Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill (Penguin Books Ltd, 2004)

14566588 - Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill (Penguin Books Ltd, 2004)

I DO judge a book by its cover, to a degree, as I admit I can shallowly be drawn in to reading a novel if the picture on its cover is strange or pretty enough.  The peculiar image on the front of Ursula, Under effected me in such a way and I was further enticed by the book’s synopsis and the critical acclaims listed on the back.   Unfortunately, that’s going to be the extent of my compliments for Hill’s work.  I rarely give up on a novel and I struggled through about 156 pages of this book before I threw in the towel (with about 320-some pages to go!).

The idea behind the novel is original enough: in modern-day America a young girl falls into an old mine shaft and the whole country is urgently awaiting her rescue.  Meanwhile, her ancestry is traced back some two thousand years to gradually reveal how this young girl came to exist and ultimately show how every life is worth saving.  In one instance, a woman watching the news story of Ursula on her television unsympathetically gripes about saving Ursula when “no one cares” about saving “a piece of white trash”.  Hill strives to emphasize the idea that no one life may be summed up so easily as each life is a miraculous accumulation of chance encounters and circumstances.  For me Ursula, Under lacked momentum.  I like an introduction to the characters as the plot-line progresses, as opposed to introducing me to all of characters before anything happens.  Even as I reached the 100th page, the characters had confronted few complications and I found myself distractedly fanning through the pages or staring at the artwork on the cover.

I consider reading as my treat at the end of a productive day and I relish burrowing under my blankets with a book to relax.  Ursula, Under exhausted me and for putting up with 150 pages, I felt I had been pretty patient.  I don’t intend on keeping the book in my collection but until I make my trip to the Goodwill, Ursula Under will have to just sit on my bookshelf and look pretty.

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