Character Depth is an Enviable Trait
If you envy an author’s character development skills, is that a sign of weak character?
I know. I promised something frivolous. And I had every intention of providing it until the main character in All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go.
I stand in awe of a writer who can begin a story with death and make it work. In the first paragraph, we are told the mother of two small boys will die and that this death will be exquisitely painful to the survivors and even, perhaps, to the reader.
What was to prevent me from slapping the book shut and saying, “I’m sad enough today, thank you very much”? Unless I had a penchant for misery. Or just enjoyed a miserable sort of predictability.
But that paragraph was so crystalline in its language, I couldn’t close the book without reading just a little more until I was thoroughly hooked.
Novels don’t usually begin with a death and there is good reason for that. In the arc of a novel, death is the big fear. A writer doesn’t often squander that dark moment on the first page. But Angell takes the risk.
It’s an interesting choice because the death of a character one cares about has a way of taking up a huge amount of psychic reader-energy. In a sense, by getting it out of the way in the beginning, Angell is leaving room for the surviving characters to act in context of their loss.
The strength of this book is in its brilliant character portrayals.
Charlotte, the boys’ nanny, who narrates the history leading up to the crisis and its aftermath is utterly believable and consistent.
Another reason I kept reading was to see how Angell managed to write children.
I can’t count the number of adult novels I have read with child characters who are saccharine, perhaps disobedient but only in the most charming of ways.
So I was anticipating failure, dreading it actually. But I shouldn’t have worried. Angell’s children are real children, believably irritating as a regular thing with those occasional moments of grace we learn to treasure as parents, teachers and caregivers.
I am trying to master writing and books like All the Time in the World, are the ultimate learning device. If you are trying to do the same, read this book. It’s an excellent lesson.
Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.