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Book Report The Accidental Woman, by Jonathan Coe

 
 
The Accidental Woman, by Jonathan Coe 13th May, FOAL presented by Barbara        9 members present
 
This book divided the group: it is written in a style that Jonathan Coe calls "Narrative Interferenceā€¯, that is ironic and often humorous.
 
In fact, the narrator elicited more emotion in our readers than the main character did, or ever experienced for that matter.  "Main character" because Maria cannot be considered a "protagonist" in the true sense.  She seems to have been quite brilliant, quite attractive but with no trace of empathy. Being empathetic readers, we all nonetheless empathised with her, but begrudgingly because we were split on "whose fault" Maria was:  the narrator's (by monopolizing the story and giving Maria no chance for us to get to know her) or Maria's (by being so hollow and investing none of herself in us).  
 
Some readers reproached the author for failing to provide the story with a "watershed moment".  Others contended that this was done on purpose in order to highlight the empty shell personage of Maria, who failed to fulfil anyone -- herself, the other characters, not even the readers! 
 
Was the novel autobiographical or -- par contre -- was Maria fictitious (within the fiction), created as a muse, hollow and purposely purposeless, in order to force readers to acknowledge the pointlessness of life?
 
We all agreed on the success of Coe's character development of a character who never developed her own character.  Some found humour in the narrative, some found it offensively depressing.  Many found it, intriguingly, both.
 
One reader neatly summarised that if there's a lesson to be learned from Maria's story, it's:  
"Be careful when you decide with whom you will share your living quarters."
 
One of the reviews also sums it up rather well... "Clever, yes, and well constructed -- but too much dreariness hanging over it. Not enough sunshine. "