This sounded like a really great book. One that was going to leave me breathless, astonished, and in a frenzy to recommend it to everyone I know. It promised to be profound, emotional, moving and to show death row from an entirely new perspective.
But, alas, it was rather disappointing. Firstly, I felt as though the unique selling point of the book was that it was going to portray death row as a completely magical place -that the whole concept of death row would be turned on its head, and that I would see it all differently – as though it were, well, enchanted. Instead, the magic realism was token at best – there wasn’t all that much of it, and instead of challenging the reader to see the place differently, it just read like the insane ravings of one of the inmates.
Second, I couldn’t discern any difference between the voice of the main narrator (one of the death row inmates), and the omniscient narrator who followed the progress of The Lady (a criminal investigator). This was strange because it made it sound as though a man on death row somehow had the power to know what was happening not only beyond the walls of his cell, but also beyond the walls of the prison and into the next county. I’m not sure whether the author intended it to seem as though he had some sort of powers, or whether she just didn’t manage to give the inmate a clear and distinct voice. Either way, it just made things confusing.
I also found that I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I wasn’t yearning to find out the back story of the narrator. I equally couldn’t get involved with the story of The Lady, or The Priest. The character that you probably find out most about (York) didn’t deserve any sympathy, and didn’t even want to be set free, so it was difficult to root for him. I think it was an odd choice to leave almost all of the characters nameless – it really detaches the reader and you feel you are reading the whole story from behind a big glass screen, as opposed to being in amongst it all. I suppose this is why I didn’t find it particularly profound or moving.
True enough, some of the writing is quite lyrical and poetic, but that was about all I liked about it. I’m about halfway through, and it has been sitting on my bedside table for about 3 months now, but I have no motivation to finish it. Perhaps if I hadn’t expected so much of it, I might have enjoyed it a little more. But I’m afraid I still don’t think it is the great novel that many others seem to think it is.
Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld
Source: Free Review copy from Waterstones
Rating: 2 stars
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