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Book Review: 'Mo Said She Was Quirky’

Sara Newman |
April 22, 2013 | 9:52 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Other Press).
(Other Press).
This book comes off as unnaturally naturalistic, an odd problem to have, rather a “quirky” flaw as author James Kelman might say. “Mo Said She Was Quirky is a stream of consciousness novel that follows the thoughts of Helen, a 27-year-old divorcée who lives with her daughter and her boyfriend, Mo, in a small London apartment while she works at a casino by night. 

The story, if you could even call it that, follows her flow of thoughts and memories over the span of 24 hours. After a chance sighting of a homeless man who she believes is her brother, Helen beings dispelling the difficult circumstances of her complicated childhood and describing her current struggles with her boyfriend, with her ex-husband, and with her own role as a mother. 

Kelman has earned a following (and a Booker prize to boot!) for his elevation of minute details to stylistic prose with his 1994 novel, “How Late it Was, How Late,” but his latest attempt to push the boundaries in this book falls short. While the premise of the story is interesting enough, the deviations in time and the constant repetition serve as roadblocks to the plot’s development, and consequently to the reader’s enjoyment. 

In his attempt to sound casual, Kelman ends up sounding either dreadfully forced or terribly lazy. People turn to books to escape from the disorder of their own minds, but Kelman takes away this pleasure by capturing this illogical repetition with lines like, “She was worse than silly. What was worse than silly? She was.” He also is infuriatingly inconsistent in his objection to apostrophes, ignoring them in contractions but still using them to show possession. 

Despite his writerly annoyances, Kelman does take a very interesting exploration of the issues of race, class, gender, and family in this book. As long as you pick up this book with the intention of testing the boundaries of fiction writing, rather than looking for a riveting story, you may be rewarded. 

I give this book 2/5 stars. 

"Mo Said She Was Quirky" releases in the US April 23. 

Reach Staff Reporter Sara here or follow her on Twitter.



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