The Lumby Lines by Gail Fraser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I don't intentionally seek out books about small towns, but there is something unavoidably charming about rural areas, neighbours who know each other, a town newspaper which prints stories using first names and a main street full of mom-and-pop shops. I picked up The Lumby Lines while I was on holidays in a my favourite small town this past summer. It was a blustery and rainy day--the beach was deserted and the library was full of big comfy couches and creaky wooden floors. The Lumby Lines seemed appropriate for my current circumstances, so I grabbed it and gave it a go, getting a couple chapters in.
Being unable to finish it there, I reserved a copy from the library and boy am I glad I didn't purchase this book! One of the other reasons I started reading it was the fact that I love (and own) the entire Mitford series, so I was excited to potentially find something along the same lines.
I was wrong, oh so wrong. Although Fraser tries her best to create a novel from small town charm, it falls horribly flat and I struggled to get through it to the bitter end.
The character are stale and one dimensional. No one seems to have any serious motivation or emotion, other than the one villain who simply turns out to be a misunderstood old man. (Didn't see that one coming.) The main characters Pam and Mark are attempting to convert an old abbey into a modern day inn and the book follows their path with slapstick attempts at humour and boring side characters.
There is absolutely nothing that makes the book sparkle. Fraser tries to force in eccentric characters (an old rich woman who lives frugally and loves gardening) but she simply ends up reiterating the same pieces of information over and over (said old woman has dirt under fingernails), until the reader is left wondering what else these people have going on their lives.
It was one of the most shallow books I have ever read. Two teenage boys cause trouble all over the town and are constantly in and out of the police station, but barely any time is spent exploring their motivations. Fair enough, this book appears to be the first of a series (that I will definitely not pursue), but as the introduction to a series, it lacks any whimsical charm.
The only reason I can think of readers enjoying this novel is that they have a lower reading level. I know that sounds brutally harsh, but there is no way someone can go from reading Mitford to this. Karon's creation of Mitford and Father Tim is descriptive and beautiful, drawing you in to the characters and their lives. The Lumby Lines is boring and dry, the conversations between characters stilted and bland.
Perhaps the saddest thing about this novel is the fact that the premise of it had great potential, but the author lacked the ability to properly execute the story. I am also left wondering how the editor allowed so many repetitive sentences and descriptions to enter one book.
I would not recommend this book to anyone. It was a waste of my time and will most likely be a waste of yours.
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