Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Reliable Wife

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick, is the story of how Catherine Land answers a rather pathetic sounding classified ad placed by a lonely, tormented rich man. From the beginning of her correspondence with him, Catherine is up to no good at all: she plans on slowly poisoning Ralph Truitt and having his fortune for herself.

Automatically, I expected this tale to turn into one of those beautiful, gradual love stories in which Catherine falls in love with Ralph and realizes the dream of having both love and money in her life. However, the story involves other people who make the plot more complicated, but not more interesting. In other words, I'm not raving about this book. I found the writing style to be incongruent with the time period, which was just after the turn of the century (1908), and I felt that the characters were not very fleshed out. Their past lives were told in a quick, glancing way, while the flowers Catherine loved so much were described in lush detail. There is a climatic scene near the end that seems to drag on and on, and just before the too-happy ending, the author actually beats into the reader what this story has been all about. Just in case she missed it.

One of the themes of Goolrick's book is that life in Wisconsin was harsh for most people back then, and people went mad and did insane things. This is true, but parts of this tale seemed either too unlikely or not explained well enough. Goolrick also commits repetition of information, which I found to be very annoying, besides being a detriment to the movement of the story.

I feel so weird for panning this book! It's not that Robert Goolrick is a bad writer, it's that this particular story was executed poorly. Despite its flaws, I did not have trouble finishing it, but I did wince as I did so. This is my humble opinion after hearing such good things about this book.

So don't throw tomatoes at me!


Doug said...

Throw tomatoes? I've been waiting for you to pan a book so I don't have to sit here and decide whether to order it and then have it on my shelf, accusing me of watching too much television.

I would buy you a case of Old Milwaukee if I were nearby.

Nessa said...

I been disappointed like this. Thanks for being honest.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Turkey Butt

Bone said...

I actually found it kind of refreshing to read a not-so-favorable review :)

JAllgood said...

I read it about 2 months ago and I was very disappointed with it. I very much got frustrated with that area that went on and on; to the point that I skimmed to the end. The overly sugar coated ending that made me want to gag! Yuck. '

This was my first time reading any of Robert Goolrick. Do you have a better suggested read of his?

And I promise no throwing tomatoes!

Tom & Icy said...

It is very boring and sometimes offensive when a writer goes on and on explaining stuff like the reader was a dummy. They are supposed to demonstrate his character through his actions. Like a cowboy sees a cockroach on the wall across the room and pulls his gun and shoots it; we infer that not only is he a great marksman but he uses excessive force to accomplish his goals which makes it more realistic later when he beats a guy half to death and holds his head under water in the toilet to get him to tell him what he wants to know.

actonbell said...

Thank you, Doug, for the virtual pint!
Nessa, the way you read, I'm sure ya know what I'm talkin' about.
Bone, I guess it does prove that I'm not sleeping ALL the time:)
Jall, I think this may be his debut novel, but--I'll look that up...

LOL, Tom! So true.

TLP said...

Well, one more I don't have to read. I trust your judgement.

Jocelyn said...

Uh-oh. I placed a hold on this at the library two weeks ago (I was about 17th in line); I'd read such good things about it.

Now, when the library calls, I may have to ignore them!

actonbell said...

Mom, it's not your kind of book.

Jocelyn, I hopped over to Goodreads and saw that the reviews were all over the place. Lots of people agreed with me. AND I totally forgot to mention how much sex is in this book--it gets quite boring, actually, but I should have mentioned it. Weird.

Ariel the Thief said...

"the author actually beats into the reader what this story has been all about. Just in case she missed it."

LOL! Don't you just hate it when that happens? And even the sex scenes are boring? I am not surprised, you should never try to write about people having sex unless you are a really, really good writer. Now that I think about it, how come that really, really good writers write so little about people having sex?