4 Sept 2018: The Best Worst Book I Ever Read

And the award for the Best Worst Book I Ever Read goes to ….. (insert drum roll here)

Rhode Island Blues by Fay Weldon

After I finished reading this book I came to the somewhat strange realization that it was the best worst book I’d ever read. An odd realization to come to for sure. The book had no real plot to speak of. Having no development, the characters are all pretty much the same at the end of the book as they were in the beginning. Could this have been the point? I honestly can’t say. But there is an addictiveness in the words the author uses that kept me coming back for another fix until I finally found myself at the last page.  (Note: Spellcheck is saying addictiveness isn’t a word, but I disagree.) The author has a dry sense of humor which I can appreciate and so do many other readers from the reviews this book received on Goodreads.

Plot: Grandma Felicity sells her house and moves into a retirement home. Grandma then meets a guy and ends up moving in with him. That’s it in a nutshell. Characters come and go but nothing else happens.

Grandma Felicity and granddaughter Sophia are the two central characters, and quite frankly neither are very likable. I’m not sure if one of the other qualifies as the main character except that the chapters that dealt with the daughter were in first person narrative and the chapters about grandma were in third person. This was bizarre and took a lot of getting used to.

So why did I read this book all the way until the last page?

A couple of reasons. First was because the book partly takes place in my old stomping grounds of the Rhode Island and Connecticut border area. I know this area well as I vacation there quite a bit. The author is English and I suspect as not been to this part of America. Her geography is a bit off, but this intrigued me to see just how wrong she could get it. She also never quite gets the hang of the local lingo. Here’s a for instance. Grandma finds out about the retirement home she moves to from a brochure she gets in her mailbox. However … the director of the home says something like “You got our pamphlet in your letterbox.” Yeah. This is a very UK thing to say. We get brochures in the mail here in the good old US of A. Which, by the way, made no sense to the story anyway seeing as they were SUPER cheap at this establishment and had a REALLY long waiting list and were UBER picky about who they took. No way would they spend money on a mailing to Joe Schmo old person.

Anyway … I digress.

So, yes, this book kind of sucked. But it was the language that kept me addicted. I think I might even become a better writer because of just reading it and purposefully studying the way in which the author chose her words and their imagery.

Here’s an example:

Preface: Felicity is the grandmother.  The Golden Bowl is the retirement home she moves to. Angel was the mother (died long ago) Nurse Dawn is the slightly less sadistic Nurse Ratched of the book. Sophia, who is the one doing the narrative here is a film editor, hence her use of technical jargon.

“I quite liked being described by Felicty as a relative. It made me feel warmed and safe, and not so unlike other people after all. But I also quite liked the thought of this grandmother of mine feeling obliged to do what Nurse Dawn told her. Perhaps at the Golden Bowl I would find allies; people who would understand what it was like to have Angel for a mother and Felicity for a grandmother. Then I felt disloyal, and weak for wanting to belong, and sorry for Felicity, because her life was drawing to an end, and there was nothing she could do about it, not even a rewind button to press, no way of cutting the footage together differently; the picture was locked. No way of editing out the boring bits. These had to be lived through in real time, with a body that was inexorably running down, and not all the efforts of the Golden Bowl could help her.” (Page 81)

The author used a few words I had to look up to make sure of what it really meant. I’ve taken to jotting words down I’m not quite sure of on the last page of the book so I can look them up when I’m done. In this case some of the words were: patois, fitments, perforce, aural, derisory, atavistic and susurrus. With this novel, I felt the need to write out a family tree as well. I was getting very lost when new family members were mentioned.I don’t think I’d recommend this book to any of my friends to read, but I would recommend it to fellow writers looking to expand their writing styles.  So, yes, this was the best worst book I’ve ever read.  Enjoy it … or not.

-Jennifer

 

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