Friday, 28 November 2008
The Good Thief - Hannah Tinti
From its prosaic title, The Good Thief is one of the most inoffensive books I have ever read. Bland, two dimensional prose in which half the sentences start with “The…,” fill each of the 256 pages and you will barely remember it 2 minutes after finishing. But at least the print is large, the plot quick and thin and you can read it in a few hours. Never have I wished to be an editor with a big red pen than whilst reading this messy debut novel. About half the words are pointless, the sentence structures could be made interesting by the occasional re-ordering of verb, adjective and noun, the plot drawn out and extended around Benjamin’s mythological storytelling. But I am not, thank god, and I just have to read and then forget this sort of thing.
And then we come to the plot, the only worthwhile part of this dull book. Not that its particularly interesting or holds any moments of uncertainty or tension, but it is enjoyable and thoroughly impossible to hate. Ren has grown up in a Catholic orphanage, without parents or a right hand. And no idea what happened to either of them. His handlessness puts off prospective adopters and when he turns 16 he will almost certainly be conscripted into a life of horror in the army. But then a mysterious silver-tongued traveller named Benjamin arrives to adopt him and he is whisked from the safety of his childhood home and friends into a life of theft and smoky alehouses, comradeship and danger. And occasional grave robbing. But soon Ren and his companions find themselves hunted by a powerful businessman, and he discovers that family, like morality, is all about the choices you make, and the stories you construct to explain them.
It is difficult to dislike any of the main characters, they are all predictable and ultimately good. Benjamin tells amazing stories, but are any of the true? His friend and companion Tom is a former school teacher whom tragedy has driven to alcohol, Dolly is a giant of a man as simple and gentle as a hired killer could ever be. Ren is confused and yet remarkably multi-talented, with a good heart and a sense of doing the right thing even in the most immoral situations. They are all likeable and easy to spend time with, but will never be your friends, for in the end, they to are just as two dimensional and bland as the plot and writing is.
Are you looking for the perfect summer read? Do you like new fiction, fast paced, full of gothic intrigue and mystery? What about libertine highwayman, lovable rogues, criminals who muddy the boundaries between morality and sin? If you answered ‘yes’ then The Good Thief might be the solution to your reading prayers this summer. Or it might be a pile of bland nonsense. That just depends on your tastes.
Stupid, middle of the road fiction for those who like their reading material high in supposed moral ambiguity and low in literary quality. So essentially, clearly I am biased, clearly bigoted, and possibly horrendously condescending and very judgemental. If you like this book all power to you, I hope you really love it and ignore me in future. And I hope I don’t have to waste a couple of days reading this ever again.
3 out of 10