Audra (Unabridged Chick)'s Reviews > Heart of Deception

Heart of Deception by M.L. Malcolm
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It feels a bit unfair that I'm reviewing this book: were I not on this tour I never would have read it, given my dislike of the first book.  But I was committed to the tour so I tried hard to give this book a fair reading. 

Many of the problems I had with the first novel I had with this one: very thin characterization, an abundance of plot, and not enough pages to thoroughly explore the myriad events the characters experience.  The novel spans 1942 through 1963, mostly through the viewpoint of Maddy Hoffman, the daughter of the previous book's protaganist, Leo Hoffman.

As with Heart of Lies, there was way too much telling (rather than showing), and novel moved along at a rather dizzying clip. Much of the novel felt like an outline -- I kept waiting for Malcolm to flesh out the responses to all the events and ludicrous plot twists.  Surely all the bizarre and over-the-top scenes would lead to some character development and introspection, but Leo and Maddy just plodded along, unchanged, unmoved by their lives.  The secondary characters circled only to be foils and adoring fans.  (And unfortunately, unlike them, I greatly disliked Leo and Maddy.)

One of the unfortunate effects of the brisk pace and superficial narrative was that the portion of the novel set during the Holocaust came off remarkably light, especially since readers were repeatedly reminded of Leo Hoffman's Jewish heritage -- and Malcolm pointedly gave him a stint at a German work camp.  I don't think writers are obligated to make stories about the Holocaust traumatic, but it felt a bit cheap to incorporate that into the story without any introspection, reflection, analysis, critique, or even narrative about the experience.  It was just one of a dozen credulity-straining events that felt thrown in only because the author was reluctant to ignore any historical event in this time range.

Of the two Leo Hoffman novels, however, I marginally prefer this one.  When I was struggling with Heart of Lies, I went back and forth about whether I should finish it or just skip to this one -- and I wish I had done the latter.  The arc of this book doesn't hinge on the first and in some ways, reading this without the first would be like going through life with Maddy, confused and uncertain about her father.
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Reading Progress

03/30/2011 page 64
18.0% "I don't care what jacket blurb says, there's nothing contradictory abt 'hero' Leo. He's a jerk and he sucks. Am hating this book three chapters in."
03/31/2011 page 129
37.0% "My predictions so far: Repugnant hero Leo will save a bunch of Jews from being executed, thus redeeming himself in the eyes of his dead wife's sister, childhood sweetheart and his daughter. Daughter Maddy will begin Angelica Garnett-esque love affair with her dead mother's childhood sweetheart, Harry."
03/31/2011 page 129
37.0% "Harry's wife Ruth will meet Leo whilst saving Jewish children, develop respect for him, thus absolving him of further crappiness, but may or may not survive to end of book."
04/01/2011 page 242
69.0% "Lesson: don't be female in an M.L. Malcolm novel. Sheesh."
04/01/2011 page 352
100.0% "Finished, hooray! Now, I need some distance to write the review."

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