Reading Wench

The other day I wrote about how excited I was to be getting this book in the mail.  I’d heard so much about it, but could no longer find the hardcover, so I pre-ordered the paperback and waited for the release.

Now it’s here.  I’m reading WENCH.  And though I don’t want to say I’m disappointed — well, I’m a bit disappointed.

Not completely, not so much that I’m not going to finish it.  The basis of the story is intriguing enough to keep me hooked, as it’s based on a part of our American slavery history I know zero about:  in the years before the Civil War, some Southern plantation owners took their slave mistresses to the Free North.  On vacation.  How’s that for crazy?  I had no idea.

The trouble I’m having is with the writing, which is not bad, but it’s not exactly good either.  Take this sentence:  “Lizzie walked willingly into the trap of his arms.”  I want to scream: Of course it’s a trap!!!  He’s her owner!!!  Duh! This is the kind of thing that makes me crazy.  I stumble over a sentence like this and I stop being engaged by the story and start thinking about editing — how many times was this book edited, by the writer, her beta readers, her EDITOR? — and I wonder why in the hell this sentence is here.  The next thing I know it’s 3 pages later and I have no idea what I’ve read because now, instead of worrying about Lizzie and Reenie and Sweet, I’m bracing myself for the next “duh” moment.

Last night I closed the book and noted a blurb from USA Today on the front cover:  “Readers entranced by THE HELP will be equally riveted by WENCH.”  I disagree.  These 2 books are not remotely the same, not in story, storytelling, structure, or voice.  I have no idea what USA Today means in making this comparison, so I guess you could say I’m disappointed in them, too.

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4 thoughts on “Reading Wench

  1. josephinecarr

    I felt exactly the same way about Howard Jacobson’s THE FINKLER QUESTION, which won the Booker. I love this author, and I couldn’t wait to read his newest. I bought it in paperback (I usually check out from the library), and then I actually gazed at it for weeks, putting off the perfect moment when I’d begin reading.

    Such a disappointment that I suspect I WON’T finish it. Yikes. I think it’s just a mess.

    1. Downith

      Josephine, The Finkler Question was a big disappointment for me too. So much so that it made me decide life’s too short. No more sticking with books that aren’t doing it for me.

  2. Bonnie Middlebrooks

    I’m not reading The Wench, but Pillars of the Earth. I am so disappointed in it. I think it is because it is written by a man. (I am still pondering last week’s blog.) Like you, I wonder how it got so many raves. “Follet is a master.” The Washington Post

    I can’t get past the lame, manly descriptions of how women feel about the abuses they endured in the 1100’s. Oh, and the use of modern terms bugs me big time. By his own admission Follet says he wrote this 973 page tome in 3 years and 3 months. He should have taken his time. Maybe he should have talked to a few women, maybe even a few priests. If you want to read descriptions of cathedrals by a man who became enraptured by them you may like this book. I am quitting it!

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