Tuesday, 4 August 2015

'Significance' by Jo Mazelis


With books such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train having breathed new enthusiasm into the thriller market, Jo Mazelis’ equally infectious novel Significance is hopefully in a good position to benefit from this buoyant end of the bookshelf. And in many ways I’d say that Jo’s book is far superior to the other two. 

With her background in poetry and short stories, Jo has produced what is easily the most literate of the three thrillers I’ve mentioned. With imaginative metaphors, picturesque turns of phrase and a joyful use of vocabulary, Significance is a much more indulgent read than either Gone Girl or The Girl On The Train – both of which, while having captivating plots, are much more light weight books.

Although that’s not to suggest that Jo’s style is overbearing or alienating – I found Significance just as attention grabbing and sailed through the whole book in three days. Including standing at the stove some evenings, stirring pots with one hand and holding her book in the other hand, unable to tear myself away from the plot.

And the plot of Significance is cleverly slight considering the depth of detail and wealth of characters. All of whom play integral parts in a sad event of seemingly no significance. And that’s the beauty of the book.

Our protagonist Lucy vanishes from her London life and reinvents herself in a small French town hoping to escape her boring old life and start again. But a simple bad decision on an otherwise unremarkable evening out soon puts a stop to that. And the rest of the book sees the many characters she has interacted with, however briefly, becoming woven into her story and implicated in her disappearance, cascading into a catastrophic effect.

Jo’s skill at bringing all of these seemingly tiny elements together and tying up every loose end is astonishing, and while reading the book I was going cross-eyed trying to imagine how an author would even begin to map out such a novel. To achieve a multi-character thriller that swaps from narrator to narrator yet remains true to every nuance is extremely impressive – well, it certainly is to my mind!

I’m sure it’s annoying for Jo to have her book compared to those like Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train, and it’s maybe lazy of me to make such a comparison. But I do it as someone who doesn’t often read thrillers but read the first two to see what the fuss was all about, and was drawn to Jo’s after it was suggested to me by someone who works at her publisher, Seren. Having now read Significance, I can only agree with him that her book deserves a wider audience of the kind the first two have achieved. So if you enjoyed either or both of those, please do pick up Significance as I know you will love it as much as I did.