Those of you who’ve read the critically and popularly acclaimed ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian’ will know Lewycka’s writing is engaging, quirky, eccentric and full of zest; so another title by her seemed the perfect choice for January. As a group we thought her writing style was all that I’ve described, but ‘We’re all made of Glue’ didn’t work as well as ‘Tractors’ for a few reasons, some of which irritated some of our readers.
This black comedy was easy to read, hence everybody finished it. The issue of aging was treated in the black comedy style you’d expect through the grandly comic character of Mrs Naomi Shapiro and it worked well. The crass stereotypes, such as the Northern father, a retired miner obviously; the woman who wanted to be more exciting and glamorous then found her solution in crotchless red knickers didn’t work so well, but the novel really came unstuck in international politics. We felt that instead of being an integral part of the story it was a crude addition to the plot, with the Arab-Israeli conflict described as though following a look on Wikipedia, and resolved around the rancid dinner table at Mrs Shapiro’s. It was this simplistic treatment of very complex and serious issues including the holocaust, Palestine, religious extremisim that irked most of our readers.
Not all bad, Lewycka clearly has an eye for the grotesque and through this creates very vivid characters. The novel begins with an estranged middle aged couple who after a series of terrible glue metaphors are reconciled at the end, this makes for a very human approach to looking at the often isolating and fragmented society that makes up modern London. Through the wife, Georgie Sinclair, we meet the heroine of the book, Naomi Shapiro, who turns out to be an imposter and not Naomi at all. This doesn’t detract from the flirtatious, vulnerable character of Mrs Shapiro who shares her philosophy on life and men with ‘darlink’ Georgie: ‘No need to be shy, Georgine. When you see a good man, you must grebbit.’ Georgie goes on to ‘greb’ one of two caricatured estate agents, who along with social workers are portrayed in the most cynical terms.
Bold characterisation extends to the cats that Mrs Shapiro surrounds herself with, particularly the violent, selfish and predatory Wonderboy. Personally if he was in my neighbourhood I’d stay in with my cat and read a good book, possibly another by Lewycka, as for all that wasn’t quite right with this title, she’s still an entertaining writer and it really wasn’t all wrong.