Thursday, April 10, 2008

Worst. Book. Ever.

I bought a copy of The Madness of A Seduced Woman by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer whilst on a jaunt to the north of the state over Easter, and it effected me so much that I thought I’d do a review.

And when I say effected, I mean it was one of the worst, most inconsistently written books I have ever read in my entire life.

I bought it at a Newsagent, which was my first mistake, but it was either that or One Nation, and I didn’t have anything on me to read. It didn’t look too bad on the blurb, it looked like the kind of fluff that is perfect for holiday reading, and given that I was going to be either basking by a river or huddled around a fire, it seemed perfect.

Stupidity, thy name is Keri. First of all, someone else started reading it first, and was struck by the first line – it was essentially about killing a cow. It didn’t get much better from there.

Basically, the novel revolves around the main character, Agnes. She comes from a family where the females seem to be very unstable but beautiful, and when her Grandmother, who had basically raised her, dies when she is sixteen, she leaves for the nearest City. She lodges at a boarding house, and meets a stonecutter with a bad reputation. She falls violently in love with him, gets engaged, falls pregnant, and they agree to have an abortion. This she does, and the wheels fall off an already shaky relationship. He seems to have been engaged to someone else throughout his relationship with Agnes, and when he breaks it off with Agnes, she sets about planning her own suicide. Instead of killing herself though, she kills her ex-fiancee's current fiancee.

The reason why this book is so bad rests in how long it takes us to get to this stage. Half the book. Half a book of more than 500 pages for a year of action to take place. And every, single, tiny thought that goes through the protagonists mind to be dredged out and spewed forth onto the pages in what I can only describe as bilge.

And then, for some unaccountable reason, the novel gets good. I think because it isn’t written from the point of view of the main character any more. We don’t have to hear her every thought, from the mundane to the completely frickin’ insane. There’s a bit more action going on, and its actually written well.

Which is why I’m suspicious that someone else has written the middle section of the book. It’s of a completely different caliber to the rest of the book. The writing style isn’t all that different, but the way in which it’s applied to the subject matter is.

And another thing, before I forget; the start of the book is memories from childhood. Then we have a “Letter to a friend” which doesn’t end. Seriously – that loose end is never tied up.

I don’t necessarily think that this is just a poorly written book. This, to me, is a manuscript that never got properly turned into a novel. The idea was good - subject matter that could appeal to any man or woman (More likely woman)

But whoever edited this thing was an idiot. And idiot with a short attention span. Who didn’t realize that even though the second chapter opens with a letter, that letter is never finished. The book just runs on, reverting back and forth between first and second person and not really giving you an accurate sense of time.

And indication of how much I enjoy a book is usually how long it takes me to read. I’m towards the end of a 500-page book right now, and it’ll have taken me less than three days of just reading on trains to get that far. This book – this book was hard work. I gave myself coffee breaks from this book. I don’t drink coffee, but I felt the need to put the book down every now and then, because it was hard to keep reading it.

The ending of the book was confusing as well. Agnes is older now, and starts feeling suicidal. So she checks herself into the asylum, and dies about three or four years later. And that’s it. That’s then ending I’ve spent 500 odd pages getting towards? She dies of old age? (No, really. She dies of old age)

If I had to pick one word to describe this novel, it would be inconsistent. This book was basically a pain in the arse. It was hard to read, patchy and took a subject that should have made for an excellent novel and turned it into poorly edited rubbish.

Oh, and the word pernicious featured. Which did at least make me laugh.


Bron said...

"Pernicious" appearing in the book sounds like its one and only saving grace!

Merriyank said...

Brave girl. I wouldn't have got to the last page. Verdict would have been "bored now" and book would be collecting dust on a shelf..... Thanks for saving me the money.

Keri said...

I had to keep going, I just had to know how bad it really got.

It did take me a week though.