Monday, September 19, 2016

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons (2011)

In the last six months or so, my Luddite tendencies have begun to wane, and I started reading more e-books.  Don't question me - I know  I'm part of the reason Rome is going to fall.  

One of the things I like about e-books is the easy way you can highlight passages and then return to them later.  It's so simple and you can even take notes.  It's terrific. 

But there are passages I mark that I later return to that I have no idea what the hell I was thinking when I did it.  Here is the ONLY passage I highlighted from The House at Tyneford.  The only one.  "The back door led into a dark passageway smelling of damp and mouse—". Not even the whole paragraph.  Not even the whole sentence.  Just that.  What struck me about that passage?  (Really, it's barely a passage).  Was it the smell of damp?  The smell of mouse?  Mickey Mouse?  Who the hell knows.

This book was remarkably and pleasantly ludicrous.  The first fourth or so of the book was believable, but the rest of the book was very much Downton Abbey, third episode, you know the one, that storyline that gets resolved very easily and in a most unbelievable way. Servants did fall in love and marry their employers.  But I had a hard, hard time suspending my belief enough to think that the maid could learn enough English to communicate with the little lordling of the manor , and then marry his father.

And that marrying his father thing could have been played for Dallas/Dynasty sort of delicious melodrama, but was instead played straight.  I don't care what anyone says, a maid who escapes from the Nazis, promptly falls in love with the son of the lord of the manor, and then after he dies, marries his father, looks like a gold digger no matter how pure her intentions were. 

But for some reason, I kept plugging away.  Solomons made me care in spite of my cynical self.  So cheers to her.

Interesting side note: the other book I'm reading, Citizens of London by Lynne Olsen, nominally about Americans in Britain during World War II (I will argue that this title is pretty much bullshit and Lynne Olsen wrote whatever the hell she pleased, although she writes so well I didn't really give a rat's ass, or perhaps I should say a mouse's ass), had a brief description of the same thing Solomons wrote about - the abandonment of several villages to the British and American military, of which the fictional Tyneford was one. 

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Pleasantly ludicrous. Remarkably incoherent. Delightfully nonsensical. (Insert your own adverb/adjective here). At some point, Solomons, whose plot is straight out of some sort of fantasy season of Dynasty (not even Downton Abbey was this idiotic), played it straight rather than milking the melodrama for all its worth. Thus and ergo, there is a bounty of plot that happens in the meandering second half or so that will make you, dear reader, struggle in your ability to suspend disbelief. I imagine you, like me, will think to yourself that time honored phrase - "no fucking way." Yes, fucking way, many things happen in this book without tongue planted firmly in cheek. And also, thus, alas, no one gets thrown, fully gowned and tiara-ed, into a fountain, like they should, which would make this book a five star wonder rather than the 2 star piece of dipshittery that it sputters along to become. All that butchery and bitchery aside, Solomons created likable characters; even if they are put into crazy situations, I still kept plugging away, wondering what would happen next. She made me care in spite of myself, so cheers to her and her excellent writing.

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