Maybe it’s just me. . .

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. . .

Author: Susan

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought on December 1, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Susan, This was interesting to read because my expectations are high for this book as well. I've noticed you and I tend to enjoy the same type of books. I also didn't get into The Mermaid Chair as I did Secret Life…

    Hmmmm. I have stacks that I want to read. This book doesn't move to the top.

    I also agree it is good to challenge ourselves.
    Thanks for the review.
    ~ Wendy

  2. Nicole on December 1, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    I think it's harder for “sculpted” writers who've been trained by a certain form and embraced a certain kind of writing to read others' fiction with abandon–to not view the weaknesses in the story as subjective and insist it's a technical problem.
    The pursuit of perfection can be a ball and chain to satisfaction and even disappointment, convincing ourselves it could've been done better when really it's just our opinion. JMO, by the way. 😉

  3. Susan Meissner on December 2, 2009 at 1:31 am

    Wendy: Do keep it on your stack. There were parts that still haunt me.

    Nicole: You are so right. I think I approach each novel I read as if I am trying on shoes for my own two feet instead of just enjoying the look of someone else's shoes!

  4. Cherry Shellabarger on December 5, 2009 at 6:19 am

    You make a good point about not lowering the standard.

    There are books I read as models and examples, and books I read that encourage me (If they got THAT published, there is hope for me). There are also books I read and enjoy, clearly seeing the typos, grammatical errors, or plot-holes; and yes, that is disappointing somehow, when I wanted so much more.

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