It was paced well, with tempo being switched up and then dialled down, plot rushing by in places and pausing for contemplation in others. And his action scenes even left room for nods towards astute emotional observances in amongst the silver bullets and the ripped out thoraxes.
But there were places which jarred as well (which breaks my heart to say). As the second book of a trilogy, it’s painfully difficult to juggle all the strands of plot and keep the reader up to speed without repeating too much of what’s gone before. Yes, remind me of who Jake Marlowe (the protagonist from the first book was), but I squirmed when Duncan resorted to regularly quoting passages from Jake’s “diary” (in reality, the first book). There was a clumsily inserted two paragraph explanation of the entire first book’s plot at one stage as well. All of which re-treading over old ground spoils the first person narrative a little.
The plot-driven Duncan and the literary Duncan seem in competition with each other. Golden passages of reflection in between rushing passages of story.
No, that’s too much. It doesn’t get switched on and off and on and off. The premise of this series, its structure, its characters, the way it’s all explored - they ensure there’s a constant hum of Duncan brilliance throughout the story. You’re never far away from his intelligence, or the complex thoughts and emotions which he relates so well. But there’s so much stuff happening that I also found myself willing the plot to resolve itself quickly so I could just be left to luxuriate in his prose. I wanted to forget the action and just read more about what being a werewolf is like. About the process of mourning Tallula is going through. More about feelings and thoughts and the human (werewolf) condition - less about how exactly they would all get out of the latest impossible situation the plot had put them in.
I know. I’m asking for the moon on a stick. I want Hope. I want I, Lucifer. I want Death of an Ordinary Man. And to be fair to Duncan, he has given me all of these already. Now he’s giving me something new. Which I respect him for. I don’t doubt this will win Duncan more fans. He deserves every single one of them. He’s performing a fine balancing act incredibly well. Literary fiction on one side, genre fiction on the other. But I don’t want balanced. I want 100% literary Duncan.
Which is as low as I’ll ever go for Duncan. The gems of old-Duncan are still there to be found on every page. And I’d still rather read a plot driven Duncan than just about anything else.
Next week, I get on the JK Rowling band wagon.