Book Review: Impersonation

ImageTitle: Impersonation

Author: Tamsin Kate Walker

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: “I caught a glimpse of myself today…I saw my description in the pages of a book, in the words of a man I have never met.”

When Ruth receives a new novel from her book club, she is immediately intrigued. ‘The Ruthlessness of One Man’ claims to be about a real-life London commuter and, as Ruth delves further into the dark tale, she makes a sinister discovery.

She is that commuter.

As Ruth reads on and becomes convinced that the author, Mr Walden, intends her to be more than just his muse, she must unravel the story to uncover just what he has in store for her, both on paper and in reality. Ultimately, she only has the book itself to piece together Mr Walden’s identity and motive. But can she do it in time to stop herself from becoming the victim of a twisted literary plot?

WARNING – SPOILERS WILL ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had a very difficult time getting through this book – but perhaps I should explain first. Impersonation is a story about a woman, Ruth Morton (who oddly enough shares my last name!), who one day receives a copy of a book in her mail from a book club and upon reading it, discovers that she is the protagonist. Somewhere in the world a man she doesn’t know saw her on a London commuter train and decided to write a book based on her appearance. The problem is, the image he paints of Ruth isn’t flattering, and worse still, as she continues to read the story, it starts to take a dark turn. Through the course of the book we learn that Ruth is being stalked by parties unknown, and this stalker is hell-bent on inserting himself into her life.

Now, understand that I am not a great lover of first-person present tense, so getting into this book was already quite difficult for me. I’m a strong advocate for 1st or 3rd person past tense, and felt it difficult to connect to the characters through the impersonality of the format. That being said, as I read on, I found it nearly impossible to like or even feel particular sympathy for any of the characters. Their personalities were flat, their actions wholly unbelievable, and there was an almost overwhelming and tragic sense of desperation for each of the characters portrayed.

There were a few instances in this book where I literally paused and wrote myself a note about the ridiculousness of the character’s actions. For example, at one point Ruth meets a man by the name of James. The portrait we’re painted of this man is that he’s an older, divorced man working in a dilapidated building that smells of urine. At the time of their meeting, Ruth believes he may actually be her stalker, and even runs away from him. Despite this, by the end of the day she’s willing to sleep with him, and ends up pining for him for the rest of the book (despite the fact that he showed little more than superficial interest in her). I couldn’t find the appeal or even the attraction in their relationship, and it seemed absurd at the time that she would throw herself into a relationship with this stranger (when she already had a boyfriend at home I might add) amidst her obvious paranoia.

At another point, her mother hires a private investigator to follow her own daughter around. Why? Because she doesn’t speak to her often enough for her own liking and wants to contrive a way to insert herself into her daughter’s life (A theme that continues until the very end of the book). Quite frankly, her mother came off nearly as creepy and disturbing as the stalker. By the end of the story I was utterly disgusted at this woman’s meddling.

Another part of this book I had trouble with was the random dropping of crossword puzzle questions all throughout the narrative. The first time I came across it I had no idea what it meant – it was a jumble of words that didn’t seem to make any good English sense, followed by a series of numbers. It was not explained, and was simply dropped into bits and pieces of the narrative. I was so put off by these odd little additions that I actually deleted and re-downloaded my copy of the book to make sure it wasn’t some sort of strange publishing error. Upon finding that it was indeed, intended to be in the book (and it was later hinted that these were crossword references) I simply chose to ignore every instance of italicized text after that point to avoid confusion. Though the back of the book had the answers to the crossword questions and it became obvious (after I’d read the book) that the answers pertained to the story itself, I found their use distracting and needless. The story read fine without the insertions, and there didn’t seem to be any clear reason why they were added in the first place. Crosswords were only mentioned twice in the entire book, and only in fleeting mention.

All of that aside, the story was interesting, and after attempting to ignore the actions of the main characters and the crossword bits, I was able to appreciate the mystery of the storyline. Watching Ruth being stalked by the mysterious book writer was very much like watching a train wreck in that it held a macabre interest. I wanted to see how the story played out, and quite frankly, I was hoping to see the main character get killed. Not only that, but the characters themselves were so… at odds with the world around them – so muddled in their thoughts and actions that I could only sit back and watch them fall apart from the sidelines.

I don’t know that I would recommend this book to anyone but the very clever, and the very disturbed (which I’ll admit I am) who think it fascinating to watch a series of characters fall apart. I didn’t walk away from this book with a positive feeling of where the plot ended, nor towards any of the characters themselves. It’s like driving by a car crash.. you just want to peek at the misery and drive away with as little guilt as possible. I left this book with an impression of uneasiness that was not easily shook at the time of this review, nearly 2 hours later.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Impersonation

  1. I respect your virtue. I couldn’t have done it I would have had to give up. I have finally signed up to follow your blog by email, as the last couple times I tried it told me that there was an error, but it worked this time, so perhaps it was just my compute being stupid. 🙂

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    • haha thanks. believe me, there are books out there that I desperately want to put down after the first five pages. Unfortunately perhaps for me, once I commit to reading a book, I try to see it through, even if I really dislike it. I try to keep my word whenever possible. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t often run into books I dislike that greatly 🙂

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  2. Dear Cary Morton
    I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my book, which I was sorry to hear you found so dissatisfying. In the spirit of lively dialogue, I would like to ask you what it was that made you read beyond page one if you know you do not like first person, present tense narratives? Surely that alone would be enough to make you stop. Spare yourself the agony, so to speak. I ask, because I am trying to understand the business of reviews. I would not review a fantasy book because I don’t like them. And that bias would be factored into any I might give. You see my point? I would be interested in yours. Equally, I was astonished to hear that you found it so unbelievable that a woman could change her view of a man enough in the space of a day – particularly given the circumstances – to end up in bed with him. Not so incredible really, and stranger things by far have happened. As one who reads a lot, I’m surprised you found this so hard to believe;) I look forward to hearing back from you. You can find me at tamsinka@web.de or tamsinkwalker.co.uk
    Or I will check back here. Now I know where to find you – not to sound like Mr Walden or anything…

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    • Mainly, it is because I was asked. If I promise a review, then I feel it is my obligation to fulfill that promise. Though I don’t like present tense, with some effort I am able to ignore it, and I still try my best to give an honest review – but always explain that because of my dislike of the tense, I may be harsher than someone who does not find it difficult to follow. Not of purpose of course, but because I do find it so hard to follow and get into, I can admit that I will probably find it harder to relate to the characters and story as a consequence. As for the main character’s actions, Yes, I do find it strange and unbelievable that someone would change their opinion so greatly in the space of a day with so little proof to the contrary, and put them-self in such danger without more thought than she gave it, but perhaps that is because of the way I was raised. I can only assume there are other women in the world beside myself that would also find it unbelievable due to our own self respect and inherent caution. I mean no disrespect to you or your writing, it is only my opinion, and of course, you can’t please everyone.

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