Picture Perfect Hardcover – 29 Oct 2009
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A riveting, unfailingly intelligent, and undeniably literary psychological drama. (Booklist)
Picoult has an uncanny knack of dreaming up moral dilemmas that you cannot ignore: you must know the resolution (Sunday Express)
Jodi Picoult's novels often focus on lives turned upside down by some terrible event, and it's her way with the small emotional detail that makes them so rewarding (Marie Claire)
A touchingly raw tale (Heat)
Slick, emotive and as readable as ever. (Daily Mail)
What do you do when the person who holds you together is the one who tears you apart? Bestselling phenomenon Jodi Picoult's novel centres on domestic abuse.See all Product description
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Cassie finds herself alone in a grave yard with a nasty head injury and no memories. As she tries to find help she meets Will, a soon to be cop, who is knew to town. Will takes Cassie to his home and attempts to help her piece together her life. We discover that Cassie is a well established anthropologist and is married to the LA movie star Alex Rivers. It all seems picture perfect, so Cassie returns to her life. As the memories continue to return sporadically, Cassie slow begins to realise who Alex Rivers truly is: perfect, idolised movie star to the world, troubled, abusive husband in reality. Heart-brakingly, Cassie stays with Alex, seeing his damaged parts and wishing to fix them, believing her actions could stop his abusive tirade. When Cassie's world changes for the second time, she realises she cannot let Alex's behaviour destroy it again. At first she believes this would be the key to changing Alex, that it would be picture perfect now. However, it doesn't turn out that way. In one final act of strength and bravery Cassie stands up to Alex in the public eye, showing the world exactly who he is, absolving herself of fear and blame.
This is one of Picoult's earlier novels (her second I think) so although it shares the same writing style she is renowned for in her more publicised books, it seems to lack the depth I'm used to from her. Her style of writing is easy to digest, accessible and leaves you wanting to continue reading, always a good sign from my point of view. I also enjoyed the way Picoult delivered the story line, starting with Cassie waking up with amnesia, progressing forward with both the present and flashbacks to the past, until both merge into Cassie's final decision.
On a positive note, Picoult's characters were interesting and well developed, with contrasting elements: Cassie, a successful academic, with a strong career and fierce independence, was also a submissive, inferior, self blaming individual; Alex, an adoring, handsome, sought-after public figure, was also an aggressive, angry, abusive partner. I enjoyed the way Picoult portrayed the conflicting emotions of an abused partner, explaining the difficulties, hopes and belief systems well. She explores the difficulties faced within an abusive relationship with clarity giving an understanding around the complex issues. I particularly liked that Picoult gave reasoning behind Cassie staying and investing in Alex, by delving into her past and the traumas she faced there.
However, there seemed to be scope for so much more. Given the plot, an abused wife with a larger than life husband with a reputation to match, I felt Picoult could have delved into the emotional side of it so much more. Instead, it felt as though she stuck to the superficial side of the plot. Picoult seems to skim over Cassie remembering the reason why she left Alex in the first place. In my opinion going through something as devastating as that (vague to avoid spoilers!), she would feel more than the sweeping overview Picoult gives. In reality this would have a huge impact on a person's life where as this in the book, this piece of the story just wasn't given the time it required. There were other elements I felt Picoult failed to address fully too. For example, Will fell for Cassie from the start, yet we barely explore his feelings. Cassie also had `some' feelings for Will but those aren't really explained either. The addition of Will's Native American background added an interesting element to the book but again, I found I wanted more.
With this in mind, it was disappointing that Picoult missed a few essential points. Given the plot outline, this story could have been placed with Picoult's other classics, instead I would only recommend this book if you're looking for an easy read to fill a gap.
Picture Perfect is a novel about Cassie Barrett, a renowned anthropologist who wakes up in a churchyard, suffering from amnesia. She is taken in by Will Flying Horse, a half-Lakota Los Angeles police officer, until she is claimed by her husband, Alex Rivers, a Hollywood celebrity. She returns to her seemingly "picture perfect" Hollywood life, until she begins to have flashbacks of her previous life, focussed around Alex's repetitive violent behavior towards her. After finding a positive pregnancy kit in her wardrobe, she flees to Will who hides her on the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. After having her child, she returns to Alex in the hope that their son Connor will change his violent ways, but after another brutal beating she holds a press conference to announce her plans to divorce him.
As is usual for Picoult, you can tell that she has really done her research on anthropology, Indian reservations and violence towards women (amongst other things), and the individual scenes ring true and don't feel awkward in any way. The characters are strong, but at times I found it hard to connect with Cassie and her plight. I can see that the point Picuolt is trying to make is that all three of the main characters (Cassie, Alex and Will) had unconventional upbringings where they missed out on a normal childhood, and this has affected their lives as adults. While I thought this was interesting and well-done, the main problem with this novel is that it feels to me like Picoult had three separate ideas for a story, and decided to merge them into one. Because of this, the different strands simply didn't gel to me and it felt fragmented, which distanced me from the story on numerous occasions.
A decent book, but I wouldn't recommend it over her newer novels.