Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen

Release Date: October, 7th

    Arc provided by Ballantine Books through Netgalley

It appears that I have been lucky.
Up until this book I had never considered the fine line in which magical realism authors have to stay in in order for things to work. The phrases used that should be magical, instead of cheesy: 
Part of Olivia's particular allure was how mysterious she seemed, how kind hearted yet distant, how nurturing but withholding, how resistant to summary of any kind.
Up until this story I had never read such a poor attempt at this genre...

I wasn't able to read this as magical realism: for me this is a mishmash of soap opera romance with some silly metaphors, performed by lacklustre characters. 
"Cats had begun taking dust baths like birds, and birds began lazing on  porch stairs like cats (..)"
Well, that, or cats could just open their big mouths to provide a nice cool shade for the birds...

Descriptions should be used to help the story be told. They should not be used to fill pages "per se!"
And that's what I feel happened here.
I don't want to read a book mainly filled with descriptions, in which the characters don't have anything in them... besides some extremely deranged drama!

Long, long, boring descriptions that surpassed the clichéd and went full into cheesy department. 
"The birds in the valley began to sing such intricate and virtuosic songs, that scientists with recorders and binoculars started to come from miles around, enraptured by avian talent."
Two words that probably should never, ever be used together!
Avian + Talent! 
First she knew that she still wanted him in the same old way, on a level that was elemental and animal and chemical and utterly miserable and thrilling and miserable again.
Yes, there is quite a number of adjectives that can be used in a text...
But just because you can use them... doesn't mean you should use them all at once.

For me, this overuse of adjectives doesn't make a sentence stronger, it makes it weaker, because the whole thing is just too verbose!
Why can't you people just save a few trees?!
If you can say something in a single page, why use ten freaking pages? 
(..)he could see that she was wearing a pale cotton dress that made her look as sweet and cool as an ice cream cone.(..)"
Ice cream cone? Really?
I can't even...

Then there's this sense of white book for white people, because of phrases like this: 
"If people shunned them because his family had been white and Jewish, and hers was neither of those things, they were too much in love to notice or care."
"Neither of those things.."
Maybe its just me. But this particular phrasing rubs me the wrong way...
So, what colour was she? Blue, Pink, Black?
What's the problem with using the actual word?

Then it has that slight sermon(ish) thing about God... 
"It was only by the Grace of God that they had managed not to have sex;"

This was supposed to have that thwarted big romance vibe! But instead what I got was: Two kids that knew each other growing up, and who then decided to experiment (their words)  making out.
They liked it so much, so of course they had to be in love :/
First and only love. For her at least... poor woman :/
The romance between a strong, good woman, and a kind, courageous man...

Then due to the amount of information given, we get things like these:  In one moment Olivia's hair is peach coloured, and in the night it is the colour of wine.
I don't care which time of the day it is. Colour pigments aren't rainbows!
As a redhead myself, that doesn't happen, unless you change hair colour multiple times a day (DON'T!).
Less is More! Don't overcomplicate things. 

Then this is not appropriate reading material to scientists because this would probably give them an apoplexy!
We have a character who has to be in constant contact with poisonous plants, because if she doesn't, she will die!
How? Why?
No one knows for sure... it appears to involve some gross parental neglect, but besides that?

Now, this is where the magical realism would enter, if this had been properly developed!
This setting could work! (I am thinking about Alice Hoffman's beautifully done Ice Queen in which the characters have some different health conditions...) But unfortunately this one was so poorly done that I didn't buy this for a instance :/
Oh, and the last part, with the monstrous vines and all that?
That should be in a fantasy book, not a magical realism one:
It was way over the top.

 I am aware that this review borders the angry... and you know what?
 Yes, it does, because people keep comparing this to Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen, and that couldn't be further away from the truth, and that leaves me upset.

Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen books are about connections: friends, family, lovers.
This one is mainly a convoluted romance... and I didn't even feel all that love between them!
Then  there's the story of Olivia and her father, but the thing is so ridiculous that I am not even going to bother with it...

Here we don't have strong women's relationships. We have our main character, Olivia, that is all that is good and kind, and perfect, and basically the perfect woman... and then we have the other ones: Who aren't.

I don't think I will be reading any more books by this author.

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