(A wordy post today, so bear with me. And there's a question at the end if you make it that far...)
When I decided to do the book diet, I was actually in the middle of reading a book from the library. (Don't ask me why, when I could start my own, that I decided to go to the library for yet more books. None of this makes any sense to me either.)
Anyway, I was reading Untold Story by Monica Ali. I had a vague suspicion from the jacket cover that this might not exactly be life changing stuff...
But, as the inside fly leaf reminded me, Monica Ali has been named by Granta as one of the twenty best British novelists. She was short listed for the Man Booker Prize, and for the National Book Critics Circle Award... the list goes on and on.
So I thought to myself, how bad can it be? It might actually be one of those books that is a bit of a page turner but is well written. And I don't know about you, but I go through phases where I don't read for awhile - life, work etc eats into the day and I find I've fallen out of the habit. So this book seemed perfect to get me back into page turning mode.
How wrong I was.
I have just been commenting to Meme Rose that I think of Blogland as a place where, if you can't say something nice, better to maintain an enigmatic silence. So I considered not writing this review at all, and pretending I hadn't fallen for the Hello magazine in disguise that is this book. But, what the hell. You need to know that I'm actually reading if I'm going to stick to this book diet so here goes.
First, the story line: Princess Diana did not in fact die in a tunnell in Paris but staged her own death and disappeared to live a normal life in mid-town America. There, she has built a life, made friends, bought a house, has a nice man who adores her, and got herself a dog. (Please bear in mind I was putting much on Monica Ali's literary talents by thinking she could pull this off.)
Anyway, as if the plot line weren't lame enough, the whole thing read like the publishers had snatched it from the writer's desk in the night long before she was ready to send it out into the world. I write. (Not comparing myself to one of the twenty best British novelists here, just saying that I know how crap early drafts are...). I know that every draft starts off being bad. The kind of bad that gives you nightmares that you're back in school and someone has got hold of your first draft and is reading it out loud and everyone's laughing kind of bad. But that's okay, because you haven't a clue who your characters are or how they sound or what they have for breakfast or anything about them when you first start to write about them. You have no voice for them and that's okay. For me, writing is the process of finding that voice.
I suspect that Monica Ali still hadn't quite worked out Diana's voice by the time the publishers broke into her house and snaffled it away. And once they got hold of it, they clearly didn't read it before sending it to press or they would have edited it out of its current state into something worth reading.
It's formulaic - Diana's three closest friends are blonde, brunette and ginger haired, but otherwise seem pretty interchangeable. The plot is clunky - e.g. there's a false alarm break in early on that you just know is setting up the real thing later. The ending is all a bit rushed and pat. But the thing that bothers me most is Diana. She's largely absent from the conversations that take place with her in the room. And that silence isn't explained so she comes across as just a dummy in the corner. Sure, there's been lots of research and references to the life that drove her to take the drastic step or disappearing, but I didn't get any sense of an (imaginary) 'real' Diana.
All in all, this was a bit like eating too much ckae with extra sweet butter icing on the top. You take a sliver and it hurts your teeth and you really know you should throw it out, but after awhile, it's sat there so you take another to remind yourself how bad the first slice was, and before you know it the whole cake is gone and you feel sick that you've eaten it all.
Now for the question. I am trying to devise a grading system for my book reviews. I have the highest - 'rush out and buy' and the lowest - 'run away screaming', but I am struggling with the middle. A good read? Wait 'til you find it in the library? A good book for a rainy day? A rattling good yarn? What do you think?
And because you've made it this far, I thought you'd like an Etsy treat.
|From Moxie Doll|