For this week’s book club, I was supposed to read Normal People, which is supposed to be an acclaimed book. Frankly, I couldn’t read it. The style is horrendous and unreadable (and I managed to read the Hunger Games books which were ranked at the lowest in my opinion). A few reasons are the fact that it’s a first person-present tense book, which I always fail to dive in. By definition, these books don’t allow me to immerse myself in their environment. Then the other reason is that when the book start, in the first few pages, you don’t get any information, any goal to go on reading.
So instead, I turned myself to an older book I read when I came in the UK (I think), Beat the Reaper.
One of the things to note about the book is that it’s first person-present tense. So it was a difficult book for me to start, but it’s only partly done this way. From the start, you are presented with the narrator as a bad-ass doctor and you feel there is something to the guy, so you get going very smoothly. You know why you read this book.
The other good aspect is that you follow two timelines during the book, flipping more or less after each chapter, from the present, where the author is a young doctor, and from the past, where he is a mobster. If the story advances slowly in the present, where it’s more about anticipation and thriller (will he get discovered or not), the past is definitely an action-packed biography (we know he got discovered, we just don’t know the extent of the consequences of that discovery). The tension that is built in the present gets you also in the past when you see his life unraveling, and you then root for the narrator in the present, hoping that he will get some kind of redemption. It’s a very good composition of the two modes.
If I had trouble with the first chapter, diving in a story with a style I didn’t like, I couldn’t stop reading the book once the two timelines started being intertwined and echoing themselves. It’s a great story, well written.