When I am asked who my favorite authors are I often respond by listing my favorite books instead. I have yet to find a contemporary author whose every book is among my my favorites. And I guess I am okay with that. I know I don’t always hit one of out of the park every time I write a novel, how could I place the same demands on another writer?
For example, I loved Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. Not so much The Mermaid Chair. I gobbled up Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund, and only merely enjoyed Four Spirits. Loved Map of the World by Jane Hamilton, just liked When Madeline was Young. And I thoroughly enjoyed Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and was so glad to hear she had something new out this fall, Day After Night.
I liked it. But I can’t say I loved it. I loved the premise, and I still love her writing style, but the execution of the story didn’t grab me like Red Tent did. The level of magic in the prose was decidedly different. Or maybe I am different, five years after reading Red Tent.
Here’s the story in a nutshell from the book’s promo material: “Day After Night is based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp, a prison for “illegal” immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa. The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp with profoundly different stories. All of them survived the Holocaust: Shayndel, a Polish Zionist; Leonie, a Parisian beauty; Tedi, a hidden Dutch Jew; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor. Haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to begin to hope, Shayndel, Leonie, Tedi, and Zorah find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country.”
That premise alone would’ve hooked me even without having read The Red Tent. But each evening as I read the next chapter of Day After Night I found myself anticipating the moment when I wouldn’t be able to put it down. That moment never came. I liked the book very much. But I was able to put it down. The prose is lovely, and Diamant’s voice is as simplistically powerful as always but there was no Wow! factor this time. And I found the ending sentences rather trite. I doubt my editor would’ve let me offer up the same last closing lines. “You can do better,” she would’ve said.
Perhaps I am becoming too much of an editor. I don’t mean to read others’ novels with a critical eye, but I do. And I can’t seem to stop.
It’s a good book. But my expectations were high.
And I really don’t know if I want to figure out how to lower them. I think having them makes me want to be a better writer. . .