Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Speed Queen by Stewart O'Nan

Wow. Talk about an anti-hero.

This book features a woman on death row narrating her side of the story into a tape recorder for an author (the book is dedicated to Stephen King) who has paid for the story as fodder for his next novel.

A mainstream novel, O'Nan's book features more lesbianism than my last book for the lesbian book club (see prior book review). Nevermind that it plays on a stereotype (a truth?) of prison life for women.

This book was interesting, dare I say entertaining, even - horrors! - fast-paced, which usually turns me off as indicative of inferior writing, but that is not true in this case, at least not in my opinion.

The character, a woman who, along with her two accomplices - her husband and the woman with whom she was having an affair, the same woman with whom her husband was to later have an affair - murdered several people, was so real, so there, so...charasmatic? that you found yourself relating to her, or understanding her, or at least following her along without total disgust, which I think is an accomplishment of and credit to the author. Bravo. According to the book jacket, O'Nan was named one of Granta's Best Young Novelists. I'm not familiar with Granta, but if it's anything good, he deserved it.

The only issue I had was that the voice of the narrator was not entirely believable as someone speaking into a tape recorder, not with such detail. If the account were written, it would have lent more credibility to her recall.

I read this book in one sitting, due partly to the fact that I was trapped in a single space waiting in vain for my students to show up for their violin lessons, but I think I could've done it even outside of those circumstances. It was a quick, enjoyable read. The book jacket hails it as a "taut, violent, darkly comic story of lives in uncontrollable overdrive..." in other words, just my style. - 5 stars

p.s. - After some research, i.e. Google, Granta is apparently "the magazine of new writing."

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