K's Reviews > After You'd Gone

After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell
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's review
Nov 19, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: marysues, chicklit
Recommended to K by: M
Recommended for: People who are satisfied with a good read even if it isn't a great book

Authors who love their characters too much – on the next Oprah.

It happens to be a pet peeve of mine when authors seem to live out their narcissistic fantasies by creating mythically attractive characters who inspire desperate passion in all who see them. Aside from everything else, in my experience it’s completely unrealistic – women who are that universally attractive (and it’s a very narrow category) usually intimidate many, if not most, of the guys who would be chasing after them. Then there are the guys who retain some pride and are more calculated in their approach, even if the woman is that fabulously attractive. In this book, that didn’t exist – it was heartfelt passion expressed in full at first sight, by every guy who ever laid eyes on the main character.

I also felt that Maggie was trying to have her main character, Alice, be too many different clichéd idealized heroines. The self-sacrificing martyr, willing to lose the man she loves because she knows that’s what’s best for him. The ice princess who keeps herself perpetually aloof as men drop at her feet like flies. The strong, passionate, rebellious adolescent courageously (and obnoxiously) defying her rigid mother. The unstable, depressed/suicidal, needy woman. The fact that Alice filled all these contradictory roles at different points in the book made it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief. I couldn’t decide whether this was actually an instance of complex characterization, where the main character is completely three-dimensional and has all these various sides to her, or whether Maggie was simply sloppy and inconsistent and had difficulty integrating the various images she wanted her main character to fulfill.

Don’t get me wrong – really, this book should get at least four stars for readability alone. It was gripping, engaging, and certainly more complex (not to mention way better-written) than your average Harlequin. Unfortunately, the Harlequin moments did detract. They didn’t ruin the book for me, exactly, but the perfect romance got on my nerves. I wondered why John found Alice so consistently loveable over three years – I didn’t. I found their romance extremely one-dimensional, and ditto for Alice’s difficulty getting over it. Oh, perfect love! Oh, I will never get over this loss! Both love and grief are way more complex in real life than they were in this book. Loving relationships include difficult moments, not necessarily dramatic ones where an outside force is threatening the relationship, but regular everyday he’s-getting-on-my-nerves moments. And even when you’re truly grieving, I imagine there are moments where you have a little more of a grip on yourself and can be open to enjoying something or getting your act together, at least a little bit, even temporarily.

So overall, if you’re looking for something very readable and engaging, not as superficial as a Harlequin but not overly challenging, and are willing to not think too critically, I would say pick this book up. But only if you can borrow it or buy it used at a discount.
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Reading Progress

11/19/2008 page 15
11/20/2008 page 46
11.98% "Marg, I totally see what you mean about the main character's ridiculous attractiveness. Give me a break! Still quite readable, though."
03/11/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Ariella (new)

Ariella I read this book a few years ago. I am curious to hear what you think. What do you think so far?

message 2: by Ariella (new)

Ariella Sorry, I didnt see your review when I wrote that last post. I'll read it now.

message 3: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K What did you think of this book? I read another one of hers before this one -- "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox." I thought that was a much better book.

message 4: by Ariella (new)

Ariella Ok, after I read your review, I really have nothing to say because I realize that I totally forgot this book. Oh well....

message 5: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K The fact that it was so forgettable for you might be indicative. It's true that I'm starting to lose my ability to remember details of most books I've read, but the good ones still stay with me.

message 6: by Ariella (new)

Ariella Yes. The good ones stay. I read it because I saw it in a bookstore and thought it looked interesting. But I do remember thinking that the premise on the back of the book was better than the actual book itself.

message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy I love who you've recommended this for!

message 8: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K Thanks! I end up reading a lot of books in this category.

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