Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review - Harriet Evans's Going Home

Going Home by Harriet Evans
Published by: Downtown Press
Publication Date: January 1st, 2005
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Lizzy has had a rough year of it, but little does she know that things are about to get a whole lot worse. Going back home for Christmas to her family's rambling home, Keeper House, she has to deflect questions about why she and David broke up. Lizzy doesn't want to get into the details with her family, but when he turned out to be a cheating bastard, well, you usually don't stay together. Thankfully the eventful arrival of her Uncle Mike with a new American bride draws the attention away from her and David... the David who just showed up. Luckily the Christmas traditions of the family serve to create a kind of normality when everyone is acting against type. Then everything goes into free fall when Lizzy's father tells them all that Keeper House has to be sold and there will be no discussion about why. The fact must be accepted, that is all.

Back in London, Lizzy's life has no anchor without Keeper House. She has done what her family has asked and posed no questions. Like most crises in her life she just ignores them and moves on. Her job with Monumental Films is going surprisingly well. She has a new boyfriend who happens to be a screenwriter for the company and her life has developed a new routine, one that avoids all thoughts of Keeper House. When an opportunity to transfer to the LA branch of the company arises Lizzy seriously thinks it over. Her life in England has been changed forever with Keeper House being taken away, so perhaps it's time for her to get a new one... unless a miracle happens.

Over the holidays I was looking for something Christmasy to read. I was in desperate need of some holiday cheer. For me I have a very odd sense of what I view as Christmas fare, I mean, seriously, I view LA Confidential as a Christmas movie. In fairness, it did come out around Christmas and the beginning does take place at Christmas... it's just not so much your Rosemary Clooney singing about snow and more noir and death. So I wanted some more traditional Christmas cheer. Seeing as I plan way way ahead of time I knew that April was going to be focusing on Chick Lit on my blog and when doing a goodreads search for Christmas books this came up I knew I had to read it... at least I can say that it got the Christmas vibe right... other than that, well... there was a lot that I felt was wrong.

The fact that Lizzy's life outside of Keeper House reminded me overtly of another book I didn't like, The Bronte Project, probably wasn't the best of starts. Not to mention that all the characters seem like stock characters, just cardboard cut outs of real people, it left me not caring about any of them. And as for Lizzy's cousin Tom... well, when you're going to just take a character straight out of someone else's book, maybe it's best to choose another genre then ripping him of from the queen of Chick Lit, Helen Fielding. Yes, Tom from Bridget Jones's Diary is oddly one of the main characters in this book.

But it's these stock character's flaws that just made me want to crawl into the pages and smack them upside the head. What I'm talking about is the fact that every single person loves to bury their head in the sand and live in ignorance. In my mind there's a clear division of knowing what is going on and avoiding it because you don't want to deal with it and not wanting to know anything at all. Lizzy is perfectly content to live in ignorance. We live in a world where ignorance, to me, is not acceptable. Her willfully refusing to even pose a question made me hate her to the very fibres of my being. She was like a two year old sticking her fingers in her ears and yelling at everyone that she wasn't listening. This is no way to live. Yes I know Chick Lit is supposed to be fun and funny and we relate and laugh at the foibles of the heroine, the misunderstandings that arise... but when that heroine is a willfully ignorant one, well, I'm going to hate her.

This ignorance on the part of Lizzy is coupled with the obviousness of the plot. I mean within ten pages I knew how everything was going to play out and that does not a fun read make. Though I'm not sure as to why the plot was so obvious, it could have been purposeful or not. The question all comes down to did the character flaws force Harriet Evans to have to write a more obvious plot so that we as readers wouldn't toss the book out the window because we were forced into the same dark ignorance as the characters, or was it just a narrative flaw on her part and had nothing to do with a willful choice... it's hard to tell. One makes me just hate the story, the other makes me hate the author. At least having read one of her later books first I know that she gets better than this first endeavour... because if I didn't have this foreknowledge, I might never pick her up again... like I am with Katie Fforde, she is dead to me because of Love Letters. Dead to me.


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