A few months ago, I won a Goodreads giveaway. I’d been waiting to read Jan Ellison’s”A Small Indiscretion” for months – it was simply something which kept getting pushed back to the back of my To Be Read list.
So, I was excited when I won and pleased as I’d now move the book farther up my reading list. As I was in the middle of a few books, I didn’t get to it right away. Finally, after some time, I did.
I find “A Small Indiscretion” to be a difficult novel to consider.
The novel centers around Annie Black and hops between her misspent youth, living in England and her more stable adulthood in San Francisco.
The book is narrated in Annie’s voice. This is her story that she tells us. The catalyst for this divulging of her secrets is the rather serious accident in which her son was injured.
I found it somewhat difficult to keep my attention on this novel. In theory, this is just my sort of book – it’s all about the internal turmoil caused by silly actions.
Ellison is a sure writer – I never got the impression that anything in the novel was anything other than intended by her. I never felt as though her words were any sort of accident or any sort of mistake. There is nothing – nothing – in that book that I don’t find to be intended by her.
Additionally, her prose is quite clean and sparse, but unlike Hemingway, I found it to be a pleasure to read.
In spite of these lovely things, I ‘m not entirely sure how I feel about the novel. It’s been over a month since I’ve finished this novel and I still can’t make heads or tails of how I feel about it.
Annie Black is, honestly, a hard woman to be interested in. She’s not particularly interesting in and of herself without her personal dilemmas. And, to be frank, I found Annie to be not all that interesting, even with her personal drama.
Annie’s youthful indiscretion feels like little more than aimless wandering. After leaving her time in England behind, she hops to Ireland, where she meets a handsome young man, with whom she, eventually, treks off to Nepal with. It was a bit difficult to me to buy the circumstances of their courtship. It was hard for me to feel invested in the quickie marriage which takes place once a surprise pregnancy looms. I found that I didn’t care about Annie’s marriage. It was a non-event for me.
I’m not certain if it was the event themselves or perhaps the writing which caused my disbelief in the events.
The ending – or the twist – rather, isn’t particularly ingenious or interesting – and, if you are a frequent reader – and even, perhaps, if you are not – it can be seen coming from miles away. I don’t mind being able to see the ending ahead of time – as long as I can be lost within the journey. That really didn’t occur here.
As a twist and as an ending, it doesn’t feel earned, for me. It feels as though Ellison wants the moment to be more shocking and more breathtaking than it actually is.
Additionally, it’s difficult to get a feel for or a reading on any character other than Annie, which I think, runs to the detriment of the novel. It feels especially so as Annie comes off as little more than a cypher and it’s difficult to really know her as well.
Annie feels reactive instead of proactive – things happen to her, not because of her. This is, I believe, intentional, as I think that Ellison is smart enough to have seen and fixed this were it not. But, for me at least, Annie’s lack of proactive movements lead to me not actually caring about her or the things that happen to her. I don’t care about her or what happens to her because I don’t think she does either. I found Annie to be aimless and wandering through her life and I like spending time with a more protagonist who’s more sure of themselves and of what they want things to be.
“A Small Indiscretion”, sadly, didn’t work for me as well as I’d hoped it would. Given the events of the novel, I wish Annie’s journey was more interesting and impactful than it was.