Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book 36: That Part Was True

I saw this at the book store and thought it sounded cute.  I was also kind of under the impression that it was an epistolary novel, but while there are letters in the novel, they don't make up the entirety of the novel.  I realize that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has entirely ruined me for epistolary novels but I also think it has led me to pick up books I wouldn't have before.  I actually looked at my review of that novel the other day, and it started with "I don't like epistolary novels" vs. if asked today, I would have said, "yes, I like those."  However, I tried to go into this one with no to little expectations.
Anyway, I was a bit disappointed when I realized how much of the novel was actually prose, telling the story of the two protagonists through third person limited rather than through letters they write each other.  Eve Petworth, a reclusive Englishwoman, writes a fan letter to Jackson Cooper, an American thriller author, and they communicate back and forth.  While the novel does trace the influence they have on each other and mention some of their exchanges, the novel mainly tells the story of them as individuals.  Jackson's second wife has left him, he's dealing with writer's block, and is generally just suffering from a midlife crisis.  Eve's mother, a very controlling woman, has been dead for a year, and Eve's daughter has recently become engaged.  After years in the background, Eve finally wants to be a proper mother to her daughter, after letting her mother push her to the side and become a huge influence on her daughter.  Additionally, the upcoming wedding means she will have to confront other parts of her past, including her ex-husband.
It wasn't a bad novel but it wasn't particularly exciting, either.  I wish the author had done more with the epistolary aspect of it, and actually allowed us to get to know the characters through their own words in letters rather than dangling the idea of an epistolary novel, only to go with a more traditional structure.  The characters themselves were both rather privileged, well to do, middle aged people, and I didn't get too wrapped up in their issues.  Eve, for example, had been to able to have a maid and stay at home ever since her divorce with no financial issues while Jack is a successful author.  Not exactly all that relatable, but unfortunately the characters weren't fun enough for just mindless escapism, either.  I realize I gave this novel a 3 on Goodreads, and it has made me realize something about how I rate novels.  If I think a book is at least ok, I tend to still go with the 3.  It's only if the novel also irritated me that I go down to a 2 for mediocre novel.  Of course, I also give 3s to books I genuinely like.  Anyway, I probably wouldn't recommend this book because there is so much out there that's better.  It ends up being rather forgettable in the end, but it also didn't make me role my eyes too much, and didn't offend me.  Plus, the cover is genuinely cute.  I also think the title is better than the book.  Of course the title may create certain expectations, because when I hear something like "at least that part was true" I expect something playful and things that, well, aren't true.

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