Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Anna Quindlen's 7th Novel, A Disappointment for Me

I am a big fan of Anna Quindlen's.  I've now read all of her novels, counting her latest, Still Life with Bread Crumbs.  I loved the 1st 5 I read:

Black and Blue
Every Last One
Object Lessons
One True Thing

The 6th one, Rise and Shine, about a morning news anchor, kind of like Katie Couric, I liked but didn't love.  This one, Still Life, I liked the least of all.  I still liked it (2.5/4) but not tons.  Here's what it's about:

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.
Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

I'm not sure how to explain why I didn't like it that much.  The 1st 75 pages (out of 250) were simply boring.  There was actually a section in which we see what a dog is thinking. That's not just an issue about liking dogs.  It's more an issue of being kind of a silly plotline.  In The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, a dog narrates the whole book. It was very clever, and I was easily able to accept the premise.  But, here, when the book is mostly told in the voice of Rebecca, it's odd to hear what a (at that time) random dog is thinking.  Joni once read a Michener.  On page 700 (out of 900), the chapter was about geese.  She put the book down.  I don't know, it needs to be consistent.

I don't mean to focus on extraneous stuff, but it's hard to ignore.  What else can I tell you? One of the book bloggers I follow, Mary at Bookfan, loved it.  She thought that it is a book that a woman might like more than a man.  I really like a lot of so-called "women's fiction." And you know that I'm a big fan of romance, especially romantic suspense.  So I don't think Mary is right.  But I'm passing it on so that you can factor it in.

Anna Quindlen is a very good writer.  Nobody needs me to tell them that.  And because I liked the 1st 5 so much, and even #6 quite a bit, I think I'm in a good position to render an informed opinion about this one.  I'm not saying don't read it.  I'm just saying not to expect great things from it.  But at 252 pages, it's not much of a gamble.


  1. Bummer. I've only read two and really liked them both.

  2. If you read it, let me know. Maybe you'll agree with Mary/Bookfan and not Lloyd/Book Sage.

  3. I've only read her essays and I think they're terrific. I want to try a novel but will start with a different one than this.

  4. I can't remember the details of the 5 that I loved. But I think you will like any of them.