Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not-so-good Summer Read

On my way home from San Francisco, I picked up the latest issue of Real Simple magazine and read an article recommending new books for summer. Naturally, I logged into Amazon and loaded my cart with lots of fun titles, including The Scenic Route. Yes, I am an easy sale.

Plot: Divorced, alone, and unexpectedly unemployed, Sylvia Landsman flees to Italy, where she meets Henry, a wistful, married, middle-aged expatriate. Taking off on a grand tour of Europe bankrolled with his wife's money, Henry and Sylvia follow a circuitous route around the continent—as Sylvia entertains Henry with stories of her peculiar family and her damaged friends, of dead ducks and Alma Mahler. Her narrative is a tapestry of remembrances and regrets...and her secret shame: a small, cowardly sin of omission. Yet when the opportunity arises for Sylvia and Henry to do something small but brave, the refrain "if only" returns to haunt her, leaving Sylvia with one more story of love lived and lost.

Review: My journey on The Scenic Route stalled midway. After only getting through the first 150 pages, I put it down and walked away. I really did try to read it. Honest. It went with me to the doctor’s office. I brought it with me to the gym. I even attempted to read it every night before bed. Like a bad motor, I couldn’t get the darn pages to turn over.

My reasons for stopping:
1 – It read like a patched-up memoir complete with ugly words and jumping timelines.
2 – The protagonist wasn’t relatable.
3 – There were tons of word repetitions. It was like rolling a vacuum forward, backing up, and going over the same spot again. I’m not sure if that’s just her style, but seeing the same words, even the same sentences, repeated in succession bothered me. I love when authors find new ways to explain things, adding depth by increasing emphasis, but this was plain annoying.
4 – The story didn’t move even though the characters traveled all over Europe. I was bored.

Grade: D


  1. Ouch. Sounds like you've clearly sentenced Binnie to the task of an eternity of banging erasers in penance to the writer's mortal sin of casting boredom upon a reader. I hate when that happens with a book I'm reading. Now, I won't buy anything until I read at least two chapters first.

  2. Oh my gosh your review was hysterical. Well noted. I won't be picking this up.

  3. thebreakupdiet - Good advice on reading before buying. That's why I love bookstores. There's nothing better than grabbing a bunch of interesting books, settling into an over-stuffed chair (or carpet-tiled floor, which is most often the case), sipping a nonfat latte, and picking the top two to purchase. Banging erasers for penance - where do you come up with that stuff?? Too funny.

    T.Anne - Thanks. Spare yourself the $13.99. :)