One star seems a bit uncharitable, but two would definitely be too generous. The annoying thing is there are bits about ASHTU that I liked - well, really only one bit, the father - but it's buried under such a will-to-live-sapping heap of such tedium and bitterness that I can in good conscience only give one star.
Oh the tedium! ASHTU may
have dethroned The Glass Bead Game as the most tedious thing I have ever
read, and TGBG was at least vaguely nourishing. Imagine that annoying
person who sits near you at work telling you a story of at-best middling
interest in minute detail over the course of about 5 hours. That's how
ASHTU reads: things happen in it that could be interesting or funny, but
in Lewycka's telling, they just aren't. There's the odd glimmer of
microwaved apples and gloop-stuck jam jars here and there, but they're
buried in such an entombing mass of desiccated minutiae and formulaism.
still, everyone except the father is painted in such a negative light
by the first-person narrator - who herself, in consequence, comes across
worst of all. Even when a bartender recurrs after a gap of a few weeks,
he's "really let himself go". Engage negativity pump: spray liberally.
got the sense that this was all based on real-life events, which could
have made a good tale, but that Lewycka (and her editor) had been
incapable culling the boring stuff or writing well for anything more
than a couple of sentences at a time. The narrator certainly seems very
pleased with herself: unlike her poor sister, she got to
experience The Beatles and feminism, and turned out oh so liberal and
stubborn and rebellious. Except, like hell is she anything other than
judgemental like an American judge with an afternoon TV slot is
Some of the bits about Ukrainian history were nearly
interesting, but I recently read If This Is A Man and The Notebook, and
ASHTU can't hold a candle to those in terms of WWII-era power. It can't
even limply smear a soggy match down a spent strike pad.
Quite how this was so well received is, in all honesty, completely beyond my fathoming power.