Kathryn Glendinning,
After Gus
(Stamford House, 2008)

Jenny is the eldest daughter of six children in Scottish family of landowners and farmers. Since childhood Jenny has been the black sheep of the family. Her mother has openly belittled her in front of friends and family and even accused her of faking asthma. When the patriarch of the family, Gus, dies, the family becomes embroiled in matters of the will and estate.

This is probably one of the most frustrating and exasperating books I have ever read, yet I became so entangled in this scandalous web of deceit I couldn't put it down. While this book entertained me, it was the entertainment one gets from car wrecks and the tabloids at the grocery checkout counter. The story is fascinating and appalling at the same time, yet impossible not at least to glance at. It read like a one-woman grudge festival; Jenny is holding on to every thread of bad behavior her family has ever displayed with a firm grip.

What kept me from loving the book is the fact that I couldn't sympathize with Jenny like I feel the author was hoping readers would. Jenny calls the cops on family members for silly reasons and was constantly looking for someone to fight her battles. I found her to be whiny and childish, unable to stand up for herself or her family, unable to move on in her life and let go of past wrongs and therefore she lacked any strength of character that I find attractive in a human being.

The first half of the book is entertaining, the middle exciting, but the last half wanes as it is a series of monotonous moments, one after another. Mother and daughter, brother and sister, husband and wife are all having the same conversations, exchanging letter after letter about the same subject, never really getting anywhere. The tragedy of this story is the fact that the entire Mackenzie clan lacks any real communication skills. They run in circles, each one acting more despicable than the one before, leaving this reader equal parts irritated and amused.

review by
Cherise Everhard

1 March 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new