I first heard about this book, years after its publication, when all the reviews of another book said something like ‘Yes, all very well and good as a study of family dynamics, but The Believers did it better’. I’ve forgotten what the more recent book was called, but I went looking for The Believers.
*Spoiler alert* I probably wouldn’t have read this if I’d known that a parent was going to fall seriously ill and die. We’ve had enough of that sort of thing round here. I’m not in the mood for tragedy.
But, no. This isn’t a book about death; it’s about how we move through life, the choices we make, how we end up stuck in patterns of behaviour, and how we might break out of those patterns. It’s sharp and warm and funny and compassionate and full of everyday struggles. The review that reflected my feelings most described it as ‘an energetic tragicomedy with the bite not just of cynicism, but also heartfelt feelings.’
The book has a shiny cover, an interesting marketing device. This is more literary than pulp fiction and it was a best seller. Well done, Penguin.
If it was eligible now it would probably win the Booker Prize- this year’s judges have defined ‘the best book’ as one that is accessible to all and zips along. The Believers is much better than the only one of the shortlist I’ve read (AD Miller, Snowdrop), has hearts on the front, and people read it. A retrospective nomination perhaps?