It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old debate; mainly because we keep reading different books to one another! However, Nick has now got around to reading The Hoarder by Jess Kidd, and as such, we’ve met up to discuss our thoughts.
Cathal Flood is an Octogenarian, massively unpleasant and a compulsive, obsessive hoarder. His once grand, sprawling mansion has been overtaken by rubbish, cats, faeces and bizarre curios collected over 25 years. After ‘seeing off’ care giver after care giver, Maud Drennan is next in line to help clear the home and tame its wild inhabitant. Underneath the jumble and grime a dark secret may just be uncovered.
Nick: So, here we are discussing The Hoarder by Jess Kidd. I was a bit late to the party with this one.
Lucy: Ha, you can say that again – I’ve been telling you to read it for ages!
Nick: I will say that it was well worth the wait. Talk about a beguiling plot… it completely sucked me in.
Lucy: Yes, and I think one of the best aspects about it was that it stays with you. Some books I read and then forget, but not this one. So, where shall we start?
Nick: Well, let’s go for one of the best aspects of the book – the characterisation. Boy, Jess Kidd does characters well. I thought Cathal Flood was the stand-out; he’s so surly and unpleasant at the start, but I just loved the way he was unravelled towards the end, when we see the man behind the monster.
Lucy: Absolutely. I totally loved the protagonist, Maud, too. She was so down-to-earth and pragmatic, and even though the subject matter was frequently quite dark, she still made me chuckle. And Renata, Maud’s friend, with her ageing film-star vibe and love of mysteries… she was fabulous.
Nick: We could just go on and on praising these characters, couldn’t we. Like Sam the psychic who turns out to be someone rather different; I really appreciated that twist.
Lucy: I think one of the things that really adds richness and depth to Maud is the strong narrative voice. It’s written in Irish dialect and that pierces through the story. It reminded me a little of Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy; you can just totally hear the voice in your head.
Nick: I haven’t read that one, is that another to add to my ‘to-read’ pile?
Lucy: Yes! Add it now! But moving back to The Hoarder, what did you think about the setting? Cathal’s derelict home is beautifully depicted, I felt. You could really imagine this crumbling, smelly old mansion.
Nick: And so creepy too. I liked the pervasive air of the supernatural that ran through it. It was clever how it was never explicitly spelt out, only alluded to.
Lucy: Ooh yes, the bizarre ‘collector’s items’ at the end. They were really eerie. Credit to the author, I could picture it all so clearly.
Nick: Yes, she’s a talented wordsmith. What did you think of the plot itself?
Lucy: I found it a compelling story and I was turning every page with glee. I also liked the mixture of humour and darkness; that’s a tricky thing to pull off.
Nick: Aha. Now you bring me to the one aspect that jarred slightly.
Lucy: Here we go… I knew you wouldn’t ever 100% love any book, Mr Hedges!
Nick: I am a very discerning reader, and in all other ways, this book was a fantastic read. But I wasn’t keen on some of the levity. For example, those saints of Maud’s.
Lucy: How can you not love the saints? They were hilarious! I loved smutty Saint Valentine.
Nick: Not convinced. I didn’t understand why they were there. Perhaps if it’d been made more obvious? I felt they were placed there for comedy value and didn’t really add much. But just to emphasise, this was only a minor thing.
Lucy: We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point, because I loved them as a plot device. It was such an original idea and again, took us right into the Irishness of the book, with the catholic references.
Nick: I’ll have to read it again in the future, see if I feel differently!
Lucy: So, come on then, to the heart of it. What’s your score?
Nick: A big fat four out of five stars from me. I was impressed.
Lucy: And you know what mine is.
Nick: Because you’ve been raving about this book for ages.
Lucy: It’s a stonking five out of five!
Nick: Well, I’m glad you recommended it to me. I enjoyed it and I’ll keep an eye out for more of her stuff.