Sorry for the incredibly predictable quote at the top there, guys, but I thought you needed a wa1.5 stars
"Every woman adores a fascist…" - Sylvia Plath
Sorry for the incredibly predictable quote at the top there, guys, but I thought you needed a warning: that above quote is basically the entire principle of the novel. The Gone Girl comp is painful for me. That book is my favourite of 2013, and one of my favourite books of all time; I was incredibly excited about this book, not because of that comp, but because of the interesting & exciting premise. Unfortunately, the result is more like 50 Shades of Grey meets a pale, brutally-murdered corpse of Gone Girl.
50 Shades of Grey? Yep, there's a devilishly handsome, accomplished architect that neither of the two (lame, weak, poorly-developed) women are able to resist; there's BDSM; there's even a frigging contract. I'll tell you this, though, guys: I've had more erotic headaches than this book. Seriously, this book is so replete with awful erotica cliches, I was cringing throughout, from such golden lines as:
Yes please, Daddy.
Or Edward, the architect, sticking his finger up some woman's vagina in the middle of a massive society party for famous architects (or something), and causing her to go weak at the knees with the daring & impossibility of this all.
The problem is, there's potential here - real potential. I loved the description of One Folgate Street, and a few of the set pieces, such as when Jane finds Emma's sleeping bag abandoned in a hideaway in the house. I loved the idea, and the continued ideas - especially Edward's interrogation of Jane through his "questions." I thought Jane's final decision was lovely and moving, and pointed towards a wholly different, quieter, but BETTER novel lurking inside the empty, glassy shell of this one: a contemporary novel about one woman's (not two's) impossible choices, longing for a child, and conflict with the control-freak father of that child.
However, this book shows, frankly, what a wonderful success Gone Girl is, and why it's been so hard to repeat (except with The Girl on the Train, which had the luxury of at least being an entirely different novel behind the "Girl" veneer). The characters here are not well-developed; what was so wonderful about Gone Girl was its utterly unique ability to keep the twists within the focus of what we already knew about the characters. When Gone Girl twisted, it felt like whole new possibilities jumped up within the range of what we had already been teased & knew. In The Girl Before, on the other hand, characters are kept ambiguous and dully unlikeable in order for anything to be possible.
Worse than that, though, when The Girl Before runs out of places to go, it lurches haphazardly into cliche and a straight-up Gone Girl ripoff, unfortunately borrowing the worse aspect of it: (view spoiler)[Flynn's penchant for false rape accusations, a pattern which is almost exactly duplicated here, with Emma falsely accusing not just one man but THREE SUCCESSIVE MEN of raping her (hide spoiler)]. This choice, never totally justified by Flynn herself in her far superior novel, is even less convincing here, and in fact feels like complete, straight-up misogyny, leaving "the girl after", Jane's, later rallying cry: what would you do, if you were a woman in my place? feeling even more hollow & unbelievable, as hardly one moment in this both plodding and yet laughably over-the-top thriller suggests that Delany has no idea how women would respond to anything.
I'll admit that it also bothers me that JP Delaney is a pseudonym for Tony Strong, writer of contemporary mysteries frankly not that different from The Girl Before (a false attempt at muddying gender, not wholly a bad thing but when usually a woman faced with institutional prejudice, a la George Eliot, or a false attempt at suggesting a debut author?). Yet the far more damning criticism of this novel is that it flounders between inexplicable, which requires the characters to straight-up lie for no good reason, to the utterly, utterly conventional - perhaps the worst thing for a novel in the post-Gone Girl era. From the psycho ex to the final confrontation, any word of this novel regarding the so-called "mystery" is nothing that ardent psychological-thriller fans won't have seen before. ...more
[This review is angry - it's not meant to insult anybody who enjoyed this book. I NEVER write reviews before I'm done usually, even if I have to skim[This review is angry - it's not meant to insult anybody who enjoyed this book. I NEVER write reviews before I'm done usually, even if I have to skim to get there, but I can't hold myself back.]
The ickiness didn't bother me. The sex didn't bother me. The book bothered me.
I'm not going to rate this (yet) because I haven't finished it (yet). I am, according to my Kindle, at 57%, which is hilarious given that the book is only 330 pages. It has taken me about three months to get this far. This has to be one of the slowest books I've ever read. I'm amazed by the number of incredibly positive reviews among my Goodreads friends, reviewers I really trust, because, frankly, I am BORED RIGID.
I had such high hopes. I loved the premise and I needed it right now, even though I was warned that it was slow, poetic and character-driven rather than horror-ish and intense as it sounds. Except that I think those three things might be synonyms for a book that seems to resent any attempt at plot, dragging along at the pace of mud in November, and characters who are not so much unlikeable as NOT EVEN THERE. Abbott's style is very "literary" (which of course has everybody squealing because it's a potboiler plot married to literary writing and therefore immune to criticism), but it's also frustratingly elliptical and samey. Everybody in Abbott's world a naval-gazer, who cannot so much as pick up their phones without speculating on the cultural implications, even the sex-crazed teenage boy, his sex-crazed sister and their sex-avoiding Biology teacher father.
The wrtiing is good, don't get me wrong, but the plot is what really kills The Fever. It's sort of a mystery, I guessssss, in the loosest sense of the world, in that Deenie's (sex-crazed sister) totally nondescript friends, who have back stories instead of personalities, are stricken by a mysterious illness. What caused it? Is it the lake in which they all swam, the HVP vaccine, sex (which, by the way, is something of a 'theme' in the novel - edgy!), puberty, schizophrenia?
Except, apparently because this is literary instead of a lesser genre like science fiction, horror or mystery, Abbott doesn't have to make any of this believable in any way, even in the loosest sense of the world. I mean, I don't work for a hospital, or the Centre for Disease Control, or whatever. I'm not trying to criticize any of this from a learned standpoint as I just don't know - but, let me tell you, none of it felt REMOTELY plausible to me in the context of a novel. It's full of PEOPLE WHINING, or introspectively speculating on Sex As A Disease, Teenage Girls As Ambiguous and Unknowable Creatures, and the HPV vaccine as a concept and, honestly, Abbott, I like your pretty writing but would it kill you to include even a modicum of plot or character development? Deenie is constantly shafted by her sick friend Gaby, who won't talk to her properly,and Lise is out of commission for like 60% of the part of the novel I read. I don't know these people. I don't care.
I love a good town-hysteria novel but this seemed to come from nowhere. We're not told WHY people think the HVP vaccine could be a cause. We're not told WHY (really) everybody blames the lake, since everybody denies they've ever been there (pull the other one, fools). Outside of some airy-fairy recollections from Tom and Deenie of the glowing of the lake, that's it, we don't hear anything else. It's one thing to have red herrings but, please, they must be remotely logical and operational within the bounds of possibility. Please.
We're supposed to believe that everybody does because Abbott says so. None of it is remotely built up. We're supposed to be invested in the girls' illness because Deenie tells us that they were friends. Similarly, we're supposed to be interested in Deenie, Tom and Eli because they're the main characters.
So, in short, RIGHT NOW, the plot is nothing but air. The characters are doing nothing but whining, moaning and boring the hell out of me. The relationships are non-existent. The Emperor's New Clothes....more