As a beautiful young woman, Roseanne is surrounded and shaped by men. Not to labour the comparison, but as the country of Ireland, or Eíre, is often represented as a woman, it is not difficult to see parallels.
What really sets this novel above other material on America is the tone of it – which far from being angry or boring – has a fragile and almost fairytale quality.
Hamid redeems a plot that could be a political documentary synopsis, taking it compassionately and beautifully into the realm of literature, affording us a richer, wiser and more permanent view of one of our decade’s quintessential stories.
The marketing kitsch-up describes the book as ‘a radiant, funny and moving family saga… described by reviewers as “the best, sweetest, most delightful novel”’. Yes, there are various families involved, but there was little that was sweet or delightful about marital rape, racism and street massacres.
Death and, for the Western World, the Holocaust in particular, is a negation of words: silent and indescribable. So for Zusak to give a voice, especially such a distinctive and whimsical voice, to the quintessential concept of nothingness, is essentially a nice surprise.
It is telling that the stories keep returning to empty spaces and hollowed-out shells. They appear to hold a fascination for Royle. Here, I think, lies the problem with the collection: Royle’s writing itself is strangely hollow and substance-less and unsatisfying to read.