Author Barbara Taylor Bradford
Things You Might Like
- Aesthetically pleasing typeface
- Richard’s daughter is not despicable
- Istanbul seems kinda nice
Things You Might Not Like
- Being thrown into an anti-bourgeoisie rage
- The dialogue
- The overblown plot
- Romance for the sake of needing romance in this sort of book
If you’re anything like me, Letter from a Stranger will make you wish for the demise of literacy.
1 out of 5 Jolly Afternoon Tea Parties
I’m going to cut to the chase, for once. No videos. No images. No humorous language that would be better off in an essay than in a review.
Letter from a Stranger infuriated me on a level that nothing since Twilight has come close to matching.
If you read the back book jacket, you’ll see that Barbara Taylor Bradford has been honored by the Queen because of her literary accomplishments. Now, this will make you think that something’s horribly awry, because you’ve sure as hell never heard of this author, and you, being the cosmopolitan reader of Bullet Reviews that you are, are fairly well-read.
But then you open the book, and then you will, like me, shout ‘I’ve been duped!’
Letter from a Stranger is a novel about family ties, and how greed can destroy family ties.
Okay, not my usual cup of tea because there are no spaceships or explosions, but that sounds interesting. But, here’s the thing, this book is written like Jane Austen was tapped to write a pilot for a soap opera.
Let me explain:
Justine Nolan, and her brother, Richard, are members of a very well-to-do family. They live and work in Manhattan, have a summer home called Indian Ridge (yep, it’s one of those places that has its own name) that features massive gardens and an art gallery, and their mother travels the world on business trips.
Justine is a documentary filmmaker, and Richard is… well, I didn’t get Richard’s profession, but it doesn’t matter. The man’s written so thinly that he might as well be Justine Mk. II.
One day, Justine receives a letter at Indian Ridge from a woman who claims to be her grandmother’s oldest friend. The letter asks Justine’s mother to please get in contact with Justine’s grandmother, and thus end the estrangement that’s been in between the two of them for over a decade. Catch is, Justine and Richard thought their grandmother was dead.
From there, Justine calls Richard, who drops everything and comes to Indian Ridge, as well as a mutual friend named Joanne, who also comes to Indian Ridge, and then, as one, as if a hive mind, they agree that Justine should go to Istanbul to find Gam-Gam. Er, sorry. Gran.
Now, okay, what you see there is what may seem like a good enough plot for a book. It’s nothing ground-breaking, and the whole relative-from-nowhere thing has been done to death. But, decent enough premise for a mainstream novel.
But – but – the thing that really grinds my gears is the way the book is written. As I said above, it’s as if Jane Austen was tapped to write a teleplay. Everyone in the book speaks in a way that reminds you of the upper crust of society in every Simpsons episode. Technology is treated as not something so much important as something that Bradford occasionally forgets exists.
To wit: There is a scene towards the beginning of the novel wherein Justine, Richard, and Joanne are talking about how to possibly find out if Gam-Gam – er, Gran – lives in Istanbul. Justine says she’ll have her assistant make some calls, and when Richard responds
Why not check the Internet, Justine says,
Don’t be daft. It’s a couple of lines, but it made me think that her editor had to remind Bradford that there is such a thing as computers, and they are quite popular.
(Now, before I go any further into my gripes, it’s full disclosure time: I could not finish this book. It would have physically hurt me to read any more than I already had. If I hadn’t been at work, I would have thrown the book the moment I read
The afternoon tea party was a jolly event.
I’m not happy about that, since I try to finish every book I read before I review it, but, man, this one… oy vey.)
Next, we must face the fact that the siblings’ reaction to finding out that their grandmother is living (and, thus, that their mother lied to them) is vastly overblown. Don’t get me wrong, that’s some big news, but, prior to this, the only background we’re given on their relationship is that their mother is
From being called a flake, the switch is flipped, and their mother becomes despicable. “Evil,” is a word that is consistently thrown out at least twice per dialogue line. (Which is another crime Bradford commits regularly: variation in verbiage is an unheard-of concept.) So, their mother isn’t a person with her own problems that they try to understand, so much as Pol Pot.
I understand that this is a novel written for those whose emotions don’t include only laughing, confusion, and anger, but surely that’s a huge leap to make: flake to evil is something that should never happen.
If this novel were a film, it would take either a master actor or someone with bipolar disorder to pull off Justine. From descriptions in the first few scenes, Justine’s face leaps from happiness to rage to depression in what seems like a few seconds. Jim Carey couldn’t pull that shit off.
But, above all, there is one literary crime committed in this novel that I cannot abide: Romance for the sake of needing romance in this sort of book. Justine is a character who seems to be doing very well for herself as a single lady, and certainly does not give any indication that she’s on the hunt for a man, but – of course – Gam-Gam’s friend has such a charming son and… well, yeah. /spit
Buy, Rent, or Pirate? Avoid at all costs. However, if you want to subject yourself to hell, then pick up Letter from a Stranger on Amazon. (NOTE: Bullet Reviews does not condone piracy. If you pirate media, you’ll start writing like Barbara Taylor Bradford.)
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