Skinner’s Drift is Lisa Fugard’s debut novel, and I think it’s a bit of a fraud. There’s some good language, many interesting characters–so many that the book loses focus. However, the important flaw is the way Fugard treats the secret that lies at the heart of the story. She commits the unpardonable sin of hiding that secret with no motivation except that it serves her authorial purpose.
We spend many pages inside the minds of everyone who knows the secret. It’s something that has changed their lives, yet not for a moment of the hours we wander through their memories and feelings do they ever think about it. Why? Not because they wouldn’t, but because Fugard wants to save it till the end.
It’s a dishonest writing technique that irritates me enough to invalidate whatever else is good about the Skinner’s Drift, and even though the New York Times made it a notable book, there’s only one reason it will get on my notable list–as an example of what not to do.