Friday, June 13, 2014

Bittersweet: A Novel Where Nothing Happens for the first 987 pages

Buying this book is a direct consequence of taking a recommendation from People magazine, perhaps not the most exemplary literary mag. As I recall, the review mentioned that it was a compelling mystery, great summer reading, an adventurous tale, etc. I'm halfway through the book and, at around page 200, here's what's happened so far: the narrator, Mabel, a nerdy college student with a dysfunctional family, has been invited to the summer home of her very rich, bitchy, and moody roommate, Ev. She has been there for like three weeks, and there have been a few parties and really too many extended family members to keep track of. Per the request of one of the weird aunts, Mabel has begun to explore the attic of one of the homes in search of more information about a family secret. That's it. That probably could've been covered in chapter one (the book also has chapter titles. "The Apology," and "The Secret" are two that spring to mind). The writing isn't bad, it's just that the plot is molasses slow and, at its heart, not that interesting. Who cares about a bunch of badly-behaved rich white people? Also, the secrets so far aren't that difficult to guess.  I'll give you an example.

The main spoiled girl, Ev, has a boyfriend who works on the estate, but she wants to keep their relationship a secret from her parents. Of course, the parents find out and they are enraged because (pick as many reasons as you think might apply):

1. They don't want their daughter to date someone who is of a lower social status.
2. They are worried that she will get in over her head and ruin her life.
3. The boy in question is, unbeknownst to either her or the guy, actually her illegitimate brother, making the relationship an incestuous one.

It's some combination of all of the above. I could see the brother/sister connection from a mile away; it was either that or he's really the true heir to the estate, which is probably also the case.

Here's what I think my main problem is--I should be writing books. I get mad when a book that seems pretty run of the mill gets praised and noticed. I get jealous because I want to write a book filled with twins and hidden passages and nuns living in the attic--a modern day gothic story. Maybe then, I'd feel less judgmental of books where the plot moves in slow motion and the surprises are cliched.

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