Is it really taking The Booker Prize to get the overlord back to his blog? It would seem so.
“The sky was the bleak white of old kitchen appliances. Wind blew dust into our eyes as we sat on the ground waiting to watch staff or guards walk by on the other side of the razor wire. Such was the excitement we lived for.”
I’ll be upfront about this and say things are not off to the best start with Rachel Kushner’s – The Mars Room
Kushner’s book nominally about ex lap dancer (at the club which provides the book with its title) Romy Hall: a young woman facing two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility for killing her stalker. It also means the loss of her seven-year-old son, Jackson, who is now being looked after by Romy’s estranged mother.
We also get the additional voices of Doc (ex-cop, also in prison for murder), Gordon Hauser (prison teacher) and Kurt (stalker).
There’s a lot of nice detail in the book, not all of it prison cliché, a good overarching examination of class, power, gender and social status and there is an appealing (if that is the right word) cast of prison characters. So why was this book such a struggle? I almost gave up on it a handful of times. I found it emotionally unengaging and distant. Whilst a couple of characters peaked my interest, I didn’t care about any of them – the reality of course for the vast majority of these very characters in real life.
Maybe that’s the point?
I certainly cared about the general situations, especially the fact that so many people, especially those without deep pockets, are let down by the legal system. But I felt weighed down by the book: distracted; bored; tired. The ‘other’ voices don’t help. Whilst I can see the point of Doc, through a Romy prison connection, and for a different prison arc, both his and Hauser’s sections just added to my disconnect with the main Romy thread.
Still, LOTS of people are raving about this and clearly the Booker judges have seen the same things those people have seen in this book. Sorry I wasn’t one of them.
But, maybe it was still worth reading for this one line which stuck with me:
“The lie of regret and the life gone off the rails. What rails. The life is the rails. It is its own rails and it goes where it goes. It cuts its own path. My path took me here”
NEXT UP: Daisy Johnson – Everything Under