I was hosting a book club meeting this month and the host gets to choose the book for next month so I went to my local Chapters book store to scan the shelves for some new material. We’d already read a few books based around the 2nd world war so I was determined to find something different and this, I discovered, would be a challenge. There seems to be a lot of stories centered around the war. In fact, I was hard pressed to find one that wasn’t.
There’s mysteries, and horrors, of course, if that’s your thing. It’s not mine, so those were not a consideration. And there’s a huge section for romance but a review of those generally left me feeling like I’d wandered into a low budget soap opera. What I did find was that there’s a lot of crap that gets published. The story lines are weak and in many cases so was the writing style, and yet surprisingly, almost everything I touched claimed to have been on the New York Times best sellers list. Who are the judges of this esteemed list cause a number of these books really stunk!
Every romance is the same and the shelves are full of them. A poor helpless damsel gets assaulted by a wealthy land baron who’d just disembarked from a long voyage and after months at sea he’s feeling the ‘urge’ so he relieves himself on what he perceives is a local Doxie (some poor waif who wandered onto the docks by mistake) Halfway through the task he senses she was chaste and realizes not only is she not a Doxie, but she is quite enjoyable. He decides to keep this prize and discoveries she cleans up pretty nice. Now it’s amazing how in the turn of the century people bathed once a month and washed their clothes even more rarely but somehow this maiden always manages to smell like Hibiscus and a hint of lavender. Her name too is always intriguing, Vixen, or Emerald, no Ruth or Blanche for our heroine. She always has flaming eyes and a heaving bosom that this knight can’t resist and they spend the rest of the novel in a love hate battle. He can’t stop thinking about her, she of him, blah, blah, blah, until eventually he begs her to be his Queen, saving her from a life of poverty and toil. The end, thank goodness, of a painful prose.
There’s always a biography. I like those. Some peoples lives are so very interesting. Unfortunately the majority of the biographies published aren’t. They embellish real life situations to make them more interesting and look for sensationalism because the reader wants to be shocked or surprised, right? Movin’ on.
History is out because it’s done to death. Everyone has a connection to someone who has had a real life experience during a major world event. We probably studied it in school already so why reread it with the drama of someone else’s family in it?
I steer clear of anything related to religion, psychology, or politics because they are too controversial, too intellectual, or to sleazy (in that order) for a casual book club, so it appears fiction is my only option.
I was surprised that I spent almost 2 hours scouring books, discarding most after reading the cover, and I have to say it again, because it so surprises me, there’s a lot of crap published. Eventually I settled on a book about a young Japanese woman who falls in love with a sailor during the war, (you just can’t avoid the war themes) and the struggles they encounter just to build a life together. Devious family, prejudice, jealousy, and greed all contrive to make life difficult for the young lovers. Add a dash of mystery (to keep you intrigued), a sprinkle of historical fact (to make the choice legitimate) and a dollop of romance (to keep you interested) and voila, you have a hit novel! Or so I hope. We’ll find out at my next book club meeting.
In the interim, if you’re looking for a good book forget the best sellers lists, you’re better off scanning the books people are reading on the bus or in the lunch room.