It was not until their first date that Bridger Martin learned that Dana Halter's deafness was profound and permanent. By then he was falling in love. Now she is in a courtroom, accused of assault with a deadly weapon, auto theft, and passing bad checks, among other things. As Dana and Bridger eventually learn, William "Peck" Wilson has stolen Dana's identity and has been living a blameless life of criminal excess at her expense. And as they set out to find him, they begin to test to its very limits the life they have begun to build together.
"I am," he said. "I am a nice guy." And he meant it.
I picked Talk Talk up on the basis of previous knowledge of Boyle's short stories and The Tortilla Curtain, all of which I have enjoyed (to different extents but they've definitely left a good impression) and was, therefore, excited to start a new book of his. But, sadly, this book was a let-down.
First and foremost: How was this intended as a "suspenseful" chase or "mystery"? Sure, Dana and Bridger are chasing someone, however, it's anything but suspenseful or a mystery. Well, admittedly, the book at least tries to be suspenseful at some points (it never really works) but it never tries to be a mystery – after all, half of the book is written from the perspective of the perpetrator/villain. If I had to chose any kind of buzzword(s) I'd go with things on the line of "exploring characters" or "exploring relationships" because it is so much more focused on the relationship between Dana and Bridger than on the actual crime. Or, in other words, the crime and how they (Dana + Bridger) deal with it is more of an amplifier/conductor for the portrayal of their relationship. Moreover, I find this book works a lot better if it's just focusing on those aspects, although it was drawn out waayy too much just to create suspension.
Which brings me to my second point: This book was too long. I'm pretty sure almost all of the Peck-chapters could have been left out because he was super boring anyway (which I'll get to in a second) and most of the "ups, he got away AGAIN" twists were simply annoying. I felt, continuously, like the book was about to draw to a close only to be extended, unnecessarily, for another 200/150/100/50 (... you get the gist) pages.
Then there is the issue of Peck. Urgh, poor Peck. At first I was pretty excited about the prospect of a morally ambiguous antagonist to relate to but it became increasingly obvious that Peck was anything but "morally ambiguous". He's extremely one-dimensional, evil for evil's sake. And it was so frustrating. He didn't even have enough empathy to realize that people might be angry at him when he scams them. What.
But, to give credit where credit is due, I really didn't think this book was all bad. As I said, Bridger and Dana are nicely developed characters, their relationship seemed believable, albeit sometimes a little clumsy (the depiction, not their "actual" relationship – it is, too, but that's kind of the point). Further, I liked the deaf-aspect, although Boyle could really have made use of a deaf character more often (a mystery with a deaf character as victim? Come on, don't tell me that couldn't have made every scene where Dana is on her own incredibly suspenseful because she'd never know whether someone was sneaking up on her).
Overall, this book felt more like a disappointment than an actually bad book. It wasn't terrible, it just also wasn't good.
As I just said: Not bad but not good either. 2.5/5 stars. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it but if you're looking for a real slow-burner, like so-slow-the-light-almost-vanishes-a-couple-of-times, you might just enjoy this. But don't suspect any mystery/thriller vibes.
Name: Talk Talk
Deutscher Titel: Talk Talk
Author: T.C. Boyle
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: (My edition had exactly) 340 (pages but goodreads tells me that all the editions have something between 352 and about) 420 (pages? So... I guess you'll be in for a surprise.)