Disappointed in love
I rarely publish negative reviews of books. I have mostly embraced the viewpoint of the reviewing journals, which simply don’t recognize anything they didn’t like. But occasionally I get so outraged by the level of my disappointment that I need to vent. I should probably restrict that impulse to private conversations instead of featuring it on-line in writing, but…I don’t want anyone else to feel the resentment I do at the time wasted reading this in a world full of better books.
I picked this up as a daily featured discount e-book, which I guess should in and of itself be a warning, but I have found other books among the discounts that I enjoyed. I liked the cover, and I was attracted to it because of the last name of the author, which he shares with one of my favorite Irish writers, Maeve Binchy. It turns out that she’s his aunt. Let me clarify, however, that I wasn’t upset because he didn’t write like her or step up to carry on her legacy. I simply made a space for him on my shelf based on his connection.
Chris Binchy is billed in the book’s description as “bestselling” and with a “formidable talent” and all I can say to that is…Really?! If so, maybe this was an unfortunate choice from among his titles.
The description of the book claims that two men who are lifelong friends both fall in love with an “unforgettable” woman. Already we are straying into the realm of untruth. Apart from one passage where it talks about how she is direct and friendly and draws people in, and another where the eyes of every man in a bar follow her across the room (which could happen with the least charismatic woman if she’s the only female in the bar!), there is no evidence to suggest this woman rises above the mundane. Although the protagonist is obsessed with her, from everyone else’s point of view (including the reader’s, who has little information to go on) she seems like just a regular gal.
The style of writing is odd. The entire book is told by one of the two friends, and his narration is as stilted as he is, which did initially intrigue me. The protagonist, David, seems like a non-comical version of Graeme Simsion’s Don Tillman in The Rosie Project—a socially awkward computer geek who is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum, given his inability to understand or interact with virtually anyone without a great amount of thought, reasoning, and preparation. Also reminiscent of Simsion’s book, David’s best friend, Alex, is a hail-fellow-well-met kind of a guy, with friends in every bar and a way with the ladies. It is inevitable that when David draws Alex’s attention to a woman with whom he is taken, Alex will ultimately take her. Although David asks Alex for help to make a connection with her, Alex misperceives the extent of David’s interest and does his usual thing to make his own impression, and before you know it, Camille and Alex are an item and David is the bitterly unhappy third wheel.
At this point in the book, based on a cryptic remark of David’s that seemed like a veiled threat, I thought the way we were going to go with this story was for David to somehow take Alex out of the picture so he could win Camille for himself. I actually thought, based on his flat affect combined with his extreme self-absorption, that this guy was going to turn out to be a sociopath along the lines of the protagonist in the book You, by Caroline Kepnes! No such luck. Instead, we get another 200-odd pages of David living his life and detailing his dull job opportunities, his dismal solo vacation in Brazil, and his various unproductive encounters with Alex, Camille, and Alex-and-Camille.
Finally, once Alex does his usual thing of alienating himself from whoever he is dating by creating obstacles to the relationship, David has his shot, and…that would be spoiling the rest. But it’s not much of a spoiler, because this book has the flattest, most unsatisfying conclusion in the history of “Lad Lit.”
Seriously, don’t bother.