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Past Caring (1987)

Past Caring (1987)

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3.99 of 5 Votes: 5
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055213144X (ISBN13: 9780552131445)

About book Past Caring (1987)

I'm hovering between a 3 and a 4 on this.I love Goddard's later books and this shares some good things with them: it's a gripping page-turner, written with intelligence and extensive background knowledge, while never getting above itself or claiming to be more than the clever piece of escapism it is. I liked the way that he paralleled many of the issues and themes of the Edwardian part of the story in the present day: e.g. the Suffragette movement was juxtaposed with a battle-of-the-sexes storyline in Martin's life, the idea of betrayal in male friendship between Strafford and Couch was echoed in the relationship between Martin and Alec.However, there were also a number of things that I didn't like. Unusually for Goddard, most of the "surprise" twists were infinitely predictable. I felt that elements of the action and language in the Edwardian era were anachronistic (I find it hard to imagine that an upper-middle class man of that era would say things like "What's the problem?" or refer to his "fiancee"). The book felt about 100 pages too long. There was some cardboard characterisation, with villainous toffs who wouldn't have looked out of place tying a girl to a railway line while cackling demonically through their pantomime moustaches and one character who came across as an adolescent boy's fantasy. Also, presumably this wasn't Goddard's fault, but my edition was appallingly typeset, giving the impression that a handwritten draft had been computer scanned and nobody had bothered to proofread it afterwards, as we had "dimrer" for "dinner", "fmd" for "find" and similar howlers on virtually every other page.Most of all, I found his take on women's rights a bit disturbing. For a book which dealt with women's struggle for power, it was surprisingly malecentric. Yes, there were strong, intelligent female characters, but they were both viewed through the eyes of blokes who fancied them, leaving the impression that it is possible for women to be clever and sassy and to be taken seriously by men, but only if they're also sexy. Indeed, there was far too much emphasis for my liking on the advisability of women using their feminine wiles to get what they want - as one of the characters puts it, "The Suffragettes should have fluttered their eyelashes instead of their banners" - again seemingly implying that women who're not sexy shouldn't have any rights. I'm actually surprised that the narrative seemed in favour of women's suffrage, as Goddard's apparent views seemed only a step away from "Why do women need the vote? They can always use their feminine wiles to get their husbands to vote the way they want."I do take the point which the novel also makes - that in sexual relationships, women aren't always the innocent victim and men the evil seducer. But I think even that was handled a bit cack-handedly, with one of the main examples of the manipulative seductress not given a voice at all and another written so much from the perspective of her male admirer (and, in my opinion, so implausibly).Still, it was a very satisfying read, which conveyed quite a lot about what can be quite a dry period in English political history and made it seem interesting, without getting too teacherish.

Read for Transworld's Great Transworld Crime CaperWhat appealed to me the most about Past Caring is the way it entwines two stories: Strafford’s memoir is told in its entirety, while in the here and now Martin Radford, our far-from-flawless protagonist searches for the answers that have painfully eluded Strafford in life. I immediately took to poor conscientious Edwin, so brutally condemned for crimes he appeared to have no knowledge of. Was this true though? Did he not tamper with the truth in order to present himself as a wronged, innocent man looking to clear his name? While I wanted to believe what the memoir said, there was always this question whispering in the back of my mind. It just got worse the further I proceeded in the book: Goddard’s characters are almost never what they seem, so just as Martin grows more and more suspicious along the way, I too started to believe that everyone in the book had an ulterior motive.The urge I felt to see Martin solving the mystery and to find answers to my own questions (“what is Martin’s dark secret? What does Eve really want? How will Elizabeth take the truth?”) coupled with the author’s poetic writing style, kept pulling me onwards in this tome of a book.Despite the fact that I liked reading this novel, I did not enjoy it enough to rate it more than three stars. There is no question that Goddard is a talented writer with an eye for detail, but I can’t help thinking his book could have made a better novel with less pages. Also, some characters were not always easy to identify with… Eve for example, or even Martin himself. As for the ending, I believe it’s a good and plausible one that befits the story, as it once again emphasizes the weak and ugly in Sellick’s and Martin’s character. It is therefore a pity that, simply having been misdirected one too many times, I kept expecting yet another plot twist up till the end.

Do You like book Past Caring (1987)?

My first RG book was "Sight Unseen", picked up on a whim in a supermarket and enjoyed. Recently I came upon 6 of his books in a 3 for £5 promotion in Morrisons... so obviously I had to buy all 6 for £10! I decided to start with RG's first novel, the one I'm reviewing now. Martin, the narrator/protaganist, turns out to be a pretty pathetic chap. Despite being well qualified and having both teacher and historian on his CV, he is naive, gullible and misses some pretty obvious clues. Knowing that RG is an excellent writer, I guess I should give him credit for creating a flawed, vulnerable character rather than putting it down to him fitting the character to the story while finding his feet. To be fair, Past Caring is played out by an eclectic cast of well drawn characters, so perhaps my observations about Martin, who after all is quite likeable, are mischievous and unfair.The story can be described as a historical mystery, starting with Martin in the late 1970s as a bit of a scrounging layabout. He visits a friend on the island of Madeira where he meets a rich South African who occupies the former residence of Edwin Strafford, a Cabinet minister in the early 20th century. We jump back in time as Martin reads Strafford's secret memoirs, which provide few answers but throw up many questions. Before long, he is back in England to solve the mystery behind the memoirs. The more Martin discovers, the further the mystery deepens, as theories are arrived at then discarded. The reader is drawn in and becomes desperate to know the answers, but RG cleverly prods Martin in the wrong direction and keeps us in suspense. The plot weaves rather than twists and turns, but even at this early stage in his career, RG knows how to spin a good yarn and I was enthralled throughout. Good job really, after I bought all those books of his! Anyone who enjoys a good English mystery, particularly with a bit of history thrown in, should love Past Caring - as long as you can cope with a protaganist who's a bit slow on the uptake.
—Joe Stamber

The first three hundred pages of this book were absolutely riveting -- I could not put it down, this story of a out-of-work historian in the 1970s who stumbles upon an old, turn-of-the-century mystery involving a British cabinet member and his mysterious fall from grace. I suspect this first half was so riveting because it was the memoir of the cabinet member in question and his circumstances were fascinating. Alas, the second part of the book involves the contemporary historian solving the mystery, and finding himself in danger for being so nosy, that the entire story falls apart, becoming predictable and annoying. As disappointed as I was in the second half of the book (and it's a whopper at over 600 pages), I am willing to give another one of Goddard's books a try, although this next one, it should be noted, I ordered from the library so as not to waste my money if it turns out to be a predictable dud. :)

This novel tells two stories, firstly that of an early 20th century British cabinet minister, Edwin Strafford, who suddenly and mysteriously loses his job and his fiance without a clue as to why this is happening to him. His career is ruined and he ends up a minor consular official in Madeira. It is also about a young historian Martin Radford, divorced and unemployed and visiting a friend in Madeira in the 1970s. He is hired to investigate the story of Edwin Strafford, starting with a recenty discovered Strafford journal. The story is well plotted, well-written in a style reminiscent of the early 20th century. (I think I might have liked it if the style had varied more between the journal and the more modern story.)

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