This is the final book in the chick lit challenge (hurrah!) and it was another book picked after a random browse of Goodreads. I skim read the blurb and checked the average rating, which was almost five stars – so it must be good, right?
Of course, I was forgetting that most people who read and rated the book probably like reading chick lit. I didn’t even know that the title had any meaning, outside of the book itself, such is my dislike of rom-coms.
I now know that the title is from the film, Notting Hill (released in 1999):
I’ve never seen Notting Hill. I spent 1999 watching films like The Green Mile, The Mummy, The Matrix and Galaxy Quest. What’s more, after watching that clip, I have no desire to watch Notting Hill.
So, the book…
In a nutshell
A woman has to come to terms with her past and try not to make the same mistakes as her mother. This involves her choosing between three men and trying to see herself as her friends see her, rather than as the person she has been conditioned to see in the mirror.
Not everyone will wait for something to happen. Yes, this is another first person narrative book. Out of the three books I’ve read this month, this one spends the most time taking us on a tour of the characters thoughts. There are pages where she just describes her friends, her past, her colleagues, the way she feels about everything and everyone. She’s a very needy main character.
Nothing much happens in the first half of the book. Well, a couple of big things happen, but they feel underwhelming. Entire chapters go by where nothing happens to advance the plot and you just think – that chapter could have been deleted and I wouldn’t have noticed.
The plot kicked off during the second half of the book, and everything became interesting. I went from wanting to finish the book because I was bored, to not being able to put the book down because everything was happening.
I felt like I’d had an empathy bypass. I’m usually very empathetic, and by the end of the book I did care about the character, in a kind of big sister “oh my God why doesn’t she get a therapist and sort herself out?” kind of way. At the start of the book, she’s just this odd woman that lives a strange life and appears to be emotionally numb. Rather than feeling sympathy for her, I felt…annoyed.
I think there should be at least one character who’s both a friend, and someone who gets exasperated with her. No one in the book gets angry with her (apart from a very brief moment towards the end), and it doesn’t feel right.
“Don’t use-ly adverbs as dialogue tags.” I read that all the time. Yet, here they are. (She said, prissily.) The author didn’t use them all the time, but when she did they snapped me straight out of the story. Great books let the reader immerse themselves in the story, allowing them to imagine the story for themselves. There shouldn’t be a need for a writer to tell the reader that a character “said eagerly”, the reader should be able to work that out for themselves by reading the dialogue.
Another issue, which I’m now going to keep an eye on in my own drafts, is ending a line of dialogue with an exclamation point, and then using the dialogue tag “I exclaimed.” (Well, yes…)
Humour is subjective. The book is full of silly humour. The character names, the name of the village, the goofy Miranda like sense of humour that the main character and her friend have. It’s all supposed to be funny.
The problem is, I’m one of those people who loves Miranda for the prat falls, rather than the situational comedy, which I don’t find funny at all. There are only so many times a character can burst into a rendition of an M People song before you stop finding it funny, and I had the same issue with this book. The characters were trying too hard to be funny, and it was a bit draining after a while.
I spent a lot of this book trudging through it. I kept reading because I wanted to see her dump her boyfriend and start liking herself a bit more. I’m glad I did, because the last few chapters were great. It’s odd though, because there were several plot points which had a big potential for drama, but most of them fizzled out, so the impetus to keep reading had to come from the reader rather than the book.