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That big blockbuster summer novel finally makes it into your hands. The much-posted Bookstagram title finally is on hold for you at the library. The novel that all the bookclubs are talking about finally arrives in the mail . . . and when you read it, you don’t really see what the fuss is about.
Has that happened to you? It has definitely happened to me!
Let’s talk about some popular novels that weren’t my cup of tea. That’s doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been your perfect book choice, however!
I think the main thing that super annoyed me about this book was that the vibe or tone of the book felt incongruous with what develops at the end. The book’s style is chick lit or a romantic comedy, but due to the heavy nature of the content it felt very incompatible to the genre and style the book was written in. This book had such hype and it just fell flat for me.
I didn’t finish this one–I tried–I even tried the audiobook! Many people who have a similar taste in literature as I do loved it, but I couldn’t make myself go on. It was one of those types of books I could appreciate. Patchett’s writing is very good–and yet I was bored and couldn’t stay interested in the story. Dare I say it was too much character development and not enough plot development for me? I can’t say I’ve ever read an Ann Patchett book I’ve really enjoyed (sorry) but I do recognize the fact she’s an talented writer.
I read The Nightingale and listened to Lilac Girls at the same time. Both novels cover W.W. II and both have characters that end up in Ravensbruck. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare them, but I can’t help it. I loved Lilac Girls and I had to force myself to finish The Nightingale. I’ve been pondering what made me love one and not care as much for the possibly more popular novel. Here’s why, I think.
Lilac Girls sparkled. I don’t know how else to describe it. Even when describing dark and disturbing history (and Lilac Girls was more graphic than The Nightingale) Kelly’s imagery and metaphors captured me. It didn’t feel like it was trying to hard or anything, it was just good. The sense of place she created was incredible. I felt like I was there. You know that old adage, “show, don’t tell.” That was key difference in the writing. I felt like Kelly showed and Hannah told. I know Kelly personally visited all the sites she wrote about. I’m curious if Hannah did too. If not, that could have made the difference. Also, Hannah’s writing just felt very “chick-lit” to me. Nothing wrong with that! But when writing about such a sweeping devastating historical event I thought Kelly’s writing did more justice to the content.
Hannah’s main characters, Isabelle and Vianne seemed like modern women put into a World War II setting. They did not seem authentic to me. Again, this is where Kelly’s research stood out again. The pop culture references, the details about clothing, etc. all helped create the atmosphere of the 1940s. Isabelle’s relationship with Gäetan didn’t feel authentic and Vianne’s attraction to Captain Beck–although understandable in such a situation–was not written in a way that felt believable to me. I just didn’t connect with the characters, unlike Kasia in Lilac Girls, who I desperately cared about and wanted resolution to her struggles.
I saw this book all over Instagram. It sounded just like something I’d like: World War II, bookstores, but honestly it was just meh. It didn’t draw me in. The heroine, Grace, just didn’t have much dimension. The love story was so gentle it lacked much attraction. When characters died it didn’t sadden me. I really wanted to like it but I forced myself to finish it, hoping something would change for me, but nothing did. It kind of felt like a Hallmark movie, which has its place, but didn’t grab me.
Towles’ writing was excellent and the concept of the story was interesting, but I just couldn’t love the characters or get caught up in the story. I just could care less as to what happened to them. Also, why not use quote marks? Was there a reason for tossing out a standard form of punctuation? I found that distracting. I finished it, but my lack of enthusiasm made me put off reading A Gentleman in Moscow for a long time. I’m glad I gave that book a chance because I ended up loving it! Which just goes to show you one should always give an author a second chance.