Gouda Buddha Books

Devouring books since 2009.

Should be retitled “Her Absolutely Dreadful Symmetry.”

with 2 comments

Here I am, making my triumphant return for 2010! I don’t necessarily have more free time now, but I’ve definitely improved my time management skills and trying to do less *nothing* is something I’m working on, so in that spirit – hopefully more reading and definitely more blogging about what I’ve actually read.

Since my last update, it’s hard for me to remember everything I’ve read – which is what happens, I suppose, when you get neglectful about your blogging, so I’m going to start with the most recent book I’ve finished and just go from there. Maybe I’ll backlog a bit, but I’ll probably just resume blogging as I finish reading.

Anyhoo. Kinda ironically, I’m starting off with a book that I have a lot to say about… because I hated it.

Holy cow did I ever want to LOVE this book. Kat offered to lend me a copy and I said “Oh no, I’m going to buy it in hardcover to match my hardcover of Time Traveler’s Wife!” Another friend read it and wanted to know my opinion of it once I got around to it. So much buildup! I even saved it to read on the plane on my way to Lisbon for Christmas!

I left it in Lisbon. I would have burned it if I could, but leaving it in the oubliette of my partner’s family bookshelves was as close as I could get. I tried to think of some way I could abandon it in the airport or something, but that would have involved getting it there and there is only so much space in my bags. Space that I regret having used on this hunk of crap.

I started off loving the book, oh I did. I love Niffenegger’s characters. I’ll give her that, she can create some really charming characters, which is certainly what makes Time Traveler’s Wife so enchanting. She’s actually a mediocre writer in terms of plot and actual nuts-and-bolts sentence writing, but her characters are stunning and her ability to pull at your emotions is really unparalleled. I actually have found myself unable to re-read Time Traveler’s Wife now that I know how it ends. It’s too heartbreaking to relive. I suppose that’s a compliment of sorts. (I had to stop just short of the end of Infinite Jest on my second full go-round for the same reason.)

So, yes. Started off loving it. Even loved the notion of a previously sympathetic character with sinister plots. (Also: Niffenegger could use to tone down the foreshadowing just a TAD. Yes, yes, we get it, she wasn’t always a nice person. No, she can’t be trusted. WE UNDERSTAND. Less hamfisted than the allusions to Henry’s feet in TTW, but still. Let’s have more with the showing, less with the telling.) Definitely loved that notion, actually. Plot set up to be brilliant… until…

She apparently started smoking crack, came up with the worst possible way for the book to end including the most brain-twistingly STUPID “reveal” (that was in and of itself pretty obvious and really, the only creative thing about it is that we’re supposed to be surprised) and just went with it full speed. Niffenegger herself makes a quip about there being something “off” when the character with crippling OCD is the one who makes the most sense, and it’s true. By the end of the novel, Martin was the only one I had any stomach for, and even HIS story ended in the most trite, stupid way possible.

Never have I been so disappointed in a book. I don’t think I would have hated the ending so vehemently had I not WANTED to love it. Good G-d in heaven but that was a DUMB ending. I don’t want to put spoilers in here, but let it be known that my disappointment isn’t in that I wanted the book to end in some other specific way and it didn’t, but that I truly believe that ANY OTHER ENDING would have been a better fit to the book itself and would have done the characters more justice. My cat could have done a better job. And even if she went with the ending she chose, it needed fleshing out.

(Yes, yes, “My the food was horrible, and such small portions!”)

The beginning was paced well. The middle dragged a bit. And then the ending came crashing down like a piano. Do writers actually write the book in linear fashion? Because really, she should have STARTED with the ending and worked her way back from there to tell this particular story if that’s how she wanted it to end. Maybe she did and the result is just awful no matter what.

So there you have it. I’m back and I’m whiny.

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Written by Sonja

January 4, 2010 at 7:40 pm

2 Responses

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  1. What a harsh review! I don’t blame you really, it wasn’t the best of stories but I think the problem most of us have made is we went in with preconceptions due to the brilliance of The Time Traveler’s wife. We were begging to be let down and were so it in the most horrid way due to the nature of this story (And predictable plot). Poor Audrey Niffenegger. She will never live up to TTTW.

    Rachel

    January 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    • I don’t usually give harsh reviews, but this time, I was so angry at the book that I felt that sugar-coating my experience was doing any other potential readers a disservice since I can almost always find some redeeming qualities and the exceptions are oh so very rare that I truly, truly can’t stand a book. The last time I felt this way was long before book blogging with the infamous Three Junes, which is by far the worst book I’ve ever read. Some writers can live up to the hype and deliver consistently awesome stories: Margaret Atwood comes immediately to mind, as do Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson (oh yes, I’ve been reading lots of spec fic lately). Even Philippa Gregory, queen of softcore historical porn, delivers mostly consistent foolishness throughout her books. I would disagree about begging to be let down, a lot of writers actually do improve with subsequent novels, and while I loved it, I hardly saw TTW as flawless.

      Sonja

      January 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm


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