29 July 2008

Careless in Red - careless is right!

So as I mentioned here, I didn't like the new Elizabeth George, Careless in Red. In fact, I haven't really thought she's produced a decent book for several years. So why read it, you might ask? Well, I am a voracious reader and my to-be-read pile is perilously low and Mom gave me her copy when she'd finished with it; also, in order to pay for the cleaner who comes in twice a month, I've stopped buying books ... and, uh, haven't gotten to the library yet either.

So that's why I persevered with Careless in Red despite thinking it was badly written and knowing from the outset that I'd find so much wrong with the book. My initial expectations were not disappointed, I assure you. I think she suffers from Best Selling Author Syndrome, wherein an author is such a huge cash cow for a publishing house that their editor becomes afraid to actually edit the work. The prose is overwritten and full of way too much explication about people's motives. She's doing that thing that writing teachers say not to: telling rather than showing. And while I do think she's got some psychological astuteness, it's overshadowed by the clunky writing.

Kerra felt as if she would weep, and the very thought of weeping because of this, because of her, because of them, caused all of her anger to come roaring back, swelling within her to such an extreme that she thought it might explode from her mouth, a foul effluent capable of polluting whatever remained between her and this man she'd chosen to love. Because she did love him, only love was dangerous. Love put one where her father was, and that she could not begin to bear.


All I can think is that during George's early years she must have worked with a better editor, because I'm guessing that if she hasn't learned not to write crap like that after about twenty books, she's probably been writing like that all along.

But bad writing can be forgiven if you've got a zippy, interesting plot ... which this doesn't. George ties the plot threads together capably enough and plants a few red herrings, but she takes six hundred pages to accomplish something that would have been better at a third of the size. I didn't find the whodunit to be particularly plausible, but I was totally out of patience by the end of the book anyway, so that might have been my bad.

So ... if anyone still wants to read this, I have a copy that you're welcome to! The book passed the time, just not as enjoyably as it could have.


Rooie said...

Ugh, indeed. That passage could be a contender in the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

I gave up on George a few books back and I can't say I'm sorry I did.

Hope you're less grumpy today.

Cara deBeer said...

Yep, you really haven't missed anything by skipping George.

Thanks for the anti-grump wishes. I think I'm just going to be grumpy for a while, there's no way through but through, if you know what I mean.

Lisa said...

I've read one or two Elizabeth Georges and she is so not my thing.

Read To the Lighthouse with me! I'll buy another copy used and send it to you. You'll get a lot of bang for your buck because it's a reeeeeeeally dense read, but it's all about women and art and roles in society and taking care of difficult men -- what's not to like? Unless you don't like Virginia Woolf, in which case, that.

Cara deBeer said...

I haven't read To the Lighthouse for years, not since high school. I was never a big fan of the modernists but I did just finish listening to Howards End and it was so great and Forster is so heavily influenced by the modernists ... yeah, I'd totally be up for a re-read. Awesome! Your mention of it the other day piqued my interest.

Lisa said...

I have Howards End up soon too. I never read any of that stuff when I should have... better late than never, though.

chapter11studios said...

Not the most brilliant passage, clearly, but I think what George was getting at there was the sort of scattershot, emotionally overcharged and overwhelmed state of that character. You'd never see her write a Havers scene like that, for example. And I must say Kerra had probably the weakest arc of any character in the novel.

Interestingly, I got fed up with Elizabeth George sometime around book six or seven. I'd read them all in a row and by the time I reached Missing Joseph I was just so put off by all of her writing ticks that I had to stop. Coming back to her work after 2-3 years away helped cleanse the pallete, so to speak, and I found I enjoyed her much more.

I think she is *significantly* better in terms of psychological insight and overall quality of writing than, say, her contemporaries like Sue Grafton or Patricia Cornwell. Not even close, really.

As for the whodunnit, interestingly this was the first of her novels that I actually guessed the killer (and the twist about who he/she really is) about 150-200 pages before the big reveal. Plausible? I couldn't say. But I was happy with the motive (spoiler: revenge!), a refreshing change from her usual motives of sex, sex, kinky sex, and oh yeah, sex.