I've been getting pretty annoyed with reader reviews lately. The more popular a book is (or more specifically, best-selling), the more annoying the reviews are. Reading the reviews for The Help made me practically sick to my stomach -- the positive and the negative. Even my own review for it! I wouldn't have written one except I vowed to write something for everything I read this year. AND be honest about it, which will probably cost me some "cool" points in the long run. If I had any to begin with at all.
I started reading online reviews for David Nicholls' One Day and got the same feeling. People giving it one star reviews, while admitting they hadn't even finished it. People giving it five stars and saying "OMG it's sooooo ROMANTIC!!1!" Just...GUH. So I stopped. From now on I'm only reading reviews of vague novels or things published pre-1923.
Anyway. One Day was super funny. That's the first thing that comes to mind. To me it isn't a romance novel, the same way I've never considered Wuthering Heights to be a romance novel (at least not with a lowercase 'r'). It's a story about a very strong bond between two people, and how it, and they, change over time.
Revisiting the two characters on the same day every year for 20 years, we see the ups and downs of their lives, how their personalities change, how their relationship changes, etc etc. Most importantly it's realistic. There's no fluff. No fantasy. My only annoyance was with the end, which was predictable and felt like a cop-out for the writer. Again, don't read the reviews unless you want to a big batch of spoilers.
Then again, we all know what it means when we say "I didn't like the ending." Or "watch out for spoilers." You know what it means. Now you know the ending of the story. I don't have to say anything except "something happens," and you know exactly what that something is.* That's why it's so ANNOYING when novels end this way! Take heed, writers!
So anyway, that should be my last book clubbish read for this month. I'll be seeing the film sometime this week. Here are some great passages from the book that will give you a much better idea of what it is actually like, a lot more than what a review could accomplish:
...Gary Nutkin, our director, wants me to devise a show for infant schools about Apartheid. With PUPPETS for fuck's sake. Six months in a Transit on the M6 with a Desmond Tutu marionette on my lap. I might give that one a miss. Besides, I've written this two-woman play about Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson called 'Two Lives' (either that or 'Two Depressed Lesbians'). Maybe I'll put that on in a pub-theatre somewhere. Once I'd explained to Candy who Virginia Woolf was, she said that she really, really wanted to play her, but only if she can take her top off, so that's the casting sorted. I'll be Emily Dickinson, and keep my top on. I'll reserve you tickets.
'Fat girl,' she thought, 'stupid fat girl' this being one of the slogans currently playing in her head, along with 'A Third of Your Life is Gone' and 'What's the Point of Anything?'
Sometimes, when it's going badly, she wonders if what she believe to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationary.
Isn't she meant to have a close circle of kooky friends to help her get through all this? Shouldn't she be sitting on a low baggy sofa with six or seven attractive zany metropolitans, isn't that what city life is meant to be like? But either they live two hours away or they're with families or boyfriends, and thankfully in the absence of kooky pals, there is the off-licence called, confusingly, depressingly, Booze'R'Us.
* Other novels where "something happens."
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
- Harry Potter, books 4-7
- Bridge to Terabithia
- Where the Red Fern Grows
- Pretty much everything Nicholas Sparks has ever written
Why can't that "something" just be like a pizza party or an orgy or something. Come on guys, surprise me.