Sunday, July 30, 2006

Reader's Diary #136- Tina Chaulk: This Much Is True (FINISHED!)


Where to begin? Remember when I said it was a page turner? I stick by that. But half way through the page turning was to get it finished and out of my life.

Believe it or not, I'm trying my hardest here to be nice. But in all honesty (and that is supposed to be the theme here, isn't it?) I feel harsh. I feel like warning people to avoid this book at any cost. But I'm going to try being constructive...

There's way too much going on. My wife and I have slightly different tastes in books. She requires more plot than I do. She's not looking forward to the next Dan Brown book or anything, but Carol Shields isn't her thing either. Still, she didn't like This Much Is True either. Between the abusive boyfriend, the guy with AIDS, the manic-depressive boyfriend and countless jobs, this book amounts to a soap opera. Though most soaps have better writing. The problem with so much, so fast is that the reader (this reader anyway), doesn't care. Two characters die and they're supposed to have some profound lasting impression on Simms. However, it's really hard to attach to such characters or understand their significance with they only appear on a dozen or so pages. The one good exception to this is Rain. Maura Hanrahan, in a review that was WAY too glowing, said Clay was "the heart and soul" of the book. I'd have to disagree. That would be Rain.

Secondly, the whole lying thing. The publishers seemed to push this aspect of the book as the focal point. Aside from asinine letters home, Chaulk hardly explores this issue at all. Never does there seem to be any growth in Simms' perspective on lying. At the end there's a brief comment about it but it's hardly believable. In fact, it seems almost thrown it at the suggestion of an editor (who really needed to say SO much more).

Thirdly, and in line with my last point, there seems to be no character growth at all. Again at the end Simms claims that she has matured and become all the more wiser, but you really don't see any evidence of that. Speaking of maturity and intelligence, that Simms is supposed to have a philosophy degree is almost laughable. It reads like it's being told by a girl straight out of highschool (and at times like she's still there). Really lame.

Fourthly, the ending. No I won't offer any spoilers (the book is hard enough to read as it is). Just like the over the top rants that Chaulk's characters spew forth, the ending is equally as unbelievable. Just way too implausibly perfect and almost laughably so.

I could go on and on. But I'll leave with one last comment on Chaulk's humour. Ever watch Last Comic Standing? It's strange to watch because on other reality shows those that suck are usually the funniest, while on Last Comic Standing the opposite is true. Chaulk's attempts at humour are like those of the poor schmucks on that show. I gave an example before, but this is probably my favourite example:

"...they both fell from the same stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down."

Yikes. How does something so bad get past an editor?


Robert Hiscock said...

You're too hard on this book. I'm not sure what you want it to be, nor do I understand the venom. It is pleasently comedic and a simple straight-forward read, which obviously wasn't to your taste but many others will like it.

John Mutford said...

Rj, I did acknowledge that my sense of humour may not be the same as everyone else. If someone else likes this book, then good for them. Obviously not everyone is going to be into the same books as me and vice versa. That's great. Variety is the spice of life. What did I want it to be? Funny, for one thing.

I'm really not trying to be venomous as you put it. I know Tina has checked out this blog before and believe me, that played heavily on my mind as I critiqued this book. But I really, really couldn't find a saving grace to this book. It may not make me the most popular blogger in Newfoundland, but I feel like I'm being honest. She's gotten a lot of positive press. One bad review on a low rated blog isn't going to change matters. In hindsight, when I said I was trying to be nice- maybe I should have tried harder. Words like "lame" are hurtful, and I apologize for those. For the most part I wanted to keep giving constructive criticism, not fling childish insults.

John Mutford said...

I'm really doing some self-reflection here. I think I was too mean-spirited. Thanks for calling me on it. I have no reason to be venomous. I've checked out Chaulk's blog and have enjoyed it quite a lot (it's bookmarked, in fact), and as I wrote my nasty comments I kept telling myself that these blog acquaintances aren't real friendships anyway, so who cares? Well, real or not, I've crossed a line with someone's feelings. It's her first novel, and if she's found an audience that enjoys her writing, then she should be proud. I'm this close to removing my post altogether. But maybe it should stay and serve as a reminder to myself, not to be a complete ass. Besides, I suspect that it's too late at this point anyway. Sorry, Tina. For a nicer review that actually that still has beefs, check out this one.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

"at the end Simms claims that she has matured and become all the more wiser"
Isn't one of the cardinal rules of writing, do not make a statement (such as claiming to have matured), instead SHOW how this has happened?
Sadly I can see why you were less than impressed with the outcome.

John Mutford said...

I don't know. I would think so, but then maybe rules are subjective. Just like in real life.