I wanted to read Astragal as soon as I saw the blurb- it sounded like my perfect book, particularly as for a while I’ve been a bit obsessed with all things ’60s. Once I found out a bit about Albertine Sarrazin’s life, I was even more eager to start it.
My edition included an introduction by Patti Smith, in which she writes about the profound effect the book has had on her life. Perhaps her lyrical description of it meant I entered the book with unreasonably high expectations, but in the end the novel just left me cold. To be honest, I enjoyed reading Smith’s introduction more than the book itself.
Astragal started off well- it opens with the protagonist escaping from prison, and breaking her ankle as a result. The stream of consciousness writing gives it a hasty tone, which worked nicely when combined with all the action of the first few pages. Furthermore, Sarrazin’s descriptions are just beautiful. I thought for sure I was onto a winner.
It took me a while after that to realise I simply wasn’t enjoying it anymore. The plot had become plodding, and rather than provide momentum the stream of consciousness style felt like laziness on the author’s part. The quirks of Sarrazin’s writing, such as her uncontrolled usage of the ellipsis- there’s at least one on almost every page- were starting to get on my nerves. Additionally, I found the main romantic relationship unbelievable, and the characters it centres around unlikeable. This, in my opinion, was one of the central flaws of the book.
I was worried this review would end up as a list of all the things I disliked about Astragal, and it has, but really there’s no other way I could write about such an underwhelming novel.