This book has received mixed reviews, some marvelling at Grimshaw’s sparce and satirical prose and others questioning the credibility of characters. The Night Book started its life as a short story (published in The Listener, January 2009) and this remains as the first part of the book. However, you can almost see where it’s been stitched together and, for me, I felt the polished, mysterious, compelling beginning belied the rest of the story.
Set in Auckland, Dr Simon Lampton is battling family problems and an uneasy relationship with his two daughters, one of whom is adopted. Meanwhile, Roza Hallwright – wife of the Hallwright – is battling her own demons and trying to stay out of the lime-light as her husband becomes Prime Minister. Simon and Roza’s connection came as no surprise to the reader but, somehow, it felt that this connection was holding the whole story together. While some characters were clearly based on real-life New Zealand policital and public figures, others seemed flimsy and, at times, embarrassingly stereotypical. Simon flees his home troubles to slum it in South Auckland with poor, solo Mereana and Roza seeks comfort in a shallow friend whose life seems to consist of manicures and getting high.
The underlying idea in this novel was an intriguing one. However, as I didn’t connect with the selfish main characters or really believe in the way they behaved, I was left questioning whether this was a comment on society or just an observation of a small part of it.