I’ve written and re-written this review a couple of times, I’ve made a complete mess of it because there were so many aspects of the book that were or could have been right, and some aspects that were just blank point wrong.
So, here’s what I’m going to do- I will start with the negatives and finish up with the positives, and I’m going to keep it short and to the point.
1 Minus: The book is less than 200 pages, covers a timeline of 1930s-2014 (yup, you read that right) and the focus from one character to the other is slightly weird (75% of the book you read about MC, then the ending of the book you follow MC’s son. It felt like two different stories, yet the same (?), because MC and his son both ended up in war, both loved multiple women and both had so much tradegy- one could not catch a break!)
2 Minus: The writing was repetitive (events) and without much emotion. The feelings were told, not shown.
3 Minus: I would have read this book from another angle if I was asked to be a beta-reader and/or to edit. It had so many silly little mistakes. About 3 times a completely wrong name was mentioned. Once, Beth was having a dialogue after she had actually died (creepy). Another time, Evelyn was talking about her lesbian lover needing help and the lover’s name wasn’t Evelyn, yet she was named Evelyn (see? silly little mistake) and the third time I think the name mix up happened in a dialogue in between the men. At times wors were used that were totally out of place… For example “…refereeing to my relationship” should be “…referring to my relationship”.
So, if I was asked to beta-read, I would have kept track of all those little things. Unfortunately I was supposed to read and review and my suggestion is- have another run at editing!
Here are a few examples from the book to help you understand my negative points, I’m not just throwing what seems to be dirt at the book to troll.
First, a sentence which could easily have been made so much better by simple editing.
You can also keep records of your informants, only instead of their real
names, use names of people you know back home for the informant’s name.
There seems to be a pattern of repetition just to make sure the reader gets the point?
Howard escorts Jack to the dining area, which is more like a dining hall than a dining
room. What makes it look even larger is that there are only the two of them there. They sit down and wait for Norman.
Norman arrives in five minutes. Jack and Howard are about to get up as Norman enters.
Before they can completely get up, Norman says, “Please don’t get up.” He goes over to Jack, introduces himself, and sits down.
The author tells the story by literally telling it rather than describing and showing the moods and environment via character senses. .
Jack is driving a pool car from the embassy. Joshette notices it immediately. She says,
“Let’s take my car. It is familiar around the Vichy offices and will not attract attention.” Jack is learning from Joshette by the minute.
They arrive at the Vichy building at seven o’clock. Joshette parks the car where she does every day. They leave for the building. Joshette opens the front door with her key. There is no one in the lobby. She tells Jack to wait there for her while she checks her office. Within three minutes she is back for him. They leave for her office on the second floor. There is no elevator. They take the stairs. When they get to the office, Joshette unlocks the door and leads Jack inside.
OK, off to the good parts…
Our MC Jack Gilbert starts out as a humble, intelligent and somewhat naive young man. He travels with the hobos, witnesses murder more than once, saves a couple of prostitutes from their lifestyle and goes to war. Oh yes, he gets married and then cheats on his wife because- passion asks no man for permission! In the end, he is a changed man- greed takes him over and his business thrives. This, in short, would have made a fantastic read if it wouldn’t have been rushed? I felt like the story evolved too quickly- he’s on the road, bang- he’s getting married, bang- he starts a business, bang- he’s off to war, bang- he bangs someone else. Mix in some rape, load of deaths of everyone near&dear… Makes a pretty tragic story. And I don’t mind tragic, if it can really pull on my heartsrings.
I have absolutely no objections towards the characters- they weren’t unrealistic, specially given the tough times they were living in. I could see why they acted the way they acted, even if there was no real emotion described next to the events. Bottom line- the story has a lot of potential to be magnificent.
It’s always difficult to write and publish a review that isn’t necessarily the shining 5* praise. This book however just did not work for me. I rate it 2** (it was OK) purely on the fact that the idea behind the book is great, the writing however badly needs editing.