Behind the Shattered Glass by Tess Alexander, The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

November 4, 2013
Sometimes cleansing one's palate is overrated.

Ok, I don't know why I keep reading genres other than romance. I guess I like to think I can
still sit with a 500-page tome and still enjoy it. Well, maybe not. So, this week I listened to the audio book of The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike and in my off-time I read Behind the Shattered Glass by Tess Alexander. Maybe one shouldn't try two books at the same time. Maybe if one of the books is a pretentious piece of ...fiction, then that reflects badly on the other because it puts me in a bad mood. Maybe...maybe...ponder...ponder.

Let's start with the pompous piece of fiction, The Witches of Eastwick. The reason I decided to reread this novel was because of Halloween. I was getting in the mood for Halloween by watching tons of paranormal movies and one of them happened to be The Witches of Eastwick. Yes, The Witches of Eastwick, with the glorious, gorgeous trio of Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Let us not forget the wonderfully hammy presence of Jack Nicholson and the cherry-spewing, over the top Veronica Cartwright. Veronica's performance was truly award-winning (tickle, tickle). I love this movie; it's a tremendously campy movie. Then, there's the book. I remember reading this book when it came out in 1984 and my memories of it are really vague. I'm only left with two recollections: I didn't want to read it again, and when the movie came out, the only thing that was recognizable were the names of the main characters. So, while I'm enjoying the movie this time, my husband asked me a question (he does that a lot when I'm trying to watch movies). In this case, there was something in the movie he didn't quite understand and because I didn't recall any of the book my answer was...maybe the explanation is in the book. Libraries. You know libraries carry this cool invention called "audio" books. This means that someone reads a books to you, so while you're working, running, walking, you can plant some ear plugs into ye' old ear and listen while you go about your business.  Which is what I did with The Witches of Eastwick, and  and that may not have been the best choice.  You know sometimes the written word doesn't translate very well when it drifts through sound wave and pounds against your ear drums.

Now, I have to ask, because I really want to know.  When one takes a writing/literature/composition course, is one encouraged to cram as many descriptive words into a sentence as possible? Is a novel which is full of overblown adverbs, adjectives, and descriptors the only to to write a "great" novel, or even be considered a piece of worthy literature? I love words. I love written words - but g-o-l-l-y, sometimes they sure are trite.  Here comes the "maybe" word again. Maybe, just maybe I was groaning (not the good kind) and rolling my eyes because I was listening to the words instead of reading them. Maybe, one's body automatically twitches when one hears verbose dialog...maybe the effect is less when one reads flowery print. Whatever the case, I couldn't continue listening to all the superfluous babble. The characters were horrible, nasty, and unlikeable; the dialog was dated, pompous, and inflated. This happens to be one of those times I prefer the movie to the book. Sure it's a trip to ham city, but it still makes me smile. Bless all those screenwriters.
Time/Place: 1960s USA
 On to Behind the Shattered Glass. I decided to read this book based on two things: the cover and the lovely title. Those are logical reasons as far as I'm concerned. I probably want to look into that reasoning a little more. Before I could jot down my thoughts on this one, I had to take a breath and closely examine my thoughts. I wanted to make sure that my feelings about this book were not being prejudiced by Eastwick. And, they weren't.

 This is the eighth book in the Lady Emily series, and the first one I've read. Having never read any of the other Lady Emily books, I think may have been a disadvantage for me. I suspect that I would have liked the book better if I had been able to watch the characters grow. Both Lady Emily and her husband Colin are from the previous books and perhaps their personalities have been more fully developed in the preceding stories, I don't know. For me, they were flat. There didn't seem to be any chemistry, although the author did insert some suggestions of bedroom antics. I found both Emily and Colin tedious. Actually, Colin was almost a secondary character. But, then, this isn't a romance story, it's a mystery. However, the mystery was also lacking in substance.

The book did have an interesting layout though. The story is told from two different viewpoints, the upstairs and the downstairs (can anyone say Downton Abbey?). The upstairs dialog is done through first person (I hatessss first person) and the downstairs is told through third-person narrative. Even though first person makes me groan, I actually liked the way this tale flowed. I just wish there had been more texture to the story.

I also had a problem accepting the future matrimonial relationship between an Earl and a servant. This plot-line was sooo improbable, and the solution was really a stretch. Sometimes the HEA isn't plausible, no matter what fairy tale you're reading. I occasionally think that the happy ending should be two people who don't end up together. He should marry someone of his own class and she should go on to school, become a world-renowned artist. Then one day she will pass him and his family on the street, direct a tender smile his way and just move on.

Overall, this book was okay - nothing exciting, not bad, just so-so. I probably won't venture into Lady Emily's world again, but I don't mind if you do.

Time/Place: Victorian/Edwardian England

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