Review: The Sound of Gravity

The Sound of Gravity Book Cover The Sound of Gravity
Joe Simpson
Jonathan Cape
2011
Paperback
240
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-sound-of-gravity-joe-simpson/1117217348

As her hand slips from his grip, Patrick's life is shattered, forever changed. The Sound of Gravity is a harrowing, dramatic and powerful tale of love, loss and redemption as that haunting split-second memory changes the course of a lifetime. Trapped high on a stormbound mountain face in the icy depths of winter, the stricken young man is forced to fight for his life. Half a lifetime later, haunted by grief and guilt, Patrick is freed from his self-imposed vigil when at last the mountain releases his heart-rending secret.

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.