I'm reading Penmarric by Susan Howatch, which is one of those "sweeping family sagas" set in Cornwall. Sex, money, property, bastards, etc. The blurb compares it to Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. Um, no.
Why am I reading this drivel? Because Michael Korda told me to. Not exactly, but in his book about his career at Simon & Schuster (Another Life) he mentions Penmarric as a book that came across his desk that seemed really different and special. So I added it to my book list and now I am saying, "WHY, MICHAEL WHY?"
Who knows, maybe in the 1970s it was different and special to use 500 words when twenty-five would suffice. Here, a bridegroom approaches his wife on their wedding night:
I lit a cigarette, walked over to the railings of the esplanade and watched the moonlight glittering on the dark waters. The sea was calm; I felt at peace...Faint strains of music reached my ears from the dining room; the murmur of conversation floated to meet me from the drawing room...I mounted the stairs, my feet sinking into the thick carpet, and moved without hesitation down the cooridor to the door of our suite.
She was ready for bed. She wore some pale floating garment and as I entered the room I could see her reflection in the dressing table mirror. Her hair, thick and luxuriant, cascaded over her shoulders...
Then she wipes some lipstick off her mouth and he freaks out and is suddenly remembering every tragic thing that ever happened to him.
I was back among the worst memories of my life, back amidst all the blood and violence and suffering I'd tried so hard to forget. I'd thought I'd never have to live through those memories again, but I was wrong. Time had been displaced, the clock put back.
And I was there.
It's supposed to be dramatic, but it's really just boring and infuriating. I hope I don't come across as a snob. Good and bad writing cut across all levels of literature and I enjoy all kinds of books. Indeed, if there's anything more irritating than a poorly-written best seller, it's a badly written novel with pretensions to being great literature.
So why am I reading it? I don't always continue with awful books. Recently, a book's "thrilling" language irritated me so much I quit reading after twenty pages. I was so exceptionally annoyed I returned it to the library immediately as if it was too much to even have it in the house with me. The one thing worthwhile thing about Penmarric is that Susan Howatch parallels the Penmar family's story with that of the Plantagenets: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their children. It's an interesting idea and the book could have been really good if someone had forced her to remove the manufactured drama.
What sorts of books irritate you?