Actress was one of the books of the list that I was the least interested to read, simply because it’s not my kind of book – it’s both focused on a celebrity AND a historical fiction, which are two of my most disliked things to read about. But I started it and was really enjoying it. Until I wasn’t anymore and it turned out that this really is not my kind of book.
Actress is a story told by Norah, who is telling the story of her mother, Katherine O’Dell, a famous actress, but at the same time, Norah is telling the story of her own life. The book is basically stories from Katherine and Norah’s life.
This book’s biggest downfall was probably my wrong expectations going into this book. I expected a story that is an exploration of a relationship between a mother and a daughter. But this book wasn’t that, not really. This book is mostly Norah remembering scenes from her life, that are related to her mother, but that were also important for Norah as a person, as she is sharing these bits and pieces with her husband.
I started out really enjoying this one, because I really enjoyed Anne Enright’s writing on the elemental, sentence-level. I think she is a very competent writer and I did enjoy Norah’s narrative voice. Enright writes in this very erratic way, which leads to Norah jumping from one thing to another in her reminiscing. And while at first I was enjoying that, it got really confusing really fast. Which is why I switched from the audiobook to the ebook, because I had so much trouble grasping the story.
However, once I did that, the story got… well, boring. The audiobook is great because it gives life to the story, it tethers it and gives it substance, so in the end, I had to both listen and read at the same time to avoid dnf-ing this one. I was really bored for the most part reading this, and that’s how I feel with almost every historical fiction. This was very descriptive in nature – we got a lot of descriptions of plays, or parties, but I just don’t care. I don’t care about the atmosphere and the setting, because I need characters to care about. Whenever this book veered towards exploring Katherine and Norah’s relationship, or Norah and her husband’s relationship, I became invested and wanted to carry on reading, but then we’d shift the focus to some other event that felt completely irrelevant. I just felt like a lot of the stuff portrayed here did not make me understand the characters more, the point or the themes in this book. All of it felt inconsequential. The book kept veering towards certain interesting topics, scratching their surface, but then never really delivering on any of it. There was room here not only to explore different relationship dynamics, which is the thing I wanted the most, but also to explore some political issues, or even some issues regarding mental health or feminism. But while the story does dip its toes into these things, it just never does anything with them, which is why my most prominent sentiment upon finishing this one was “what was even the point of this?”.
At times I enjoyed this and was intrigued, but at times, I almost dnf-ed this book. And just overall, I was ultimately bored while reading this one, so another dud from the list for me.
ALSO, I am stealing Hannah’s format and showing my current rankings of the Women’s Prize Longlist books.
1. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (review)
2. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (review)
3. Actress by Anne Enright
4.Weather by Jenny (review)
I would love to hear from you! Have you been reading anything from the longlist? Thoughts so far? Have you read Actress? Let me know!
In the meantime, happy reading
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