I wasn’t nearly as pleased as I thought I would be with Ludmilla’s Broken English (DBC Pierre). As I reported in the linked entry, I was blown away by Pierre’s first novel Vernon ‘God’ Little which was farcical and nonsensical and just how I like things. I think that Pierre tried to achieve that again for his second novel but he missed his chance somewhere along the way.
The premise of the novel is thusly: in England, two conjoined twins, Blair and Bunny, are finally separated in their thirties. Bunny is the sharp and cynical twin, while Blair is the impressionable and innocent one. They both go to London to start their new lives. Cut to rural Russia, where we find Ludmilla and her tumultuous family living in abject poverty. Through the course of the story, Blair is tricked into joining a website to find a Russian bride; while at the same time, Ludmilla finds herself becoming a potential bride. Obviously, they’re paired off.
So far so good, I’m sure you’ll agree. This plot should have the capacity for lots of hilarity to ensue between the childlike Blair who believes that Ludmilla is in love with him, and the sharp-tongued Ludmilla who cares only about getting money to her family. Add the mocking and scornful Bunny to the mix, and the story was surely on to a winner.
Alas not. First, Blair and Ludmilla didn’t meet until the book had almost reached the last chapter, and their interaction was never developed. Second, the majority of the story concentrated on Bunny and Blair’s relationship as they started their lives in London ‘apart’, and on Ludmilla and her ever-fighting family (both story lines got very tedious very quickly). And third, all of the secondary characters introduced into the story remained unnecessary, frankly, because they added nothing to the plot and just seemed to get in the way of something good happening. There was also a potentially interesting allusion to some sort of ‘New World Order’ (a curfew in London at night, for example), but this idea was never explored either.
At the end of the book, I thought to myself, ‘That’s it? I read all of that for nothing!’ and that was largely the impression I still have of it: it was light (and not in a good way), quite probably rushed, and pretty shoddily put together in places. In short, it was a waste of a great opportunity for a very funny story.
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Now, I’m onto Everything is Illuminated, which is much more promising so far.