Novel set in London (Is it better to give or to receive?)
- Book: A Parcel for Anna Browne
- Location: London
- Author: Miranda Dickinson
I’m not snobbish about what I read; I can enjoy a decent bit of chicklit as much as the next woman, so I embarked on this novel with a feeling of happy anticipation. The plot sounded good – a young girl living an unexciting life in London receives an unexpected parcel through the post. She has no idea who has sent it or why, but the content of the parcel seem to indicate that the sender thinks more of Anna than she does of herself. As the intriguing parcels continue to arrive, Anna finds that she begins to change and grow in confidence. Sounds promising?
Now, there are certain things that I have come to expect of really good chicklit: an engaging protagonist, flawed but likeable; a good plot that fairly licks along; a romance that is fraught with difficulties but ultimately comes to a happy conclusion; a cast of interesting and varied characters, including at least one that is thoroughly despicable and hopefully some humour. The very best chicklit makes you laugh. Dickinson’s latest novel, unfortunately, had none of these.
The plot is flawed. The reader is dragged along with the hope of finally identifying the sender of the parcels, but, when you finally do it stretches credibility to its limits. I use the words “dragged” and “finally” because reading this felt interminable. I think the real issue is that there just wasn’t enough plot for 150 pages, never mind 500 odd so, inevitably, there is a lot of padding out, and padding out is dull stuff. I mean, Anna gets the first parcel on page 2 and she doesn’t actually open the damned thing until page 21! Oh, and while we’re being picky, who on earth packs something that size in a parcel bigger than a shoe box? Where, I ask myself, was the editor?
To be fair, I suppose Dickinson did try to inject some humour into the mix with the character of Ted, the security guard, who insists on seeing sinister intention in everyone, including the “covert spying ring” in the post room, who are actually a group of slimmers, but it’s over used. His initial suspicion about the first parcel is funny, fair enough, but, after a while his paranoia simply becomes an irritation. Generally speaking, Dickinson’s characters seem one dimensional but perhaps that’s fairly typical of chicklit. The real problem is that none of her characters were particularly interesting in the first place and unfortunately that’s particularly true of Anna Browne herself, who was already irritating me by the time she opened the first parcel. By the time she opened the last one, I was fervently wishing that it contained a bomb.
In terms of TripFiction setting, it could be virtually anywhere.
This novel is one just for those who feel cheated if they don’t get so many pages per pound.
This review first appeared on our blog