Julia's Reviews > Small Damages

Small Damages by Beth Kephart
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's review
Aug 08, 2012

liked it

The story was intriguing and emotionally charged, but the writing tended to frustrate me. Don't get me wrong, I love beautiful prose, but sometimes a writer falls a little too in love with their own words. Some of the most powerful moments in this book are when the author isn't indulging in wordy lyricism:

"Five months is forever," I told her.
"You made your choices," she said, and I said, "No." Because the only thing I chose was you.

That's beautiful, and lyrical, without being verbose. Unlike here: "Sometimes, with a camcorder, you record motion. Sometimes you try to stop it. Slow it down, find the shadows, know what lies between."

Okay, that's pretty and all, but that kind of writing makes me tune right out of the story. It should be noted that what came BEFORE the above was strong enough to stand alone. In fact, I think it would have been stronger if the above paragraph had been omitted:

"Soon you meet Javier and Adair."
"Who are Javier and Adair?" I ask.
"The parents," he says. "Of your child."

Had the author left it there, I would have been pulled in and stayed in. As it was, I found myself skimming all the "extra" language of this already-short novel. Again, beautiful language is awesome. BEL CANTO has lots of it but each word still contributes to the story. In this book, it doesn't always, and that's dangerous. Readers don't want to stick around for extra words unless they're essential to the plot, no matter how pretty they are. I had to force myself to finish the story, because I wanted to see how it ended. Otherwise, I would have put it down after the second chapter.
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