The Quick by Lauren Owen

At the very beginning of Lauren Owen’s debut novel, The Quick, the reader is introduced to a very secretive and mysterious men’s club called the Aegolius. The number of initiates is kept to a minimum and a story is told than even when the Prince of Wales requested membership, he was turned away because the number had already been reached.

It’s the latter part of the nineteenth century and James, a young man right out of university, goes to London to try his hand at writing a play. He becomes roommates and later intimates with another previous acquaintance from Oxford. When the two men go out for a walk one night, dastardly misfortunes befall them and when James goes missing, his sister, Charlotte, arrives from Yorkshire to find her brother, which leads her to the doors of the enigmatic Aegolius club.

the quick

What initially drew me to The Quick was promise of a Gothic inspired novel set in the seedy corners of Victorian London. The book does begin this way and even has elements of such novels as it includes diary entries and other similar epistles.

However, about halfway through, something inexplicable happens–the novel becomes dreadfully dull and doesn’t pick up at all. Once James disappears, a never-ending slew of new characters are introduced. At first, I tried to keep them straight and then realized that none of them was particularly important. The narrative is thick and slow; every movement of every character is detailed for pages. If I never read about a character sitting down and sipping tea again, that day would be too soon.

I fear that Owen’s editors let her down immensely. The only conciliation is that her publisher masterfully worked up a publicity frenzy by not revealing a key plot point and adding a sense of “plot twist” around it. They also mustered up some top notch writers to blurb it. Sadly, about half of readers have ingested the proverbial Kool-Aid and rave about it on Goodreads, while the other half have the good sense to agree with me.

The writing is solid and decent. Yet, the author builds no discernible mood or landscape. This has been a huge reading letdown, which has added to my sparse posts here as this book was long and took up far too much of my time. Normally, I would’ve put the book down, but I was certain something would be a saving grace. Sadly, this was just a complete bomb.

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10 comments

    1. It had such a good premise. The “twist” was sort of given away in some publicity I read for it ages ago, but it really is so minuscule and barely carries weight. With the exception of one novel, most of my reads these past two months have been complete bummers. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck coming up!

      1. I think we’re all in the same boat. This seemed totally in my reading wheelhouse, but alas, it was a complete letdown. It appears as if many other reviewers for newspapers and whatnot, have similar feelings–first 100 pages are intriguing and then a complete collapse into boredom, too many characters, and not enough plot.

  1. Agreed – thanks for the heads up. The blurb and positive reviews were intriguing so your input is extremely valuable. I’m in a similar situation with a long book that I’m hoping will improve, but I feel that deep down I’m wasting time I could spend reading something better. It’s so tough when there’s a glimmer of hope, especially if it started out strongly.

    1. My pleasure. After I finished it, I promptly went over to goodreads and you can see that the more recent reader reviews offer more grim opinions. This was an utter waste of time and I’m more annoyed that it started out decently enough and then just completely went to pieces. I normally put the book cover image at the top, but I thought I needed to divide this post in half to distinguish between the interesting premise with the actual reality of reading it. I do hope your current book gets better or if not, at least your next read should be the best book of the summer.

  2. The marketing department on this book was definitely killing it, but — yeah. I’ve heard a lot of disappointed reviews, and not that many thrilled ones. :/ I guess that is the risk you run when you make everything about the Plot Twist.

    1. The reader reviews are for more to the point. If you read the reviews in the newspapers, you can tell when they disliked it, because many just talk about the plot with no discernible opinion or they mention the first 100 pages being interesting and then the often used words like “dull” begin to crop up.

  3. What a shame! But I guess it won’t be the only book this season to arrive on a cloud of hype that fades to nothing on contact with solid ground.

    1. Lately, I’ve been a bit disappointed with my summer reading. I’ve had a few hits, but otherwise just complete bombs. I was hesitant at first to review this because it’s a debut novel from a young writer, but she’s being published by a large house and has decent reviews placed all over the internet.

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