Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Thornthwaite Inheritance

Well I've finished "The Thornthwaite Inheritance" by Gereth Pea Jones. Described in the Sunday Times as "Blackly comic, with its compelling cover and all the fun of taking sibling rivalry to a fantastical extreme, this book is surely material for a film"

No it isn't. "Black" or "Dark" have become publishing watchwords; a way of specifying certain tropes: jokes about death, modish emo-subculturalism, victoriana, bad taste and/or general offensiveness without having to apologise or make any disclaimer. Much of the time however it is used to advertise what isn't there. This book is an enjoyable romp through an old dark house in the company of two resolutely untroubled teenagers. Once the murder attempts on each other abate, and these are referred to not seen, Lorellei in particular, starts going swimming and horse-riding and reading romance novels and mooning around after boys. There's nothing much that Charles Adams or Edward Gorey would recognise here! The book seems oddly old fashioned; from it's literal three act structure to it's family of retainers, the orphan servant girl, the musical ciphers. At times it's like a cross between a Victorian melodrama and the world's most sluggish French Farce. The last 60 or so pages contain the most lengthy and sustained exposition I've seen in any media, with the stern faced and tight-lipped staff suddenly yapping on relentlessly. Windows are being thrown open all over Thornthwaite Manor...there's not a dusty, cobwebby corner left.

When the ultimate villain of the piece is revealed he soliliquises like a Bond villain on sodium pentathol: I had to shut the book to shut him up.

This book does ultimately remind me of two films: a club footed, club tongued version of "Clue", with perhaps Graham from Coronation Street in the Tim Curry role. But more annoyingly it reminded me of the horrible ending of "The Breakfast Club" where Molly Ringwald's ginger princess gives Alley Sheedy's goth oddball a make-over and *gasp* she's pretty underneath all that hair - pretty enough for blue vested and tawny haired Emilio Estevez to notice. This is of course an utter betrayal of everything we've seen in the last two hours of the film. She shouldn't have to change her look and if she does she should definitely not be flattered by the attentions of Emilio Estevez . What's Anthony Michael Hall? Chopped liver? At the end of the book Lorrelei turns her back on her murderous heritage, wants to read more romance novels and get into computers and worst of all is still interested in Adam Farthing; the preening liar who has been fingered as the worst sort of bullying cad throughout.

That's pretty dark, man.

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