This is a story about being dead. A man and wife return to the beach where there love was born only to have their lives end. They are murdered for their belongings. Left to lie in the sand until their daughter realizes they are missing. This is not a pleasant story, a story about murder usually isn’t.
This story is made particularly unpleasant by the description of decaying bodies and the absence of a truly likable character. The man and his wife could not be any more different. He is satisfied with their marriage, she is unhappy and irritated by his touch, his every show of affection. Their daughter is worse, she is seemingly void of love for her parents or for anyone else. In a constant state of rebellion, which is only increased with the realization that her parents are dead.
This is also a story about sex. Sex is the beginning and the end. It is the reason they come together and the reason they die. It is also a focus of the daughters rebelliousness. If I haven’t already, I am now entering the realm of pure subjectivity. I can handle sex in a story, but I find it irritating and tiresome when it is the central focus.
I kept on reading to the end, in fact hurrying to get there, hoping it would bring some sort of redemption, give me something to appreciate. It did not. In the end, the story can be seen in a positive light or negatively. The reader can see a pointlessness in life or the beauty, the symmetry, of an unending cycle. I was left with feeling the former.
This novel was fairly well received, and I have noticed some excitement about it among bloggers, but it just didn’t do it for me.
I try to balance my score between my personal feelings on a story and the merit I see in the writing. For that reason I’m giving Being Dead by Jim Crace a half point higher than my gut tells me.
Update: In an effort to be more honest with myself I have changed the rating.