By Chance - Don't Chance It

I'm talking about By Chance: A Novel and I didn't finish it so be prepared. You get here what you get.

Let me paraphrase the jacket copy to give you a sense of the premise: a middle-aged man has a passionate relationship with his wife for many years until he loses her, and his innocence in turn. The opening of the novel finds him traveling by sea to a remote island where he checks into a hotel in an attempt to gain perspective and start anew. Instead, he discovers the hotel residents are not what they present themselves to be, much as himself. As he grows close to a new woman, the truth of his life is revealed.

This sounds pretty good, right? You get a mysterious past, a remote island buffeted by stormy winds, a hotel filled with odd characters. Coupled with the Alice in Wonderland eeriness of the cover, that I hoped denoted a gothic, psychological thriller of a tale, I felt this was a surefire winner.

No. No!

Instead, when I reached page 90, the protagonist, James Bolsover, had just arrived at the hotel. The cast of kooky characters hadn't even been introduced! Instead, we are treated to an extensive set up of only the early days of his former marriage and a very stilted conversation with the ship's captain (the ship he is taking to the island hotel) about their shared love of Joseph Conrad.

Any novel that features extensive discussions of love for another author is doing only one thing - hoping to hell to emulate that author. Do not waste time with that! Write your masters thesis on it, for God's sake, do not include it in your novel.


Another thing which well and truly bothered me was Katherine, Bolsover's former wife. It wasn't her so much that bothered me but what Corrick had her do. She was perfectly sweet, poor lamb, until Corrick decided to change her into a raging sex maniac after the first time she and Bolsover consommate their marriage.

The big lead up is that Katherine is too shy for such an indecent act however Bolsover woos her with a creepy Dungeons and Dragons-esque tale about knights and monsters. She then proceeds to violate him in untold manners.

Any author who would dare write such nonsense has to be of the deluded male variety. No real virgin experiences crazed raptures of the sort Corrick depicts their first time. Preposterous.

I had a feeling the book might get better but after shouldering the above burdens for a couple of hours of reading, I decided life was too short.

1 comment:

Diane said...

I actually bought this book because it sounded like just the type of story I'd enjoy. After about 30 pages, I closed the book and said to myself "maybe some other time"----so I'm glad it was not just me :)

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