Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

I haven’t read a book this bad in a long time. I’m surprised I even finished it, except that I wanted to be able to write a coherent post. This book features unpleasant characters, improbable plot devices, unexplained personality changes, off-putting sex, a bit of gruesome violence, and a complete lack of subtlety or nuance – it’s a total mess. There is one clever plot twist, I’ll grant that, though maybe more astute readers would have seen it coming. I probably was too irritated by that time to recognize the signs.

And can I mention the prose style? The overwrought, melodramatic and repetitive prose, the one-sentence paragraphs (“And so he wept.”), the declarative subject-verb-object construction over and over and over again until I thought I would scream? There, I mentioned it.

Here is a paragraph I that flagged because it was so impossibly bad. I leave you with it.

…There was not a speck of dust in the room. It was a fine room, not the best, but fine. It was the sort of room in which she might have served coffee or tea, dressed for dinner or the theater, might have kept a canary, if she had lived there, but she didn’t live there and no bird sang.

(Book 40, 2010)


Ruthiella said...

Thanks for reading this book to the end Becky so I don't have to! I enjoy the negative posts as much as the positive ones (maybe more so, since I am not adding anything to my to-read list). And I am always interested in what people consider "bad prose".


Had to laugh because I gave this a good review. There were things that bugged me, but mostly what worked for me was how much the text seemed to reflect the imagery of Wisconsin Death Trip. That's what kept me going when it got too wacky.

Nice piece in Isthmus. Catching up on my reading and as I was going along, I suddenly thought "who wrote this?" Who indeed!

L.A. said...

Thanks for reading this so I don't have to - it was one I had been eyeing as a possibility. But the paragraph you shared sealed the deal for me. Too many good books to read out there!

By the way, I love your blog. I've never posted a comment before, but I regularly enjoy reading your reviews.

-Laila Archer

PattisPages said...

Love your brutal honesty! I enjoyed it, despite the shallow characters and simple plot. A woman in my book club called it lascivious, and I have to agree with that assessment. Sex sells, I guess.

Sarah Laurence said...

Ugh! I would have not made it past that paragraph. Thanks for warning me off this one. I appreciate how you took the time to explain why this book didn't work.

Nice blog make over! I haven't been online much this summer.

Anonymous said...

Snap! I finished this a fortnight ago, and read it to the bitter end as the latest English language fiction is not so easy to get out here in Beijing, so if I'm given a book I haven't read I feel I have to stick with it.
I thought the plot was really improbable and the twist was about as subtle as a sledgehammer. It was written in such a pompous pretentious style, with dollops of sex thrown in purely to titilate, as though the author wanted it to seem very 'literary'. The end note 'Beholden' irritated me even more, I got the impression that Robert Gooldrick is really very pleased with himself for writing the book.

kaye said...

I love the story. I love that kind of story. Intense! thanks for sharing

Julia said...

Urgh, I hated this book, too. I'm not sure why I spent precious time finishing it.

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