I try to give every book the same consideration, particularly when it’s in the review pile. As a (wannabe) writer myself, I can understand the toil that an author went through. I respect that. But there are still some books, that no matter how much I should have liked, and thought I would enjoy, I just can’t get excited about it. It stinks. It’s a disappointment to me as an expectant reader, and I’m sure as an author and publisher.
But with a New Year quickly approaching, I feel it is as good a time as any to slough off some of the titles that have straggled on my nightstand…
ASK ALICE by DJ TAYLOR
I loved Taylor’s previous work, Bright Young People, about high society in 1920s in London. That book was nonfiction. Ask Alice once again draws on Taylor’s encyclopedic knowledge of the era but in novel form. The heroine, naive but learning, goes from beguiled to ingenue to jaded.
The opening pages of the book, told from Alice’s point-of-view, were completely riveting. Once Taylor introduces a London character who has a pigpen in his back garden, the whole thing falls apart. The narrative voice loses its way. Even when we return to Alice on the London stage, Taylor cannot regain the balance or the verve of the early pages.
To his credit, Taylor is an excellent descriptive writer. His sentences are well-formed and packed with elegance. In this case, it is the over-arching story that is weak.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Language: EnglishISBN-10: 1605980862
BRIGHT AND DISTANT SHORES by DOMINIC SMITH
Here again is a book from one of my favorite authors. The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre left me in tears and The Beautiful Miscellaneous was quite touching. My penchant for his writing coupled with my downright obsession with the 1893 World’s Fair should have been a no-brainer.
What was lacking here was Smith’s usually extraordinary narrating characters. Rather than feeling their adventuresome spirit in the vivid colors of the South Pacific, it reads more like a monochrome manual for gathering archaeological samples. I desperately wanted to like this book, but I just can’t recommend it.
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Language: EnglishISBN-10: 1439198861
IN SEARCH OF THE COLOR THAT SEDUCED THE WORLD
by Catherine E. McKinley
Indigo is my favorite color; it always has been. It was the color of my bridesmaids’ dresses and plenty of decor at my wedding. I’m also always a fan of books that take a small idea or item and uncover vast histories about it. I thought this is what I would find between the covers here — a surprising and insightful look at a stunningly beautiful color.
Indigo is less a history and more a personal diary. The author embarks on a journey to Africa in order to discover more about indigo, but she is sparing in her details about the history that brings her there. Rather than intertwining the old and the new, the old becomes abandoned for her own adventures. There were also glaring historical errors like her mention of “the invention of the cotton gin in 1974,” (page 4) that made it hard to enjoy.
Hardcover: 256 pp
Size: 5.5 x 8.25 in
In all cases, I sincerely wish to thank the publicists for providing the review copies. I hope they will not find me unfair in my assessments.