My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I loved Harold Fry. I loved Queenie Hennessey even more. Perfect is not Harold and it is not Queenie.
This Fourth of July weekend I was asked why I only write positive book reviews. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again; I’m not one to finish a book unless I love it. Or at least like it. I just don’t have that obligatory thing some do to finish what I start; it’s a book. Nor do I have it in me to flip over to the last pages and be done with it, like some people that share my last name and make me so angry I could puke. I just abandon them, and while the decision is not taken lightly, I also don’t lose any sleep once it’s made. There ain’t enough time in this little space I’m given to spend reading books that suck.
I’m quite aware this tendency of mine doesn’t necessarily help my image as a reliable literary analyst, but at the risk of sounding snarky, I just don’t care that much. You’ll get my honest opinion; it’s just that it is more likely only to happen with damn good books.
Ironically, when the question in question came up, I was stuck in the middle of this very book, and writhing uncomfortably with the decision to quit or persevere. Rachel Joyce did amazing things with Harold and Queenie, but Perfect is not Harold and it is not Queenie. I’d been struggling through for nearly a month, and just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it.
But yet, there was the tiniest tinge of obligation burbling forth for the author. I kept feeling it had to get better. Stuck with it for fear of missing something wonderful. Rachel Joyce! How could I give up?
It didn’t get better, and I wouldn’t have missed a thing. Joyce is a beautiful writer, and as wordcraft goes, she can put down a sentence. She can string together some serious paragraphs; beautiful description, heart-rending emotion, classical grammar. It’s not that she’s not a good writer. It’s that I really hated this story. Pretty much from start to finish it was lacking for me, and to boot it was dark and mostly not nice-feeling.
Dark is hard for me, I will admit. Depressing is really not my thing. So there is a bias you should consider. Maybe I’m not able to see through to the diamond in the sea of ick and blah, but there was very little redemption to be had here.
Throughout, I was hoping that there would be this magical twist that would spur me to tears and force me to realize that I am a poor judge until the end. Teach me a lesson or two. But there wasn’t. I couldn’t help but think that it was all a bit predictable, and wasn’t really going anywhere, and I was being strung along through the muck for no payoff. And I was.
I gave Perfect two stars, and not just one, because there are a million other books out there that are absolute crap, and this isn’t one of them. The writing is good, and that is something I cannot dismiss. But the story left me dry and grumpy.
I think I’m going back to my ‘ditch it’ policy, even for the authors I love. Life is too short for bad novels.
It’s good to know there is another reviewer out there who struggled with this sort of thing. For years I had a finishing compulsion, I’d drag myself to the end of some real dungers, write a negative review and then wonder why I felt so tired.
Yeah. No fun at all. Negativity. Why bother? 🙂