This was a difficult book for me.
I loved “Touching the Void”, in part for its directness.
I didn’t like “The Beckoning Silence” because it wandered and seemed self-centered.
Still, this book is a mountain novel, and I desperately wanted a good one.
I was disappointed.
It is slow, painfully at times, and over-written (three paragraphs to describe a storm, which could have been done beautifully in Simpson’s language in one; five adjectives in each sentence, when coming one after the other, again and again, starts to thud, and bludgeon the reader into just reading words. So when an adjective is needed, it has no impact, as it can not stand out).
I did find it focusing on gruesome details that could have been better implied (that’s the bludgeon at work again) but that is a small matter.
The second half of the book is wooden, due mainly to the dialog. It is as if Simpson wanted badly to write like Hemingway with terse formal and repetitive sentences, or imagined his setting in such a a way – crouched around a candle in life-threatening circumstances. This can work in small spurts, but over a novel that is essentially a one-room hut in a storm, it gets tiring and loses plausibility.
There is no doubt Simpson can write, and describe, and form good characters – the problem here lays in his trying to do it too finely, too deeply, too … everything … It felt as if he did not trust his reader, or could not bear to pare down every wonderful observance.
Read this, you may feel differently, but I feel this could have actually been a great novel – with a bold editor involved.