Monday, January 30, 2012

The Book Doldrums

As Newton theorized, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  For as wonderful as it is to read a book that really gets you excited, it's just as depressing to read one that never quite gets there.  Have you ever had that -- the book which isn't really that great but it's not awful enough to quit in the middle of it?  And when you're finished, it's ultra unsatisfying?

I had one of those this week.  I read Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James.  I should've known better with a book like that.  Not that I would love everything in it, but that it would ultimately not satisfy me.  James isn't Austen, she's 92.  Okay, props right there for still writing novels when you're ancient, but still.  It may be thinly disguised through the veil of a critically acclaimed writer, but it is, at its most basic level: FANFICTION.  Yes, that's right.  I said it.  It's fanfiction.  It's a story written using somebody else's set of characters.  They may be Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but they're still not your characters.

Like always with books of this sort, I had high hopes.  As I mentioned before, P.D. James is a critically acclaimed author.  She was extending the life of my favorite group of Austen characters.  And, it was a 7-day only book, so I had no excuse not to get cracking.  With practically all my other books, I have no limit to how many times I can check them out because I read such weird things nobody else wants them and I can renew them forever.  I had a Dickens' novel for a year.  Did I read it?  Noooo.

I read this one, though.  It started out pretty well.  I was laughing out loud during the prologue.  And somehow it just all went downhill from there.  The mystery had no punch, Elizabeth was not actually the central character (indeed it was difficult to determine who was), and the ending was too neatly stitched up for me.  Now, granted, it was very Austen-esque.  The revelation of the answer to the mystery came about by the main characters sitting together chatting.  Something that could have been quite exciting, therefore, was told like a non-consequential piece of tea-time gossip.  I mean, without giving away too many details, it was downright scandalous.  It would still be scandalous today, unlike Lydia and Wickham's P&P elopement, which today is commonplace and accepted by most people.  It just didn't have the spark and pizazz it deserved.  The Jane Austen style is perfect for humorous, laid-back romances heavy on the proper deportment -- not murder mysteries.

Finish it I did, but recommend it?  Not likely.  Instead, if you want a good, interesting read that stays with you after the last page is turned, try Th1rteen R3asons Why, by Jay Asher, another book I read this week.  A high school girl commits suicide, and she makes tapes of all her reasons and send it to the 13 people who most influenced her decision.  The book is one of the people listening to the tapes and reacting to it.  Sounds depressing right?  Well, yes.  But trust me, as guilty as you will feel for enjoying it, much like a craftily hidden obsession with Teen Mom or Toddlers and Tiaras, you. . .will. . .enjoy. . .it.  And hey, it's thought-provoking.

Now, it's time to get back to my current book: Demon in the Freezer, by Richard Preston.  Bloated, anthrax-filled bodies and break-outs of deadly diseases. . .too bad I just ate.

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