I’m not going to summarize this book the way I usually do in reviews, for two reasons. First, I knew almost nothing about the book going in, and that influenced my experience with it. Second, this is the sort of book that is more reminiscent of an old classic than a modern tale, and is thus more difficult to summarize. It’d be like trying to summarize a Thomas Hardy novel. Again, this influenced my experience with the book, and I’d like to expand on both of these points below. To note, this review will include technique spoilers, but no specifics on plot or character.
So let’s start with my ignorance going in. I’d heard that the book was going to be a RIP readalong, and as I don’t really do readalongs, I didn’t investigate the book. I had plenty of others on my RIP list. But then Amanda reviewed the book, and I learned the only three things I knew going in. First, that it had been compared to Wilkie Collins, to Amanda’s after-reading approval. Second, there were vampires involved somehow. Third, it was historical fiction (or, I suppose, historical fantasy, given the vampires). This all intrigued me, and I saw that there was a downloadable version of the audiobook from my library available to grab that very minute, and I began listening to it not long after.
My initial impressions were lovely. It was slow, and definitely written in the style of a classic. There were a few thematic elements that showed it was a modern novel, but really, Owen was dead-on in atmosphere and style. It wouldn’t have surprised me to learn that it was written as a serial 150 years ago. What did throw me off was the vampires. I knew they were there, of course, from Amanda’s review, but I didn’t realize how long it would take them to show up. A few times, I wondered if perhaps I’d grabbed a different novel of the same title by accident. Finally, I looked it up, but no, I had the right one. I checked the GoodReads summary, and nothing it said tallied with what I’d listened to so far. Shrug. So I kept going. I was enjoying the book anyway, with the focus on family ties and friendships and the ethical/moral exploration of homosexuality in a time when it was dangerously illegal. The characters and relationships were subtly drawn, very realistic, and carefully portrayed. It was lovely.
When the vampires finally did show up, the novel split off all crazy. This isn’t a bad thing. It reminded me a lot of The Woman in White, and as I mentioned above, it was the structure and writing that made The Quick very classic-like. Suddenly, there were multiple stories, multiple narrators, chapters of correspondence or journal entries, and big long sections of backstory. There were rival groups and vampire hunters and innocent bystanders. There were unfinished stories that never got proper conclusions – but not in a dissatisfying way. In a realistic way that was perfectly satisfying. And the note the book ended on…bliss! There has been some question as to the possibility that this might be a setup for a sequel, but I sincerely hope not. Yes, there was uncertainty, but that uncertainty made the book. I had chills reading the last line, even though honestly, I knew what was going to happen. I like not knowing. I like the wondering. The book may end on an uncertain note, but it is definitely concluded. A sequel, I fear, would draw it out needlessly. This was a perfect standalone.
It’s been a long time since I actively read classics on a regular basis. The Quick, while not a classic, reminded me why I love classics so much. Indeed, immediately after I finished it, I began listening to the audiobook of Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. I don’t think my praise can ring higher than that.
Performance: This audiobook was read by Simon Slater. It was my first experience with Slater, and I thought he did a pretty good job. All the characters were distinguishable, and there was no melodrama in the reading, where there easily could have been. The one negative for me was that a few of the accents (mainly French and German) were a bit exaggerated, and I tend to dislike that. That’s just a personal pet-peeve of mine, though, and otherwise it was a good audio experience.