Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Author review on Philippa Gregory

This is not a book review – it’s an author review.  But let’s have some context first.  I haven’t posted in a while, and I miss it, but I’ve been a little distracted.  To start off with, I finally found gainful employment; after being unemployed for the better part of 6 months, I got a job as an assistant to the special projects branch of an academic association (and it’s going really well).  I haven’t stopped reading altogether, but lately I’ve been reading steamy and smutty historical fiction (Stephanie Laurens for those who thought to ask) – good reads, but I don’t want to litter my blog with reviews about books which follow the same general plot line every time.  Finally, it is the start of fall television seasons – and goddamnit, I loves me my stories.  (Look for my review of the new Richard Castle book as soon as I get my next kobo coupon!)  All told, there’s not been a lot to write about, so post materials have been scarce.  Until this morning.

Like I said, this isn’t a book review; it’s a review about an author.  According to my Facebook news feed on Chapters going-ons, Philippa Gregory has a new book out.  Now, I know what you’re thinking – given my reading predilections, and the fact that I did recommend two of her books in an earlier post – I must be rushing down to the local Chapters to pick it up.  Menh… not so much.

What can I say?  I have serious problems with Gregory and her works.  I first read The Other Boleyn Girl in high school, and it really popped with me at the time.  I read The Boleyn Inheritance shortly after it came out, and I liked that one too.  The rest, thought?  I can’t say I’ve found a Gregory book (other than those two) that I enjoyed.  And believe me, I’ve tried.

There is a prequel to the Boleyn books that tells the story of Catherine of Aragon from childhood to death.  I read part of the first chapter and found the formatting distracting and detracting.  I put it down shortly there after. 

My buddy Rachel gave me The Medicine Woman as a birthday gift one year, and I read it cover to cover, but that had more to do with the fact that I like Rachel a great deal and didn’t want her to think I didn’t appreciate the thoughtfulness of her gift (I did then, and I still do).  But it was a struggle to get through.  Gregory took the easy way out in that one and, rather than build a plot, relied on the supernatural to further her story (I’ve railed about this plot device in a past review), and this is where my dislike for it started).  

I also tried to read the first book of the War of the Roses series, about Elizabeth Woodville.  I got through ¾ of it before I just petered out.  I had school stuff I was working on at the time, but that book sat on my coffee table, almost finished, for weeks before I put it back on the shelf in an effort to tidy up, and I simply never got back to it.

Finally, I (again) read most of the first book of the Wideacre series.  Same thing as the Roses book – I got through most of it, and then my interest petered out.  The story was interesting, but what killed my desire to finish it were the characters.  

This is a problem I encountered in all of my failed attempts to read Gregory’s works: her main female characters are completely unlikable.  They are either weak and sniveling, or conniving (and not in a good way).  I have never read an author with the ability to write so many books in which the main character is a deterrent for me.  It’s really quite amazing that Gregory can be that consistent.  And, believe me, I hate ripping another person’s art: it’s not easy to write a book – I’ve been trying for years and can never commit to getting one done start to finish – but I think I’ve spent enough money buying books that I don’t enjoy and don't want to reread that I get a free pass on expressing my feelings on this.

So what does all that mean for my reading habits?  Well, I’ve got a shelf of Gregory books (seriously, an entire shelf of books from which I’ve only finished 3, enjoyed 2, and tried to read a handful) that I mainly use to store bric-a-brac like light bulbs and tax materials in front of.  Every so often, I see a new book of hers in Chapters and I think to myself: “Oh, that’s one of my authors!”  It then takes me about 6 seconds to remember everything I don’t like about her books and I stick up my nose and walk away from it.  

So, thanks Facebook, for giving me my inspiration for writing this review, but I won’t be stopping by to pick up Gregory’s latest.  Also, if anyone finds a Gregory book that doesn’t fall into the same disastrous problems, let me know!

(PS. Just as I was going to post this review, my Kobo coupon came in.  Rick Castle – here I come!)

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