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Not one of Picoult's best, lacking the depth she's known for.
on 14 July 2013
I have read a fair number of Jodi Picoult books now and usually speak highly of them. I enjoy the depth, clarity, moral debating that Picoult is renowned for, finding her books both interesting and well developed, in regards to both the characters and plot. With this in mind I decided to work my way through the rest of the books she has written, one of which being `Picture Perfect'. I'm afraid to say this isn't one of those books that falls into the above category.
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.