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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 87/100: The Pretty One - A Novel About Sisters by Lucinda Rosenfeld

The Pretty One: A Novel about Sisters - Lucinda Rosenfeld

Yikes, an average rating below 3 stars on Goodreads tells me I'm not the only one who disliked this book.

I picked this book up because I also come from a family of three sisters, but if my family were anything like this one, I wouldn't live within driving distance of them. My husband often claims that my voice becomes "automatically defensive" when I talk to my sisters on the phone, and while I think a vein of defensiveness or competitiveness runs through many sisterly relationships into adulthood, these sisters were just plain shallow, petty, and vindictive. Really, their relationship within the first scenes comes across as totally toxic, from the way they mock each other's clothes to the ways they assume no one is listening to them. They feel secretly gleeful whenever something goes wrong for one of their siblings. I was hoping that maybe they started out so unlikeable so that they could grow toward a more mature relationship in the end, but ... nope. They stay shallow and petty right up till the end. In fact, I found it really hard to believe that these women were in their late thirties and held down jobs -- they all acted like immature college students.

I'm not even sure how one would classify this book. I picked it up thinking it was literary fiction, but it's far too poorly written to deserve that label. I guess maybe it's "chic lit," which is insulting to women who just like to read about other women. So I left it more or less unshelved.

The novel deals with some interesting subject matter -- sperm-bank children, a lesbian who finds herself attracted to a man for the first time, one sister who struggled with OCD, another who had an affair with her teacher as a student -- but all of it barely skims the surface, treating its subjects in a way that is trite at best and insulting at worst. I got the feeling that maybe it was supposed to be "funny," but I have trouble laughing at such clearly immature and vitriolic relationships and behavior.

Why two stars instead of one? Because, as much as I am ashamed to admit it, it held my interest -- much like one of those lowest-denominator reality TV shows. Still, I am not going to waste my time on one of Lucinda Rosenfeld's novels ever again.