Thursday, May 27, 2010

White Oleander by Janet Fitch *Did Not Finish*

Not only did I not finish this book but it could be argued that I didn't even read the book since I didn't get passed the first ten pages. It was, I tell you, metaphor and simile hell.

Already in the first paragraph we have . . .

"The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I. I woke up at midnight to find her bed empty. I climbed to the roof and easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame in the light of a three-quarter moon."

And then a few sentences later we have . . .

"I sat next to her, and we stared out at the city that hummed and glittered like a computer chip deep in some unknowable machine, holding its secret like a poker hand."

Oh golly.

"I rested my head on her leg. She smelled like violets"

Gah! The first page is barely over and my left eye is already twitching

" . . . eucalyptus trees burst into flame like giant candles . . . "

" . . . undetectable as a landmine."

" . . . her hair the color of new snow against her lightly tanned skin."

" . . . lingering like an unspoken hope . . . "

" . . . it smelled of wood and green tea."

Okay! Stop! Enough with the poetic flourishes! And this was only the first few pages; by the end of chapter one I just couldn't go on. Don't authors and editors realize that too many comparisons give their readers a headache? Why, it says so right there on page 80 of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style "The simile is a common device and a useful one, but similes coming in rapid fire, one right on top of the other, are more distracting than illuminating. Readers need time to catch their breath; they can't be expected to compare everything with something else, and no relief in sight."

'nuff said.

11 comments:

Beth said...

I did finish this book but found it depressing.
And you are right about the overabundance of metaphor and simile.

Alyce said...

I've had this one on my shelf for years. I picked it up once and like you, read only a few pages. I wasn't even thinking that I didn't like it at that point, it just didn't hold my attention. I never did get back around to reading it.

trish said...

I had high hopes for this book! I kind of knew it would be a heavy subject, what with foster care and coming-of-age and mother-daughter relationships and all, but I was counting on a silver lining somewhere in the writing.

-ehn- not so much.

The writing was downright mopey and all those *poetic* references gave me hives.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I read a book like that recently - metaphor after metaphor.... it was a total overdose on words.

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