The Deaths by Mark Lawson

My great issue with this novel is that it’s supposed to be satire – and certainly, from reading The Guardian’s review and others like it, there is a consensus that it is.  So, it must be, right?  I just didn’t see that.  I read the blurb and, yes, liked the cover.  I was expecting a slightly more masculine Desperate Housewives type affair.  I can see why people think it is satirical: the nouveau riche held under the magnifying glass, their lives seriously affected by credit crunch and recession and falling markets.  But I’m just not willing to judge people like that.  Regardless of class and/or background, to write a novel satirising someone’s bad luck, a family’s struggles, a man’s emasculation etc, etc, I find a rather sickening thing to do.  And therefore, when I read the blurb, “satire” was not what I thought I was reading.  From that (I now understand to be) naïve viewpoint, I enjoyed The Deaths.  There is a definite pacing issue – the entire trip to Marrakesh seems like a filler and is an exceptionally tedious sojourn.  I believed I was reading about a story of emasculated men, struggling families and anxious wives from the contemporary middle classes.  And that the book successfully manages to do.  However, the characters are not memorable.  That’s a shame.  The ending is very good and yet, it was hard for me to remember anyone the past 300-odd pages had been about.  In fact, even during the book, I kept getting myself rather muddled up over who was who.  However, to now see this book as satire, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes me rather cross with Mr Lawson.  If such an apparently scathing satire had been written about four families of the working classes dealing with the changes in the economy and such, would certain readers still feel so smugly righteous and judgemental?  Would authors feel the need to treat their subjects so condescendingly?  As a work of storytelling, it’s good.  As a satire, it’s petty and nauseatingly supercilious.

2 out of 5

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