I was a bit daunted by the $32.95 price tag on the large 'trade' (appropos?) sized paperback, especially when a flick through it showed that the text was equally oversized and a bit sparse. Given that the book is set in the present day with our young hero Michael 'Mouse' Tolliver now a 55 year old, maybe the large format text was thematic.
The cover of the Australian edition. In my opinion, thoroughly underwhelming.
I'm not a fan of the Australian edition cover (above). The design itself is ok and very eye-catching, but unless it crops again up at the end of the novel (I'm not there yet), the orchid shown on the cover is only mentioned in a throw away aside in one line in one scene. It just doesn't seem to fit this book. I much prefer the overseas style cover (below) which at least places the story in the context of San Francisco, the city which itself is almost a character in all of the novels.
The cover of the overseas edition. I think this places it much more into the "Tales Of The City" oevre.
It pains me to write this, but it's just ok. I haven't finished it yet but I'm around 75% done. The other "Tales Of The City" books always entertained with their outlandish coincidences, topical storylines, loveable characters and sense of this large collection of friends being 'family'. I don't get that from this book.
I read a somewhat scathing review in the online UK Guardian, much of which I sadly agree with. (A less opinionated publisher's review is here.)
The novel is entertaining enough, but doesn't read like a 'Tales' book. For a start the invisible narrator (Maupin himself) is absent and the novel is written in Michael's first person voice. Sure the characters are older and their journeys have changed. Sure people that we loved intensely once and thought we'd be Best Friends Forever with move on. Sure we live in complicated and difficult times. But, where's the joy? Where's the novel 'family' we grew to love? Largely absent, sadly. Taking some of the charm with them.
I don't hate it. Not by a long shot, but I loved these books and these characters. I do think Maupin has lost his way here somewhat. In trying to make a later instalment with older, more adult characters who reflect the changes of ageing he has lost the fun of the earlier books.
I guess reading it makes me feel sort of a bit sad and old myself in an odd way. Like you sat down with a bunch of longterm friends, only to think "you know what, we used to be more fun than this".