Thursday, 9 August 2012

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Review: Under Control by Mark McNay

"Under Control" took a while to get in to. At first it seems like a disjointed series of mini-stories about people who all have very plain, forgettable names and are living plain, forgettable lives. I considered giving up. Then...

Although they are never given much description at all (Charlie: nice bum and pretty, Nigel: big nose and receding chin, Gary: Big.) you begin to care about the main characters. Nigel seems mild-mannered and caring, always trying to help. Charlie is a victim to her violent history, a prostitute from necessity to buy drugs for her and her maniac boyfriend Gary who has a mental illness. A mysterious character called Galileo is introduced too, and although I realised the symbolism and understood the point of having him, I didn't really enjoy those parts and skimmed over them due to them not really adding much to the story. They seemed to be a way to add slight meaning to one of the characters but mainly to add more to McNay's word count. 

The story works well because of it's believability, the conversations about the weather and the constant offers of cups of tea. The characters are fleshed out and you really aren't sure whether to hate them or love them and your feelings fluctuate for the flawed characters. All your preconceptions about them are turned on their head in surprising and entertaining ways. The writing style is choppy, plain, not flowery or poetic and for this story it works. 

However the ending is very anti-climatic. In my head I pictured a different ending. The final quarter of the book builds up and builds up, to the point where you just know something bad or dramatic is going to happen... and then nothing. If the ending had been better I would have really enjoyed this haunting and thought-provoking book. As it stands, I was left disappointed and I probably won't read it again to go with them through their personal journeys of trying to gain control over the other characters just for a wet and cop-out ending. I hope he didn't sacrifice a better ending just for the possibility of a sequel.

Let me know what you think if you've read this book, I'd love to know your opinions!

Jess x