Maia B.'s Reviews > The American Heiress

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
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's review
Jul 25, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: beach-reads, historical, mediocre-writing
Recommended for: Someone looking for a light, fun read that doesn't requre much thought

Still haven't quite made my mind up about this book. The writing was not very good (where was Daisy Goodwin during her elementary school grammar classes?), and the characters frankly made me yawn. It's entirely plot-driven, with the characters watching events happen to them with vague interest but there's no clear explanation of why all these things are going on.

On the back there's a quote saying this novel puts entertainment first. Yes - before character development, good writing and original ideas. The disgustingly rich Cora Cash (Cash - get it?) is a young girl at the beginning of the book and and older girl at the end. She seems to have learned that you can't have absolutely everything - but she still expects most of anything. Ivo, her extremely one-dimensional husband, reveals his underwhelming secret (an embarrassingly easy secret to discover - it's obvious by about the sixtieth page of nearly five hundred) and is then totally redeemed. Um, what?

I enjoyed the book - I just didn't like it much. The static characters combined with bad writing gave me a stomachache. An example of Goodwin's prose: "Cora took a mouthful of the souffle, she felt ravenous." Hello, Ms. Goodwin? You can't connect two sentences with a comma. This is a mistake drilled into students from first grade. So why is Goodwin still screwing up? Why didn't her editor catch the glitches?

Another example of the bad editing job was that my copy, which is not an ARC but the finished product, sports a number of typos completely separate from the inaccurately-combined-sentences unpleasantness. Such as: "'[Something-something-something-something,'] said [someone. 'Something else-something else-something else]'" Notice the missing period? There are innumerable mistakes like these. This really annoyed me, especially since the cover was so pretty that I expected something polished on the inside, too. (Don't fob me off with "Don't judge a book by its cover." The cover matters a lot when buying a book.)

Everything in this entire novel has been written before. Cora starts out a very pale copy of Scarlett O'Hara. (She loses even this after a while and becomes a very pale nothing.) One of the opening scenes, Cora throwing herself at the head of a man she claims to be in love with, is taken directly from "Gone With the Wind." Ivo and Cora's marriage are both terrible duplicates of DuMaurier's wonderful "Rebecca." Unfortunately, they don't work here. There are so many cliches it makes me a little ill. Edith Wharton wrote The Buccaneers - that ought to be more widely read as an example of the Gilded Age than this hackneyed novel.

The summing-up: bad writing, completely undeveloped characters, too many typos, unoriginal ideas. An entertaining book, certainly, but in the same class as Wharton and Austen?

Not on your life.

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