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The Many by Wyl Menmuir – An Unsettling and Atmospheric Debut

11th September, 2016

The Many by Wyl Meimur

An abandoned house in a secluded fishing village has a new owner. What are the stories surrounding the previous owner? And why are the villagers sceptical of the new comer?

The 2016 Man Booker longlist was a surprising one. When The Many by Wyl Menmuir published by Salt publishing got longlisted, it took the literary world by surprise. And so I began the book with high expectations

In Brief :

A young man, Timothy, takes an abandoned cottage in a fishing village, hoping to fix it up before being joined by his girlfriend. The villagers view him as an intruder. So does Ethan, who blames himself for the death of the previous owner of the house, Perran. When Ethan and Timothy go on a boat together, do their previous grudges and regrets affect the kinship?

My thoughts :

After I read the novel, I was confused about my thoughts as well as clueless about the elements in the book that might have impressed the jury. I went through a few reviews of the book and noticed that readers fall into two main categories with this book – those who really enjoyed and those who didn’t. No in-betweeners.

  1. Writing :

The writing is sparse and it would be a good example of what you call atmospheric prose. The scene where the story takes place comes alive as you read on, the fishing village, the abandoned house and the suspicious villagers. I loved Meimur’s eye for minor details that truly enrich the story. The novel is told alternating between the present and flashbacks.

  1. Atmosphere :

There are strong hints of Gothic elements, in the inhospitable nature of the place and  mystery surrounding the abandoned house. There are environmental disasters showcased in poisoned waters, mutated fish and empty containers that mark a no-go zone offshore

  1. Pacing :

The pacing is slow. From the beginning of the novel we are presented with a mystery of who Perran, the previous owner of the house, is. The question was not answered even after 60% of the book was done. And may I say the book gives blurred answers to all questions it raises?

  1. Plot :

This is not one of the novels that is plot driven. Lovers of Anita Desai might enjoy the book. (I am a fan of Anita Desai, but sadly this book did not work for me).

The Many by Wyl Meimur

Final Verdict :

This is a really short book, almost a novella, with only 160 pages in a physical copy. However, nothing much happens in the book and leaves the reader with pretty much the same questions they began with in the first few pages. I think if you are curious about the book you must give it a try. For only you can decide which category of readers you will fall into.

Title : The Many
Author : Wyl Menmuir
Publisher : Salt Publishing
Published : 2016
Language : English
Pages : 160
Rating : 2.5/5

Let's discuss

Have you read The Many? What are your thoughts on the debut? Which of the Man Booker longlisted books of this year do you think will make it to the shotlist?

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The Many
This Post Has 26 Comments
  1. Great, honest review. It’s always so disappointing to go into a book with high expectations (especially when they’re nominated for awards and such) and then to end up not liking it. That has happened to me several times this year.

  2. I’m obsessed with endings answering questions and summing things up – I HATE when endings don’t do that, so this sounds like it totally wouldn’t be the book for me. That being said, fantastic review with beautiful photos as always! Your blog is just so dang classy I can’t even handle it!

      1. Then again, perhaps there isn’t anything wrong with either you or the book, but rather just that it’s not a good match for your reading taste! Or, as you’ve mentioned below, your reading mood. A book out-of-time maybe…

  3. This book came to my attention when it appeared on the longlist – the story sounds intriguing, and your comments on the sparse prose and the slow moving nature of the story interests me, so I’m sure I’ll read it sometime soon. It’s always a shame when a book doesn’t meet your expectations. Thanks for posting an honest review!

  4. Have you read any others on the longlist? I read Lucy Barton and didn’t like it much at all – mainly because, interestingly, it has very sparse prose and nothing happens! Maybe there’s a theme here.

    1. I would agree on that. I have read Lucy Barton and not liked it for the same reasons as well. Perhaps it is a personal taste of mine that I dont like sparse prose plus weak plot. I do seem to enjoy the plotless overly descriptive books though.

  5. ‘Marmite’ sounds about right. Sometimes books like this can grab you at the right moment (On Chesil Beach wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea, but I read it on a quiet day on holiday and it captivated me)… but sounds like this wasn’t one of those!

        1. If you are interested you can check the works of Anita Desai. I enjoy her descriptions. The writing is very atmospheric and transports you to the setting she has in mind. However plot wise, she does not do much.

          A good example of a book where there are unanswered questions at the end of the novel, yet an enjoyable read for me is The Wind up Bird Chronicle by Murakami.

  6. I’ll probably avoid that book. Thank you. 🙂
    So you read with a Kindle? Interesting. (Careful with that coffee cup on the left). That means you can get just about any (E-)book you want regardless of the local bookstore… Hmmm. Food for thought.
    have a lovely week.

    1. Yes, I started using the Kindle recently, a few months ago. I am finding it very handy for books that are high on my wishlist but are expensive. Also love it for its light weight while travelling. Otherwise I do not prefer reading an e-copy. Thank you, hope you have a great week as well.

  7. The Man Booker long list was full of surprises this year! (I was a bit puzzled by a few of the titles.) I’ve just finished His Bloody Project, which is the only one that made the short list that I’ve read so far. Looking forward to reading Hot Milk.

  8. I’m not sure that this is one for me, and I don’t think I will be trying it. While I do love the description of the atmosphere, and I do love character driven reads, I’m not a fan of the ending kind of leaving us with the same questions we start off with in the beginning of the novel as well.

  9. Really well-written review! I have recently finished reading this book, and I have to say I LOVED it. The uneasy, unsettling aspects of the book were really well done. But what I loved most is that the ending is open to more than one interpretation. I could think of at least three such interpretations, each one as likely as the last. There are clues, subtly hidden among the dreams/flashback sequences that tell us that the actual plot of the story isn’t really what it seems. I love books that aren’t completely black and white, that make me ponder over it for hours after reading it. I will be looking forward to what Menmuir has to offer next.

    1. Oh great! I am glad you loved it. I agree about the book not being black and white. Which is why I think I liked it lesser. or maybe I should have read it at a different time with a different mindset. Thank you for visiting.

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