Wednesday Reads – The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy


Take a work-from-home dressmaker, an Irish dancing costume, an adulterous client and a very long Auckland blackout and you pretty much get this book, The Last Days of the National Costume.  The premise is intriguing, the characters and their relationships with each other hold such promise but the execution left me extremely disappointed and at times downright annoyed.  Sometimes I felt like screaming at this books, “For God’s sake, just get on with it!”

To be quite frank I loathed the writing style from about fifty pages in.  It was pretentious and just trying to damn hard to be clever when it wasn’t necessary.  The story dragged to the point of utter frustration and although I finished it (I’d given up on too many books lately and my reading challenge was slipping) it was painful to the end…. which was also pretty ordinary.

There was one highlight though, one thing that suggested that Anne Kennedy had a better book than this in her (and perhaps she has produced that before or since).  The tales of the client’s childhood in Ireland, with the desperate poverty and religious divisions, were wonderful.  She captured his voice and his story so much better in these sections than she did anywhere else with any other character.  Such a pity she didn’t assume this low key, plain speaking approach to the rest of the story.

Obviously not one I’d be recommending, only two and a half stars from me.  But I’ve got something special coming next week.  And as always, I’m interested in what you’ve all been reading lately to add to my must-read list.

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3 Responses to Wednesday Reads – The Last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy

  1. Jenny Pearson says:

    Hi Barbara, wow!! you are the second person that I know of that has not recommended this book – it was on my borrow list for the local library after I read a review on it in the Herald Sun weekend reading – now I’ll just bypass it for something much better, can’t waste valuable reading time on unnecessary books can we!!! I am reading a really fluffy girlie book called The Friday Knitting Club – being a knitter it appealed to me – and as the previous two books I read had been The Railwayman and 12 Years a Slave, you can see my need for something a little light hearted. I might add that I would recommend both of these books, The Railwayman was a little slow to get into, but totally worth it as was 12 Years A Slave, both great books for their historical significance, and the sheer determination of the human spirit. I am on the waiting list for The Book Thief (would rather read the book than see the movie) and Dear Leader – an insight to life in North Korea, both books may be followed by another fluffy one just to get my balance back, although I do really enjoy a gutsy read.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I love your balancing act there Jenny. I’m reading something light and easy (in terms of reading rather than topic) at the moment after a few difficult reads. One I think you’d really like but I’ll write about that in a couple of weeks. I’m just about to get onto the library website so I will reserve both books you recommended (and then look for something lighter!)
      I wholeheartedly agree about there being too much great reading material to be had to waste time on something not good enough, so yes, bypass The Last Days of the National Costume. Have you read the Street Sweeper by Elloitt Pearlman. I reviewed it a while ago I think. It’s brilliant, gutsy, but heavy going…. sounds just right for you!

  2. Pingback: What I read in 2014 | The New Good Life

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