Top critical review
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disappointing and ultimately unfinishable
on 25 April 2008
I love historical fiction. However, this novel is a wet squib on just about every level.
My biggest criticism is for the writer's use of speech. She frequently has her characters say and think in very modern language. I simply cannot stretch my imagination enough to believe that a 16th-century person would say "Yeah", "Yep", "What d'ya mean?", "I only just dropped by", "Beautiful kid", "He's kidding himself" ... the list could go on and on. The whole thing has the ring of 21st-century American soap opera. But then, maybe the TV watching audience is the author's intended readership. To that end she may have succeeded.
Also, there are an awful lot of facial reactions in Dunn's Tudor England. Everyone seems to spend their time "nodding, dreamily" or "breathing so that no one else could hear" with "rolling eyes", "eyes dip away into a smile" or "flickering eyes". No emotion is subtle enough that it cannot be described in clanging detail. Ultimately vague detail. And all of these penny-dreadful phrases do nothing but detract us.
Furthermore, the book could boast of more unusual, distracting and idiocycratic use of punctuation than any other book I've ever read (or, in this case, partially read). The amount of commas littered within the text are truly phenomenal!
Perhaps the biggest crime is the sheer mind-numbingly boring tale itself. Not an awful lot happens. Not an awful lot is said. Years pass by from one scene to the next, scenes again from which not an awful lot can be learned.
A difficult book to enjoy. An easy book to put down.