I said when I finished 1974 that I’d wait a while before starting the follow-up because I needed something lighter and I’d heard 1977 is darker.
Darker. Grimmer. Bleaker. Tougher.
Maybe it’s not that much worse than 1974 but it feels it. Maybe because you get to a lot of the tougher stuff earlier. Maybe it’s because I read it in a day (partly the pace pulled me in, mostly I wanted to read it before lending it to M. who’s asked to borrow it). Maybe because the ending is… not the ending I was hoping for.
1977 is a fictionalised account of the search for the Yorkshire Ripper. Two of the minor characters from 1974 – a policeman and a reporter – alternately narrate chapters of the story. They’re unreliable witnesses but they’re also morally compromised because of their own involvement with prostitutes. As with 1974 a complex web of crime, conspiracy and corruption unfolds.
The thing I remembered about Peace’s writing whilst reading 1977 was the frenetic pace, the surreal, confusing and slightly irritating prose style at times, the fact that you sometimes don’t really know what’s going on or who’s who, the fact that almost everyone is not a nice person and/or (usually and) a victim of human ugliness. All these things were true of 1974 and they were all down-sides but the things that made it worth reading were a kind of morbid fascination with the gruesome crimes, I’ll admit some titillation at unacceptable behaviour (think Life on Mars x100) and, perhaps most of all, the page-turning need to find out what happens next.
Well 1977 has these same strengths too but whilst I’m still fascinated and titillated, I’m also a little weary of the darkness. Crucially also, when I neared the end of the book I realised with a growing sense of anger that I wasn’t going to get all the answers to my questions about the plot. Don’t get me wrong 1977 has a conclusion to its own story, stories in fact – but there are also on-going elements which reach into the next book(s). I think if I’d realised that up front I’d’ve enjoyed it more. 1974 was much more self-contained.
At this stage I can’t see me wading through two more books of such tough material (with the uncomfortable feeling that part of me is enjoying it in the wrong way) just to find out what happens. Maybe – but it’ll be while I think.
6/10 – more of the same is not necessarily a good thing.