The Square Book Review

“He enjoys the habitual goings on in the Square too; the trees, blossoming at the right time, birds, flowers springing up in the central garden. He likes the parallel human regularity. The bin men on a Wednesday. The piano teacher turning up like clockwork for her pupils in various houses during the week. The men from the council, weeding the beds. They almost feel like characters in a drama.”

Author: Rosie Millard                                          Published: 2015                                         Pages: 300

The Square is a novel which follows the lives of a few different families in a London suburb. Most of the narrative discusses uneventful moments in the families’ every day lives with the climax of the novel coming with the night of the Talent Show which is being held in the Square. Each family have their own problems and quirks but all of them cherish the place in which they live. The novel contains a plethora of interesting characters, from middle-aged women squandering away money they don’t have (but want everyone to think they do) to children forced to take piano lessons by their middle-class parents. This novel is certainly not dull.

Picking a favourite character was hard, a statement which I think shows Millard’s success at creating such interesting characters. They were all different enough to be interesting but also had similar ideologies and personas which added an irony whenever they berated each other. From Tracey who worries that she doesn’t have enough money to live in the Square to Harriet who worries that she’s not good enough and is constantly jealous of Jane who is married to Patrick and having an affair with Harriet’s husband Jay. You can see just from that sentence why this novel was circus of individuals, and I didn’t even name all the main characters.

There is evidence through Millard’s writing that this is her first novel and I found that constantly switching narratives throughout became somewhat confusing. Narrative changes are usually something I enjoy and have done in the past with novels such as Kathyrn Stockett’s The Help. Obviously, there is an element of the novel which needs to feel crowded because there are so many perspectives in The Square; however, changing perspective between chapters is one thing, but changing them within chapters just became exhausting. In addition to this, by changing within chapters, Millard made her chapter titles become redundant. Most of the chapters had a name at the top indicating whose perspective we were seeing the Square from, but because this never actually stayed the same, the name then became incorrect.

There was something familiar about the Square and I don’t doubt that everyone can relate to at least one event or person in the novel’s 300 pages. Millard begins the novel in medias res (in the middle of everything) and even once I’d turned the last page I didn’t feel any closure – but I hope this is what she wanted. While there is no sense of a real ending, Millard gives us a snapshot of the lives of some ordinary people in a London suburb and so a satisfying ending would be unnecessary. With affairs, scandalous gossip about the neighbours and an extravagant artist with moulds of his wife’s genitals in his bathroom, this novel was anything but predictable.

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