Book Club 5 – Soulless

Date: June 2011
Time: 5pm – 7pm
Agreed on: The Line Of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst
Discussed: Soulless by Gail Carriger

The first in the Parasol Protectorate series.

A polarising book – those who enjoyed it really did while those who didn’t were equally vocal against it!

So bear in mind that for each positive or negative point, half of us totally disagreed.

Unfortunately, one or two members had thought that this was a young adult novel and had quite enjoyed it. Then, upon finding out that it wasn’t, downgraded their opinion of it. As a YA book it was pretty good; as a book written for adults, they found it less enjoyable – though still better than Twilight! Comparisons were made to Point Horror, the Hardy Boys and Scooby Doo though most agreed that it was a very accessible read and those worked in libraries said they’d order the series in for sure.

A few of the book clubbers found the primary protagonist – Alexia – to be identifiable for the first half of the book. She was feisty, independent and forthright. Also kickass…but only when appropriately dressed! However, for the latter half of the book, her obsession with her male counterpart alienated some of us. 

Though this book was set in a steam punk world, there was surprisingly little detail about it. What there was painted an interesting picture of a world where supernaturals were accepted in a tolerate Victorian Britain. However, given the vast amount of actual technological advances made during this period, it was a shame that they weren’t explored in more detail.  As one member put it ‘too much supernatural romance, not enough steam punk world’.

On the other hand, the mythology of the supernaturals was interesting, particularly relating to their ‘breeding’. (Then again there was a minority who thought that it was a shame that they used vampires and werewolves and failed to use any of the established mythology.)

Some felt that the supernatural romance was over-emphasised taking from the overall mystery of the book. There were certainly some very inappropriate make out sessions – like right in the middle of an escape or while someone (a supposed friend) was being tortured. As a love story; it was both obvious and really poorly explored. Alexia seemed to fall in love primarily because SOMEONE was attracted to her. 

The morality element was also mentioned. Despite being a very forward thinking woman; Alexia required a firm committment before proceding sexually – despite being prepared to go considerably more forward than other ladies of the time.

Another mentioned their irritation at the perspective shown regarding scientists. Progress and technology were always shown in a negative light, while ‘natural’ things were seen as being cute and cuddly. There was no acknowledgement on all the cultural aspects that have evolved from the pursuit of knowledge. 

A common complaint was the language used. The book lacked structure and was in places clumsy without subtlety.

However, what really irked was that there were unanswered questions at the end of the book. Soulless was an obvious scene setter, never meant to stand alone. Personally, I found this to be rather arrogant on behalf of the author. 
The Verdict
Next Book Choice!
The Line Of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst  
This was the Man Booker Prize in 2004

We had a rather delicious cinnamon crumble cake provided for us by @meulop! 

The recipe is now available in our sweet tooth section!!


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