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I have to start with an immediate disclaimer - this is the first, and so far only, John Grisham book that I've read. I'm more of a technothriller person, and not really into legality and courtrooms. So when my girlfriend, an avid Grisham fan, said I should read this book, I was actually looking forward to reading something a bit different to what I would normally look at. I'm afraid to say, however, that I remain unconverted.
The story of The Chamber revolves around 2 men: Sam Cayhall, a man who faces the titular gas chamber, and Adam Hall, Sam's grandson lawyer who is trying to get him off death row. I'm not going to go into detail about what happens in the book as it would take too long, but it is essentially a lesson on the rights and wrongs of the death penalty in America. I can tell you that as a person with no real opinion on the subject, I finished the book and still had no real opinion on the subject, but that is not the fault of the author, just my own personal viewpoint.
I have to say that I didn't enjoy the book. I felt that Grisham's narrative style did not lend itself to easy reading. The actual story is very compelling, and the characters and their interactions with each other are excellently created and developed, but I just felt that events were being purely described - you are told in intimate detail about trifling details, like walks that the protagonists take, or places they visit. You aren't told nearly enough about how they actually feel, or what they think, or what they hope and fear. Converstaions are at times dry and boring, and it was often a real effort to make yourself read another 5 page conversation between two ultimately inconsequential characters about nothing in particular. My girlffriend assurs me that Grisham's other novels are different, and maybe they are, but I'm afriad that reading The Chamber has not persuaded me to rush and buy his other novels to check them out.
Finally, we come to the ending of the book, and apart from the main thrust of the story (will Sam Cayhall live or die), nothing is resolved. You may think that this is all that matters, but in every story there are subplots and minor storylines that require conclusion, and I felt that nothing was closed or dealt with. The story ends without really ending, and the result is a rather unsatisfied feeling on completing the last page.
Ultimately, I felt this novel had a message it was trying to convey to its reader, and whether or not it conveyed it depends mostly on the readers' original viewpoint, and the strength of their belief in it. As a legal thriller, it has its moments, but unfortunately often becomes weighed down by its own dull, listless narrative style, and is not an enjoyable read. Grisham fans may love, but I'm very sorry to say that personally, I didn't.
Looks like it's beeen a while since anyone read this, or indeed this particular book. I was lucky to have read a readers Digest "condensed" version of this and thought it superb! all the long, dry dialogue had been edited out! Richard.
Lightpants 11.08.2003 15:38
I am with you 100%. I've read almost all his books, and this was the only one that I couldn't finish. It's still sat on a shelf with a bookmark 1/4 of the way through - been there 2.5 years! Don't let it out you off though, his others are fantastic - always, without doubt, better than the films.
christopherj84 24.07.2001 16:47
I don't agree with your opinion but is a good one so VH. Chris. (If you think the book is bad, watch the film.)