Book Review - L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker
Alternative history novels, while not my normal reading fare, appeal to me as it's an interesting mental exercise to imagine how a single changed historical event could alter the world in which we live. With that draw, I selected L: A Novel History by Jillian Becker to read from NetGalley. In short, this was a painful read...
It probably says a lot that while the publication date is listed as September 2012, I can find absolutely no reference to the novel on Amazon. She has a number of books that are well-researched profiles on different people and groups in the world of politics and power. L is a variation of that theme, in that it uses the scholarly research format to tell an alternative history of what might have happened had England's Margaret Thatcher not been able to retain power in the '80s. A shadowy figure referred to as L pulls strings and orchestrates a anarchistic descent of England into a third world communist-type regime that decimates the population. In and of itself, that might not be a bad story. The problem lies squarely in the execution and style she uses.
L is written by a fictitious researcher looking back at the events and piecing together what is meant to be the authoritative work on L and how he led England and himself into ruins with his own bizarre philosophy. Certain parts of the book work well as a novel, such as when the effects of the regime start to impact the day-to-day lives of the population. Where it fails miserably (in my opinion) is in the lead-up to that part of the narrative. Becker goes into deep examinations of L's "writings" as well as the political analysis of the era, and it feels like a painful poli-sci lecture by pseudo-intellectuals. I found virtually nothing to spark any glimmer of enthusiasm, and I came thisclose to ditching the book at that point... and I don't normally consider stopping a book once I start it. I had to scan large portions in hopes of finding something of human interest. I eventually found it, but by then I was pretty well checked out on caring about what happened.
*If* L: A Novel History ever makes it out into the general population (I'm sure that's an interesting backstory), I think I can safely recommend running quickly in the opposite direction. My guess is that the early feedback they got from the reviewers caused them to cut their losses or send it back for some major weight reduction in terms of pages and content. The only people I could imagine that would like it in the current state would be those who like to have "deep intellectual analytical" discussions that sound intelligent but are mainly platforms for trying to impress others. Needless to say, that isn't me.
Obtained From: Publisher