Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Snapper - M's review

Snapper by Brian Kimberling
Reviewed by M

Snapper was a slow, easy and entertaining read.

I read Snapper very slowly, a couple of chapters at a time and then big breaks in between the next sitting. Coincidentally, it got stuck in an almost-alternating pattern with Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder. The similarities between the two books are striking: both have a highly autobiographical feel, both read more like interlinked short stories (which Atwood's is), both have a delicious wry humour, and both are fairly short.

Cover of Snapper by Brian Kimberling
Snapper by Brian Kimberling
Snapper is narrated by Nathan, a likeable philosophy graduate employed as a birdwatcher who takes the best fieldnotes. He tells his story about Indiana, where he has spent most of his life. Each chapter recounts a different episode in his life and often focuses on a single character (who usually does not significantly reappear) or place in Indiana. These recollections wind themselves through Nathan’s post-college years/twenties, exploring his relationships with the people, wildlife and places of Indiana, and adults who're growing up.  

While most of the characters fade in and out (as he reflects that many human relationships often do), Indiana, birds, a romantic obsession with Lola, the Gypsy Moth (his van) and his friend Shane feature prominently throughout the story. Lola was my least favourite bit of the novel, I liked Dana but I didn’t particularly warm to Annie (I have a funny feeling that Nathan didn’t warm to her that much either. If you've read Snapper, you'll know that notion is ironic.).

There were many times where I chuckled and even laughed out loud – so I suspect some readers may laugh a lot more (and some maybe a lot less). I have some favourite chapters, which serves to strengthen my notion that it reads like a collection of short stories. One example is the chapter titled Nationwide which tells about a town called Santa Claus, the hub of Santa letter writing. Some of the first chapters were very entertaining too.  There were also a good few chapters that sent little shivers down my spine – some of the characters or observations were quite chilling (often involving men with guns – even if they didn’t fire them).

This is one of those novels that is not very strong on moving plot. I’m usually quite happy with that but for some reason, I was expecting more of a crescendo. I’m not unhappy that it was missing but it did confuse me at first. The last few chapters pick up the pace and felt a bit out of place – again, that’s  mereflecting Nathan feelings! Does that suggest strong empathising with the main character on my part.....?

Snapper is an understated novel, and true to the narrator's character, the observations are as precise and considered as I'd expect from a young man who does birdwatching for a living. My response to the novel overall is mixed - a bit like the way Nathan feels about Indiana. Unlike Nathan’s relationship with Indiana, the ending left me just a tiny bit flat....yet I'm still smiling fondly.

Snapper is published as adult fiction but its content is suitable for readers of most ages.

Publication details: Tinder Press, 9 May 2013, London, hardback
This copy: uncorrected proof received for review from the publisher

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