Monday, July 14, 2014

The Bestseller that Bombed (for me)

Oh my goodness, what didn't I like about this book?  The style, mostly. Wait.  The characters, mostly.  Then again...mostly the plot.  So, there you have it.  Looks like I was not fond of this book.  

What am I reading now?  Still Life with Bread Crumbs by the ever reliable Anna Quindlen.  Quindlen's easy style is a nice contrast to the themes running through this novel.  Rebecca Winter is an accomplished photographer with national recognition.  As the story opens, her career is in decline, her saving account in tow.  She sublets her NYC condo and takes a year lease on a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere. This gentle story of unexpected love at times reminds me of Under the Tuscan Sun, and that's not a bad thing.  Rebecca is a relateable character with dignity and an admirable presence.  Above all, she is not angry, vindictive or one-dimensional. And she is sane.  

Quindlen charms.  She has a delicate sense of humor that is always well-placed.  For example, although a bit over 60, city born and raised Rebecca has never seen a cow close up.  To her "They always seemed a little frightening, like farm machinery with an unpredictable personality."

Let me back up to Gone Girl for a few lines.  If you have read this book and liked it, that's good.  I always say there's the right book out there for everyone..  The popularity of this book baffled me, so I started digging around and found several sites dedicated to trashing and hating it.  I am not alone.  However, most people were unhappy with the ending and that colored their experience with the entire book.  I struggled right from the beginning, and by page 100 found the heavy narrative tedious and angering.  The story is told from two (supposedly opposing perspectives) but the characters share a common voice and syntax.  One in indistinguishable from the other. Neither one is likable.   Sentences are too long with little dialogue to break up the monotonous rhythm. 

Granted, I'm a purist when it comes to style.  Straightforward,  Simple.  Not a lot of ornamentation.  (I prefer music with the same qualities.  No baroque or crazy frilly sonatas for me).  The author uses far too many parentheticals, which are like little speed bumps (and in most cases, the info she offers in parens does not further the plot.).  Usually words captured by  parens are like theatrical asides - a character sharing a secret with the listener, or in this case, the reader.   But since the chapters are already narrated by the main characters, isn't everything written already a confidence shared between writer and reader, rendering the parenthesis redundant, or am I obsessing on those two little curved lines?

I won't trouble you with my thoughts on the Swiss cheese plot or the lame characters.  The whole book is like really, really really bad Shakespeare.  Lots of disguise plots, plots within plots and go nowhere plots. The Bard used those techniques sparingly, masterfully, and not all at once.  Flynn, not so much.

For me, the most interesting characters were the cat and the ottoman.

So, if you're reading this, liked the book and are feeling a little beat up, just remember, my book group threw rotten tomatoes at me for The Family Fang. The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, The Lonely Polygamist, The Lady Cyclist Guide to Kashgar,...the list goes on.  Still, I read.  Still I enjoy the search for characters that jump off the page and speak to me, settings that take me places I haven't been, real or imagined, and plots that get me thinking...and sometimes arguing and defending.  And that's where the fun begins.

(Anyway) thanks for stopping by (today).