When books try too hard
You know those outfits you see people wearing sometimes? They've obviously really thought about them and spent a lot of time putting them together but somehow they just don't work and they look too wrong and too obvious and too effortful... I always think of that kind of outfit as 'trying too hard' and it's a phenomenon that isn't restricted to garments or fashion. Books can sometimes seem to be trying too hard, too. Most recently I've observed it oftenest in psychological thrillers, a genre that's riding high in popularity, driven I guess by Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train. (You'll notice when you are next in a bookshop that nearly all the books on the psychological thriller table have 'girl' in the title... clearly, that's seen by authors/publishers/publicists as the most foolproof way to live vicariously off the success of those aforementioned titles.) Well, I've commented on Gone Girl before; I absolutely loved it. The Girl On The Train is on my 'to read' pile and might well be next to be opened at bedtime. Although one of my year 8s read it and reviewed it in her reading journal and said it wasn't all that, but perhaps I shouldn't base my reading decisions on the opinion of a twelve-year old I'm not even related to.
The other caveat to reading it is that I've just finished another such thriller by an author currently riding high in the charts but which I would definitely place in the 'trying too hard' category and it's put me off the genre a little bit. The story is convoluted in the most unnecessary and ultimately unbelievable way, struggling all the time to contain 'twists' that in the end are only unforeseen because they're simply too ridiculous for anyone else to think of them. The characters are unlikeable and inauthentic, the things they do and the reasons they do them simply not credible and the ending is just plain silly. It's quite hard for a woman to kill another grown woman with her bare hands - I would imagine so, anyway, though I've never tried it - but such is (part of) the denouement of this tale. I'm not giving any more clues because I don't like to be critical of books, I would much rather give glowing testimonies to how marvellous each and every novel I read is. It's just that I'm not reading that much that I'm loving at the moment.
If I don't start Girl On A Train next, it might be The Secret Wife by Gill Paul, another title that is soaring up the charts and garnering amazing reviews on the way. I'm really looking forward to it as I'm sure it's one I'm going to enjoy. I'll let you know when I've read it and, in the meantime, please do send me your recommendations. (I don't read chick-lit or Mills & Boon style romance, Christmas books or hard-core crime such as Joe Nesbo which are just too gory for me. Just so you know :-) ) There are so many amazing novels out there that are woefully overlooked because they are not one of the ten books a year that actually get a marketing and publicity budget and that are pushed to the point of nausea on anyone and everyone. I've taken a vow that I'll never read a book that is labelled 'the must-read of 2016' or 'if you only read one book this year, make it this one' ever again. Of course, I'll rapidly change my tune on that if any of MY books become the Chosen Ones... but in the meantime, I want to seek out the undiscovered heroes lurking in your kindles and on your bookshelves.