Customer Review

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Snail Travels Faster than this Work, 20 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Secret Keeper (Hardcover)
I was attracted to reading this novel for two main reasons: first, by the large number of five star reviews it has received and, second, because some of the action takes place in my native rural Suffolk. Now I'm in a quandary as to how to rate it. Should it be rated five star on account of its good prose style encompassing an intriguing plot, or be awarded just the one star reflecting its sheer tediousness coupled with the clichéd characteristics of its often boring characters?

In the first place, the title 'Secret Keeper' is ambiguous. It could refer to either someone who is keeping a secret or to someone in possession of some artefact, about which no one else knows anything at all. Silly me rather thought that it must refer to the second meaning. My second mistake was to suppose that I would enjoy being taken back into the rural Suffolk of yesteryear, which I loved and knew so well. Sadly, the rural settings are so lightly sketched in they could be just about anywhere. Worse still, the author betrays her unfamiliarity with the English countryside in a variety of ways. For instance, in one place she refers to a pair of rooks flying along. Such a pair is far more likely to have been two carrion crows. Having grown up in a small Suffolk village in which there were several rookeries my formative years were imbued with these most gregarious of birds addicted to scavenging in flocks.

Laurel, the lead character, is depicted as developing into a boringly clichéd person constantly tippling and lighting cigarettes, who is somewhat unconvincingly portrayed as a famous film star. Then again, police simply do not operate as described in relation to the murder Laurel witnesses, no, not even in the nineteen sixties.

I have to admit that I read very few novels; I prefer, amongst other things, history, natural history and real life experiences, and I have to say, if I come across many more novels like this one, I shall be reading even fewer of them. The old adage about 'truth being stranger than fiction' is well born out by this novel. It's all about a set of boring people doing all the boring things that boring people do and trying to read it is like wading through a slough of despond.

On the positive side I am indeed happy that the author is so successful and that so many readers love her work, but I have to speak as I find, not least in the knowledge that there are other people around who will react to the novel as I do. Perhaps someone out there can explain to me why this clichéd, snail paced style of writing is attractive to so many people. Am I missing something? Can anyone tell me why people prefer to wade through this heavy stuff when they can read about real life drama and real life crime in well written narratives, which are difficult to put down?

Although the author certainly deserves five stars for being such a successful writer and it's certainly pleasing to know that so many readers enjoyed this particular novel, I think I have no choice but to join the ranks of those who found it difficult to get into, which means that I'm going to align myself with those reviewers who gave it just two stars.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Jul 2013 14:18:33 BDT
I agree with you entirely. Boring and cliched with very unconvincing characters. Didn't it go on?

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jul 2013 14:45:49 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jul 2013 14:48:59 BDT
H. A. Weedon says:
Many thanks, Anna Wilkinson. I'm so pleased that a gracious lady agrees with me, a mere man. How can people actually like this stuff when there are so many truly good books to read?

Posted on 4 Jan 2014 16:49:45 GMT
patrician says:
I do not agree with you when you say, perhaps out of politeness, that the book deserves 5 stars just because the author is popular. You should, as you did, award it what you think it is worth. Amazon brought this book up 'for my consideration' when I was searching another author, & when I saw the rating I thought it was worth a look. But when I noticed the huge number of reviews, most of them good, I became cautious, as I have noticed before that mediocre populist books often have a huge following. I read your review (I always read the low ratings), & began to feel my suspicions might be justified. Then I saw there was a 'look inside' facility, so I did.
Well! clearly the author is trying to be different, but not succeeding. The prose is overdone, clichéd & at points ridiculous: on the first page the chimney pots are 'steaming'. That's a novel idea. The wheelbarrow waits patiently; the chickens appear from nowhere; there are several 'as ifs' just on the first couple of pages. And that's all I could bear to read. This writer is among the many who pile on too much descriptive detail when their descriptive powers are limited to cliché. She consciously 'sets a scene' but it is does not come to life.
You say you prefer non fiction but there are many beautifully written novels which capture human experience subtly & accurately & they may have a lot of descriptive detail, but in such a way that you lose yourself in it. Not the case here: you keep tripping over it, it is so clumsy & unfelt.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2014 08:48:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jan 2014 08:57:40 GMT
H. A. Weedon says:
Many thanks, Patrician. Your contribution is greatly valued. Yes, I was trying to be polite. Like you, I always make a point of reading the one and two star ratings. Lets not beat about the bush: 'The Secret Keeper' is a supreme example of how not to write a novel. I promise you I will read some good novels. I'm currently reading 'Love in Excess' by Eliza Haywood (1693-1756)

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jan 2014 12:37:45 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jan 2014 12:38:23 GMT
patrician says:
Thank you H.A. Weedon. The book you mention looks intriguing & I will get hold of a copy as soon as I am able.
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