My first William Boyle novel I was able to finish. I gave Gravesend a shot and it wasn’t working for me.
I do want to get through Boyle’s other novels, mostly because they take place in the urban recesses of New York City. His in particular all center around non-glamour Brooklyn. I like all kinds of New York City novels, including those. It’s why I want to keep trying with Boyle, despite not being as grabbed by his books as I want to be.
Boyle has often been compared to George Pelecanos and I understand why. I encountered the latter in the middle of his catalogue, when he was writing character-based crime stories with a narrative that was designed to explore their lives and environs at length. I continue to kid myself that I like these kinds of books more than I do. They’re interesting. They’re readable. But as with a lot of Pelecanos efforts, I found this one a bit lacking.
I did like the protagonist and I give Boyle a lot of credit for writing a female lesbian character in a way that was sensitive without condescending. Rarely do I see men do that. But the decisions she made, the directions the story takes, the reveals of the characters…this is a writer who clearly has a story to tell but I’m not sure he told it in the most effective way. I understand the impulsivity of Amy the protagonist but it made it difficult to get settled in the character or the story. Frequently, we’d be at one part in the narrative and I’d be excited to see what’s next only for it to jerk another direction. Oh, we’re doing this now? is something that kept cropping up in my head.
Boyle’s books seem to all center around people desperate to leave the pits of Brooklyn but being unsure as to how it should be done. Again, this sounds more compelling than its execution. I’m familiar with Boyle’s style now and I’ll probably read him more because of the subject matter but I wish I found this more likable.