Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris

The Hanging Shed by Gordon Ferris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that a lot of people read and are going to say they liked. Judging from the reviews, I'm in the minority for disliking it, but I think it's that people aren't looking deep enough.

The best part of the book is the setting. The Scottish accents and words bring the area to life in the 1940's.

There's SPOILERS from here on, so be warned.

First off, the plot. Someone is abusing young boys in Scotland. Three guesses who, first two don't count.

Second, this was read as part of a gay book club, and the author equating homosexuality with pedophilia wasn't welcome.

Moving on to the writing, the author subtly sets up the character's relationships with overused cliches such as "Pals for life, Dougie? Pals for life, Shug." He continues the cliches, setting up the hero as Johnny Tough with such bon mots as "Punching his lights out wasn’t an option. Not yet." Building up to the grandest cliche, people following orders compared to the holocaust "‘I know another bunch of blokes in uniform who claim they were only following orders. The Nuremberg judges don’t seem to think that’s much of a defence." Subtle.

There are inconsistencies in the text, someone else mentioned in their review it could use a better editor. On the way to a house, the main character gets gas, using "one of my rapidly disappearing pound notes to fill the tank." On the way back from the house, he stops to get gas again, this time noting "but money wasn't my problem." These things detract from the story.

Another inconsistency, the final showdown, the main character says he doesn't want to go at night as "I’d be blundering around in the twilight". He sleeps, wakes, and says "It was only midmorning and I would have much preferred to be doing this by moonlight." Then he sits there for hours until it gets dark, saying "By twilight things had quietened down." Does he want to blunder in the twilight, does he want to do it in moonlight? Make up your mind.

He kills the first man by hiding in the bushes for 7 hours, then throwing a knife at the man in the dark. He later says "I felt no guilt about these deaths. It had been them or me." See, hiding in the bushes for 7 hours doesn't seem like self defense to me.

The end of the book turns into a sailing manual, and I didn't understand a word of it.

"Slattery was scrabbling for his gun when the ketch lurched. He’d been sloppy lashing the tiller. With no counterforce, the rudder swung back and the ketch rounded up with a jolt. It staggered through 90 degrees and threw Slattery across the deck and into the gunnels."


"The ketch slowed and the boom dipped, trailing its human sea anchor. I ran forward and unhitched the foresail line so that jib flapped."


"...grabbed the tiller. It came alive in my hand. I pushed it round until the flapping mizzen sail filled. The ketch began to slip and pitch through the waves. The thrill of it coursed through me. I lashed the tiller properly to keep on the southerly course and hauled in the mizzen boom. The sail tightened and the ketch heeled a little. I laced the line round a cleat and fumbled along the deck to find the foresail line."

Are these sentences in English? Ship-ahoy, matey, I'm done.

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