Reviews – opposing opinions

I just finished a book I only read because the members of my book club voted for it in a poll.  I had no desire to read it, based partly on some assumptions of what the book was about, but based mostly on some bad reviews on Amazon.  As a result, the book didn’t get my vote but I begrudgingly declared it the winner. 

Guess what?  I loved the book – Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger. 

Since I read the book quickly and enthusiastically, I decided to go back and read  the bad reviews on which I based my premature assumption that I would hate it. 

Many reviewers complained that the book lacked a plot line.  I completely disagree.  The story is about three women who, approaching 30 years old, think they are supposed to accomplish something major by that milestone, i.e. marriage and kids.  In the course of a year, they come to discover what they really need is to be true to themselves and mindful of their own needs and desires, regardless of their age.  Was the plot what one would consider ‘high-concept?  No, but in my opinion, it didn’t matter because it captured and maintained my interest and I was fully invested in the characters. 

A few reviewers expressed a lack of relatability with the characters.  Again, I do not share this opinion.  Of the three main characters, I found myself relating to two of them.  One had difficulty letting go, jumping in and taking risks because she was often self-conscious and let fear get in her way.  I don’t know many people who haven’t been paralyzed by fear at some point in their lives.  I know I have.  The other seemed to have so many blessings, yet she wasn’t really happy and felt trapped. It is sometimes difficult to admit to others, and sometimes to ourselves, that what is perfect on paper isn’t right for us – I have been there as well.  (I did not find anything relatable about the third character, a Brazilian drop-dead gorgeous sex goddess who used her sex appeal to get whatever she wanted and whined whenever her friends got attention from men.  She was extremely conceited and it bothered me that her ability to be a good friend seemed to be dependent on being able to one-up the other characters.  I really didn’t see much of a character arc there and her story-line was definitely my least favorite.)   

Some reviewers complained that the book lacked depth.  With all due respect to those people, the book cover, an image of a stiletto sandal, is highly indicative of the light/fun nature of the story, as is the title.  If the reviewer was looking for a deep, thought-provoking novel, he/she should not have chosen that book in the first place. When I read a thriller, I expect to be frightened.  When I read a mystery, I expect suspense.  When I read an Oprah pick, I expect to be deeply touched.  And when I read a book with an image of a designer shoe on the cover, I expect to unwind and be entertained.  Chasing Harry Winston served that purpose for me.  I suppose it could have delved deeper into the psyches of the main characters, but I’m not certain it would have made me enjoy the read any more/less.     

Finally, some reviewers complained that the structure of the book was choppy and confusing.  At no point did I ever feel lost or feel the need to go backwards.  (Although I did read one of the sex scenes more than once – it was evocative without being graphic and I liked it!)  

My only complaint about the book was that a major story-line was concluded through a character telling the reader what happened in a flash-back. I would have much rather seen it play-out and I definitely felt gypped. 

Despite my premature assumptions, I really enjoyed Chasing Harry Winston and am happy it was chosen for my book club.  I like books that are full of action and dialogue as opposed to paragraphs of description and narrative so this was an ideal read for me and the story had me completely engaged. Not once during the read did I find myself bogged down in too much detail or skipping paragraphs.  And while, as mentioned above, the plot was not high-concept, I was never bored. Despite a mixed bag of reviews, that’s what makes a good book for me. 

What makes a good book for you?

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Comments

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    Good for you … for giving this book a chance. I know the author would appreciate someone looking beyond a few ‘iffy’ reviews.
    I have occasionally let reviews guide my movie preferences. Often, I later find the reviewer got it all wrong!
    Thanks for a timely reminder.

  2. Thanks, Jeff!

    When it comes to movies, I am rarely swayed by reviews. If I want to see a movie, I see it and have often loved the ones that got horrible critic reviews. But I must admit that book reviews are very important to me. There are too many books I want to read and not enough time to read them all. I often let reviews guide me.

    As for this particular author, my comments will likely never reach her radar. She’s extremely well-known in the ‘chick-lit’ genre – she wrote The Devils Wear Prada! That being said, I guess no matter how famous you get, bad reviews will still hurt.

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Meredith

  3. Jeff Salter says:

    Oh, I didn’t realize Weisberger was famous.
    In this case, it could have been a matter of the critic/reviewer being slightly jealous that Weisberger hit the big time with that book & movie. So … sharpen the claws!

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