Avoiding M. Night Shyamalan

Like many people, I really enjoyed The Sixth Sense. Cute kid, Bruce Willis, suspense, Bruce Willis, a twist I didn’t see coming that brought the whole movie together in a coherent way while helping the viewer feel a sense of closure and finality, and, of course, Bruce Willis.

I might kind of have a thing for Bruce Willis.

I might kind of have a thing for Bruce Willis.

The Sixth Sense, to me, provides proof that the “twist” can be an effective ploy, and that it would be incorrect to say that an author cannot effectively build an entire work around one. I will venture to say that I don’t think this ploy should be utilized very often, and that when it is used, often results in a shallow work, with little substance, that isn’t very enjoyable to read.

Unless you're dancing, avoid The Twist.

Unless you’re dancing, avoid The Twist.

The latest book I have read using this ploy (poorly) and convincing me that the Twist should generally be avoided is The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon.

This book.

This book.

According to this book’s Goodreads page, at least amongst the readers who rated the book, I am in the minority here. So it’s definitely possible that I missed some of the charm of this novel, particularly since I read it while working an accounting internship that generally spanned at least 60 hours per week. Or (more likely) that I am a picky reader, and found fault with a book that is supposed to be flimsy beach read. Or (most likely) that I should stop reading historical fiction novels, because they almost always disappoint me.

& now I feel like Marnie.

& now I feel like Marnie.

I didn’t feel like Lawhon worked especially hard on building up a twenties atmosphere – which personally, I liked. Often, when a writer does historical fiction, so much loving, careful, wonderful research is done, that the book feels a little claustrophobic. When a writer focuses too much on historical accuracy, I usually have trouble getting into the story. & when Lawhon did sneak a twenties reference into her novel that I noticed, it was generally because it felt forced and/or pissed me off. In a particular scene, the Wife wears a Coco Chanel dress that is “the latest fashion,” but allows herself to feel sad that she can’t have kids when another catty politician’s wife remarks that she is “the type” who can pull off that look. Since the whole point of Chanel and flappers was that women didn’t have to adhere to constricting societal stereotypes, it was really disappointing to me that an act of potential female strength and “I don’t give a damn” was turned into a scene of “My boobs aren’t big enough and I’m a bad homemaker because I can’t bear children.” As a woman, and not a prize sow, I would like to think my boyfriend keeps me around for more than my childbearing hips.

This is a sow, not a woman. #Iknowthiscanbeconfusing

This is a sow, not a woman. #Iknowthiscanbeconfusing

The history revolves around the mystery of a NY judge who disappeared (for realz) in 1930. The fictional aspects primarily revolve around the 3 women closest to Justice Crater – his wife, his maid, and his mistress – and what they knew about the judge, as well as what they possibly did to assist in his disappearance.

There is a twist regarding these three women and their involvement near the end of the book, which the book was obviously built around, and which is ineffective, as well as boring. The twist is explicated in a letter written by the mistress to the maid, which makes NO FREAKIN’ SENSE. If you are writing a letter to someone you are in collusion with, you don’t explain the actions of a third person you were also in collusion with and the reasons for that third person’s collusion because, you both already know that. It’s the equivalent of my writing to you: “As you know, this is my blog that you’re reading. I am currently typing on a fancy shmancy laptop computer keyboard to get these letters into WordPress, from whence I will publish this blog post, so that you can read it. Which you are doing right now.” I do not need to write these things to you. You already know them.

I will stop complaining about this, and just leave you with this picture.

I will stop complaining about this, and just leave you with this picture.

And, since I’ve already been spoilery enough, let me discuss one of my favorite scenes. This scene is when the Mistress has fled NY to go back to whatever farm-hick town she’s from, and the husband she abandoned, because she’s preggers and homesick. The husband seems like a decent guy – he takes her in, though the child is obviously not his. And she’s upset b/c he’s sleeping on the couch and she misses him, and also being pregnant and having a baby is hard. Then, shortly after the baby is born, her hubby crawls into bed with her, and they have sex. With the baby sleeping on the bed right next to them. This sounds irresponsible beyond belief. I mean, if you flee NY to protect yourself and your baby, why would you endanger your baby’s life through sexy times? Can’t you guys do it on the floor or something? Just… what? Also – have you seen a new mother? That dazed expression, the glazed over, red eyes, the slow comprehension of anything? Lack of sleep makes a woman look and act really sexy #sarcasm.

This is what Ariel looked like after she had her daughter.

This is what Ariel looked like after she had her daughter.

So I will thus end my spoil-ridden review of this ARC I received, but sadly, did not enjoy. And I leave with these parting words:

free glitter text and family website at FamilyLobby.com
free glitter text and family website at FamilyLobby.com

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Mrs. Poe probably says “Hell no, don’t read this book”

Probably not even from the grave. It would be fitting for E. Allen Poe’s wife to be a zombie. Desperately craving peaceful rest, but her mind cackles evil-ly and tells her “Never more.” Like an insomniac, but, you know, rotting.

So, yes, I recently read Mrs. Poe, and no, I didn’t like it. Here’s the cover, so you know what to avoid.

Avoid.

Avoid.

Mrs. Poe is not an evil book. It’s not a particularly well written book, but it’s also not particularly poorly written. Instead, it is even worse: It is BORING.

The writer took some interesting concepts – Edgar Allen Poe, appearance vs. reality, imagination vs. reality (done so, so, so, so, so much better in Northanger Abbey. Like – SO  much better. Read that instead. #unbiased), writing – and mushed them together in a very, to me, unappealing way. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I doubt it.

*eyes shifting right & left* No, this is not my favorite Austen book. #ZOMGittotallyis

*eyes shifting right & left* No, this is not my favorite Austen book. #ZOMGittotallyis

So what, exactly, did the Twilight-vampire-named authoress do wrong?

I probably don’t remember everything I disliked about this book. I tend to block out bland, unpleasant memories. But here are a few of them:

  • The narrator is particularly unlikable. Of course, this isn’t always a dealbreaker. Lolita is an amazing book, and if you’re sympathizing with Humbert Humbert, you’re reading it wrong. But I think that the author wanted us to like the narrator (some poet, I forget her name, and honestly, am too lazy to look it up). She is supposedly drop-dead gorgeous (which is fine, I usually prefer to think about handsome people, but will pull this up as a fault if the character annoys me), vain and proud about her poetry (which, frankly, doesn’t strike me as very good), angry that her husband left her for other women (with more money; of course he left you, honey #chaching), lusting after another woman’s husband (hypocrite; also, ew), not spending enough time with her children (which probably wasn’t that uncommon amongst the gentle classes during the time period specified, but still pi$$ed me off), and cannot make up her freakin’ mind. What are you, a thirteen year old? Stop being so indecisive; make up your mind, and stick to it. Making up your mind, only to change it the second some guy in tight pants walks by is not going to make me like you.
  • The unlikable narrator is always going on and on about how sexy Mr. Poe is. Um…ew. Have you seen pictures of E. Allen Poe? Who is attracted to that? Like, seriously.
He's sexy and he knows it? #wait...what

He’s sexy and he knows it? #wait…what

Now, for a moment, I thought it was possible the authoress was going to redeem herself. I thought maybe the narrator was supposed to be unstable, rather than unintelligent, as well as too naive to see what was going on in front of her. I probably shouldn’t explain how I thought this might happen, but I think I’m going to anyway:

MY THOUGHTS that would have completely changed the way this book is read, and also appealed about a million times more to my gothic sensibilities:

E. Allen Poe is a sadistic asshole who can’t even really write. His famous stories, “The Raven” poem, etc., are actually written by his dying wife. Now that his consumptive wife is dying, he’s on the prowl to seduce another “good” writer, whose works he plans to sell as his own. Possibly, in addition, killing this writer after he reaps the literary goods she has sown. (If you have read the book, don’t you agree, this ending would have made the book so much more fun?)

ANYWAY, continuing my list:

  • The protagonist (ew) is frightened of this woman whose husband she is trying to steal. Um, hello? Has anyone seen Fatal Attraction? I think we all agree the protagonist and her “sexy” (#vomit) lover deserve a little torture. Particularly when…
  • Mrs. Poe is dying. DYING. Of consumption. And all her husband and this boring poetess can do is make googly eyes at each other while she withers away? Um, no. Not cool, guys.

Well, I’ve reminded myself of why I don’t like this book. Maybe you will, maybe I’m missing something wonderful about this book. But if so, I genuinely didn’t see it, and so I can’t recommend this book to anyone. Oh, also, I received it as an ARC; thank goodness I didn’t pay for it. *shudder*

& on that dark & stormy note, I bid you adieu. Also - ravens.

& on that dark & stormy note, I bid you adieu. Also – ravens.