Innocents And Others – Dana Spiotta (Picador 2016)

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Structurally this is a very confident work.  American author Dana Spiotta’s fourth novel  reads fluidly and uses essays from the characters, film scripts and analysis to good effect.  Spiotta writes well and has an impressive understanding of the techniques needed to draw a reader in.  Main character Meadow Mori is an independent documentary-film maker so  this reminded me very much of another book I have read this year “Life And Death Of Sophie Stark” (2016).  That took the format of a confessional documentary about an independent female film-maker.  This main character,Sophie, was only seen through other’s eyes.  In Spiotta’s novel  Meadow is present and for me this is the more effective book.  Both novels, however, share the same flaw.   I didn’t care about Sophie nor her films, nor did I find myself caring about Meadow as a character nor her work.  I’m thinking it may be hard to please me having the film industry as a setting for a novel.

Whereas North’s novel focused largely on Sophie (hence the title), Spiotta has a character I really do care about.  It’s not Meadow’s school friend Carrie who also becomes a film-maker of more mainstream material but Jelly, a partially sighted woman who phones men in the film industry and becomes their sounding-board and confidante with a number of them becoming infatuated by her disembodied voice.  This is the character I wanted to know more about.  Her tale runs alongside Meadow’s until  the film-maker decides to make her the subject of a documentary.

I think more emphasis on this character would have brought out the warmth in the writing and it would have removed some of the distance I felt as the book progressively shifted more towards Meadow.  I enjoyed it but felt it might be more for an American audience with its driven, privileged characters not appealing so much this side of the channel.

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Innocents And Others was published by Picador in November 2016