Friday, March 18, 2005

A final word on Cohen's Book Doctor

I stayed up finishing Book Doctor by Esther Cohen. I am glad I decided to stick with it, because I found in the second half a lot more examples of the kind of writing that hooked me in the first paragraph of the book (and which was sorely lacking in paragraphs two through chapter nine).

I enjoyed the book enough to check out Esther Cohen's next book when it's published.

That said, I think that this book would have benefitted from its own book doctor, or from an editor who actually did his/her job. A lot of it, especially in the early chapters, just detracts from the story, and from the characters. And while I ended up liking the narrative voice, I do think that all of Ms. Cohen's characters sound alike; all have the same endearingly weird way of putting things (even if Harbinger Singh is the master in that respect). I just wasn't convinced enough of Harbinger's uniqueness and his fascination to Arlette, which was dealt with in the following (highly unfulfilling) way: "Arlette listened carefully to his nervous rambling. She couldn't help bit wonder what it was that she found so compelling. His words? His delivery? Both?" (ch 10, p77). It boggles my mind (and annoys me that Cohen couldn't show how Harbinger fascinated Arlette instead of just telling us).

I found parts of the book humorous but certainly NOT 'hilarious', as one of the blurbs and many reviews insisted. For example, during one of her customary early Sunday phone calls, Arletta's grandmother tells her: "'Arlette, my child. I hope I didn't wake you. But if I did, I'd rather not know. Guilt is overrated,' she said. 'I don't want it. I have enough'..." (ch 18, p136). And there are several good bits about what it means to be a writer, and about the process of writing, which sound like they are coming from the author herself, and not from Arletta, because poor Arletta is a successful book doctor but a frustrated writer.

(I'll get back to the stuff on writing in a separate post, once I've had my daily coffee fix.)

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