Wendy's Reviews > Big Girl

Big Girl by Danielle Steel
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's review
Jun 12, 2010

bookshelves: e-book, didn-t-finish, 2010, fiction, romance

Bought this as an ebook on the strength of the seller's description, because it sounded like it had potential, and because I didn't think I'd ever read anything by Danielle Steel (I checked the bibliography on Wikipedia – still pretty sure I haven't read any of her stuff, though I've seen a few of the TV movies made from them).

My first reaction to the writing, on page 1, was 'wow, this is very telling not showing; maybe it's a prologue and we'll get to the action soon'. But we never did. I'm halfway through the book, and the writing is all telling, almost no showing, with great big huge glossy glossings-over one after another. As a result, the characters are all sketches, the events are mundane and tedious, and I have officially stopped caring about any of it.

There isn't a single sympathetic character among any of these people. The parents are shown only as bad parents, not as people with anything else going on in their lives except sitting judgement on their two daughters. The younger daughter feels like a pretty, fairly brainless, entirely soulless teenage automaton whose defining characteristic is that she loves her older sister no matter how she looks. And the elder daughter, the titular Big Girl, is a slightly (from my perspective) overweight young woman with great legs (the token "best feature" that all ugly ducklings must have) and not a trace of spirit or fire to her. Show me any young lady of fifteen who, with less cause than Victoria Dawson, has never screamed at her mother, "I hate you!" or "You don't love me!" Show me a young woman of eighteen who decides to go to college on the opposite side of the country in order to get away from her parents, and spends four years getting an excellent education, and reaches the age of twenty-two without having acquired the vocabulary or volition to tell her father that it hurts her feelings when he criticizes her looks, her weight, her singleness, her choice of career, everything that she holds dear.

Sorry, Danielle, I just didn't believe it. I was very close to my mother, and I tore her heart out on a fairly regular basis by accusing her of not loving me, or telling her I hated her, and I had nothing like Victoria's justification for it. You didn't make me believe that Victoria would just have sucked it all up and accepted it as truth. You failed to make me care about your character.

Emotional events are glossed over and summarized to the point of sanitization. Victoria adjusted remarkably well to the discovery that the Queen Victoria she'd been named for was fat and not very pretty, and the realization of what that might mean. The revelation that the college boyfriend she'd been planning to sleep with was actually gay was done so matter-of-factly that it could have been a scene enacted by robots. I fully expected Victoria to be absolutely gutted. She should have been gutted. Any normal woman, even with normal self-esteem, would be gutted to discover that the boy she was falling in love with "wanted a man". But instead she just took a deep breath, wished him well, and moved on. What. The. Hell? It's official, Victoria: you have no soul.

The scope of the book is enormous. It starts – I kid you not – with the birth and childhood of the protagonist's father, whom we are told is handsome from birth, intelligent, successful, and completely up his own fundament. (OK, we're not actually told that part; I intuited it from the anvillacious writing.) He meets the protagonist's mother – a delicate, petite dark beauty who completely adores her husband and thinks the sun shines out his fundament (a neat trick, with his head in the way). Their life is golden and wonderful and they're having a good time being married and childless, but are swayed by the opinions of other people into having children. And along comes Victoria, who is big and blonde and blue eyed and a long-legged apple shape who is a complete disappointment to her narcissistic and superficial parents. That's Chapter One.

And when she's seven, along comes her younger sister Grace, who is small and dark and thin and beautiful and the glorious reflection of her parents' looks and pride. That's in chapter two. And from this point forward, we are told repeatedly that (a) Grace is beautiful, (b) Victoria loves her dearly and never ever resents her, (c) her father calls Victoria his "tester cake"; he even introduces her to strangers this way, (d) her mother is always quietly disappointed in Victoria, even though she's quite happy to let her taken on the lion's share of caregiving for Grace. After Grace is old enough to speak, we're also told that she loves Victoria no matter what anyone else says. I notice, though, that she never sticks up for Victoria with her parents. Not once. Soulless creep that she is.

How Victoria survives these horrible parents without murdering them in their beds one night, I do not understand. What her parents do when they're not criticizing her is scarcely referred to, except that the father goes to the office and the mother plays bridge. No wonder Victoria decides to go to school in Chicago, and work in New York. Interestingly the shopping trip to IKEA, to furnish her bedroom in a shared New York flat, gets more screen time than any interpersonal relationship in the book. (OK, I lied; that's not really so much 'interesting' as it is 'screwed up'.)

I'm not even halfway through the book, Victoria is 22 years old, and the Big Hairy Seminal Event That Changes Everything has yet to happen. From reading the other reviews, it seems that there are eight more years of boring-ass narrative to get through before we get to that. And I'm sorry, I have more interesting things to do. My toenails need picking. And my mascara brush needs a really good clean. Buh-bye, Big Girl.
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Reading Progress

06/12/2010 page 75
22.0% "I'm nearly halfway through and writing is so pedestrian, so flat in some ways, that I'm not sure why I'm sticking with this book."

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