Review: The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

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Stephen and Tiff have a car accident because of a bird. And in the accident pregnant Tiff looses her baby. After the accident Tiff is no longer pregnant. What starts off as an emotional plot is actually anything but. All the pages that follow are an unemotional, cynical rambling about sex, bird watching and eco-terrorism. Stephen and Tiff move from American to Europe, or rather Stephen wants to move and Tiff follows:

“I wasn’t a feminist. […] I couldn’t come up with a step I’d taken in life for my own sake.”

They spend time in Berne and Berlin, try to save rivers and fail to get into Berghain. They have a lot of sex, rarely with each other and usually it is quite uninteresting, despite Nell’s obvious effort to make it somewhat raunchy.

Even though the characters stay two dimensional throughout the whole novel they still managed to annoy me. I just didn’t get why I should care about anything these two utterly annoying narcissists were up to.

I got the impression that the novel was written by someone who does not like women very much. Maybe this was an act that should get readers to reflect upon what is considered expected behaviour of women in general and in novels in particular but to me it failed to deliver that.

Also, due to the weak plot (if one can even call it that) I couldn’t make out the themes or purpose of this novel. It may have sounded bizarre and intriguing but I couldn’t connect to the story or the characters. To me Zink failed to deliver anything of substance. I would not recommend this to anyone.

The novel did however also manage to surprise me. In it’s stubborn refusal to give me what I wanted from it, it made me question what I expect from a novel. Why do I choose a particular novel in the first place? Why do I expect an author to deliver certain characters that will make me feel emotions that I imagined having when I picked out the book? Why does it anger me, when I am faced with characters that don’t fit in neat boxes of action and reaction? As much as I hate to say it, the disliking of this novel, has made me question my reading habits, my expectations and emotional involvement in novels and the responsibility of any author towards their readers.

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