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So Much Pretty Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

2.8 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Century (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846059704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846059704
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 694,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Poetic, intelling and shocking" (Rosamund Lupton, bestselling author of Sister)

"Beautiful, stealthy...an impassioned, intelligent and important work of art" (Chris Cleave)

"[A] dark but powerful début novel" (The New Yorker)

"A skillful, psychologically acute tale of how violence affects a small town" (Los Angeles Times)

"[A] fearless first novel" (New York Times Book Review)

Book Description

A gripping psychological suspense debut

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an extraordinary, passionately felt, gripping psychological thriller that had me wanting to start it again once I'd finished it. What higher praise? It is written in sections by different characters which gives it a multi-refractory feel. These sections are the characters thoughts, letters, voicemails and student essays. It is multi-layered in its themes which coalesce, making it a sophisticated and complex read. End voices begin the novel which make fuller sense nearer to the end: this does not detract from pace or understanding but simply makes it more intriuging and motivates the reader to read on. I feel that Booklist does it a disservice in its comparison with The Lovely Bones and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though it is closer to the grittiness and darkness of the latter it is a long way from the saccharine former.

There are many voices that contribute to So Much Pretty, foremost of which seem to be Gene and Claire the parents of Alice, Alice herself and Stacy Flynn, investigative local reporter.

The setting is a small, sad town in upstate New York: a "farming" town. The community seems dominated physically and socially by the Haytes farm and the family that live there, the Haytes. They have a dairy factory farm that also farms cow manure and spreads the smell of cow faeces over the town. The description of the lives of the cows alone is visceral and highly upsetting. I don't think it is any accident that the Haytes don't see these cows as living creatures, just the means to an end (money), which is a mirror to the way father and son view women - as sub-human and faceless. The rest of the town on the whole kow tow to this family which is the wealthiest in this impoverished, largely unemployed and isolated community.
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By Belfast Dave VINE VOICE on 17 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Any high hopes I might have had for this book vanished after the third chapter. The story (which I struggled to maintain) is told by a telephone directory of characters (seriously!) from a bewilderingly shifting time span.
The authors writing style is truly beautiful, but her plot-line and ability to engage with her audience is confusing to say the least.
I had such expectations of this book given it's critical endorsements, and it's comparisons to other leading writers and their work, but Lord, was it hard going!
The only reason it got two stars as opposed to one from me is that I didn't want to be totally mean spirited. Shame that such good writing has all been in vain.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I read So Much Pretty two years ago and it's a book that I haven't found easy to forget: it's a brilliant and haunting read, so I'm baffled by the poor reviews here. I can only think it's the narrative structure that intimidated readers: told through multiple POV narrations, as well as extracts from police transcripts (all of which at first seem to be in no particular order), it takes a while to get to grips with. But I really believe it's worth persevering, as this novel is truly unique in terms of the crime/thriller genre. Whereas most books of this type use the endemic violence against women of our society for entertainment, in So Much Pretty Cara Hoffman seeks to interrogate and criticise it.

When a local woman goes missing and is later found tortured to death, the small rural community of Haeden, New York State - which would clearly like to look the other way - is forced to confront some harsh realities by two women, local high school student Alice Piper, and newspaper reporter Stacy Flynn. I loved the sense of place: from grungy Alphabet City in the early 90s, where Alice's idealistic anarchist parents live, to the claustrophobic small-town atmosphere of Haeden, Hoffman evokes wildly diverse places and people perfectly. There are some brilliant twists that make the reason for the odd, scattergun structure of the narrative fall into place slowly.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"So Much Pretty." An unusual title to a somewhat unusual book. Reading reviews from the USA, where it was released earlier, it appears to be a "marmite" kind of a novel........you either love it or hate it. I loved it!

Admittedly, it took me a while to get into the story. Frequent changes of characters and switching from the first to the third person with startling regularity, can be confusing to begin with, but I urge readers to stick with it.

The story is set in the small town of Haeden, in New York State, the type of place where everybody knows everyone else. A young waitress called Wendy disappears, which unsettles the whole community and the police appear to make no headway in trying to find Wendy's whereabouts. Some say she has run away to start a new life in the city. Those who know her well do not buy in to this theory and fear she is dead. Six months later, Wendy's body is discovered in the woods and it is obvious that she has been starved and tortured, both physically and sexually. But what is puzzling is the fact she has only been dead a few days. Where has she been all this time?

Cara Hoffman builds the suspense brilliantly, and the story unravels through the eyes and experiences of the inhabitants of Haeden and Wendy's former school friends. A journalist, wanting to find that ultimate headliner, is relentless in her pursuit of the facts. The book's tragic conclusion is totally unexpected and the realisation of what ghastly things have been happening in this small town comes as a shock, to say the least. I was gripped by Hoffman's writing and found it hard to put this one down. Although the subject matter is disturbing, a great deal is left to the imagination, and the writer does not revel in violence for violence's sake. That elevates this novel beyond a simple whodunnit or psychological thriller. Highly recommended for it's uniqueness.
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