Friday, March 02, 2007

The Liar's Diary--A Book Review

Yet another book review.
I have been enjoying several book challenges and the Third Day book club but sometimes I feel like I am reading to a deadline. The deadlines keep me on track on reducing my TBR pile, keeping me up to date writing book reviews, finishing classics I might otherwise leave half-finished and preventing me from adding to the pile with my book-buying habits. But it has a high-schoolish aspect too, with due dates and deadlines.
So I read today’s book in a little haste because it is on none of my challenge lists. In fact I’d committed to reading the Third Day selection by tomorrow and haven’t even started it. I read quickly but I do have my limits, my family, my work and my other hobbies. I’ve been devoting a lot of time to photography of late.
My latest book also poses a new challenge: reviewing a book written by a blogger I feel almost as if I’ve met. I just finished Patry Francis’ novel The Liar’s Diary. I feel that I owe her a totally honest review. I have too much respect for literature, authors and my own need for honesty to write a toadyish review. However, my instinct is to be nice and nurturing. I’d hate reading negative reviews if I were a first time author. And this isn’t a negative review, at all. I wanted to relieve that suspense from the first just in case Patry reads this. But I also don’t want her to feel that I’ve just told her that her first born child is ugly. There is a certain irony in my desire for honesty as Patry’s novel is first and foremost about the need for unvarnished honesty and the price one pays for it.
So, deep breath, here goes. When I started The Liar’s Diary I had no idea what genre to place it in. I picked it because of the author, not because of the plot-line. At first, the novel felt similar to one of Anne Tyler’s novels, in other words, a story about slightly dysfunctional but appealing people. There was, though, all along a hint of the sinister. Patry did a wonderful job of keeping me guessing. Was there a villain here and if so who was it? I liked “meeting” her two main characters who both are appealing women. I liked the way she dared me to judge her characters but made me wary to trust these judgments.
I realize that when I drew a comparison to Anne Tyler, that I am giving Patry high praise. And it is true. Patry manages to make her characters real and alive as if you might recognize them if you met them. She also manages the suspense well and uses a few very clever plot twists that kept me guessing up to the bitter end.
Now for the critique I am avoiding. Needless to say, the novel is not perfect. The principle and secondary characters are well-drawn but perhaps could have been deeper. Sometimes they conform to their roles in a way that just seems a little too pat. Jeanne is just too naïve and white-picket-fence and Ali is just a little too narcissistic. Revelations at the end allowed me to understand Ali better in a way that made her more believable and provided some meaningful psychological insight which mitigates this to a degree.
Once in a while I had trouble following a minor detail such as how did the character get from one room to the next which may be due to a first time author’s growing pains or to my haste in reading. More significantly, I was a little dissatisfied with some of the end-game plot devices. I can’t go into detail because to do so would be to give away the ending. There is an issue of incriminating evidence that I didn’t find believable and the narrative in Chapter 35 seemed forced. There was a deliberate omission of detail from earlier in the story that suited the suspense but was inconsistent with the rest of the novel’s structure.
Nonetheless, these imperfections did not prevent me from enjoying this novel. It is a great read and I am so admiring of Patry’s writing craft and skill at characterization. I would definitely read Patry’s next book and wish her every luck with the launch of this one.


Edward said...

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sarala said...

Sorry Edward but no thanks. I don't exchange links for marketing basis. Only if I like the blog or blogger.

Amishlaw said...

Thanks for your review of Patry's book. I, too, feel like I know Patry though I've never met her. I really admire her writing. She often has something insightful to say and says it well. I also really like her book, but I couldn't be true to myself and write a wholly uncritical review, so I've been dithering. You've shown one way to do it.

Tarakuanyin said...

I read your review yesterday and thought, "It's the third day!" I hadn't read the book assigned because of lack of time, but I did have a review of Patry's book that I had never finished, so I polished it up and posted it. Thanks for the inpetus. Like you, I really liked some parts of the book, but saw a couple of flaws. I think Patry's the kind of balanced person who won't take it personally, though. :-)