Apparently Stephanie Meyer never describes something in one page when she could do it in four.
She stole this tip off Ian McEwan.
Four pages to describe a migraine!
Let's not even go near the plot yet. I don't think I can adequately convey my HATE for it, so I'll start with the easier option: the writing.
Lumpen. Rudimentary. Generic. Pedestrian.
He uses the adjective 'soupy' at least four times. IT'S A NOTABLE ADJECTIVE, IAN. PEOPLE WILL NOTICE THAT YOU USE IT A LOT. Once looks like originality. Four looks like you're hungry.
A cigarette holder, a lapdog tucked under one arm and she could have been Cruella de Vil.
HAHAHA WHAT. I'm supposed to believe THIS is good writing? Referencing Disney? Especially given that a) everyone knows what Cruella looks like, thus losing any potential brownie points for picking a less lol-obvious villain and b) that description is a mugshot. Write something INTERESTING. Like: 'the resemblance to Cruella was acute; all Lola was missing was the skins of a hundred dead puppies.' Or something. God.
The war scenes were dreadful. Just dreadful. The bits in the house were even worse. There was no reason for this crime against prose. It just dragged on and on and on, and also! He contradicts himself! Robbie drops his greatcoat at one point and doesn't pick it up, but later sleeps in it. Emily mentions going out to find Briony in the depths of that horrendously indulgent migraine passage. She never does.
The whole conversation before teh sexytiems - where they say one line of dialogue and then there's three paragraphs of internal monologue of the most insanely boring 'did he mean that? but what if he meant this? I think he meant something else' quality - failed SO HARD.
He loves to tell, not to show anything, but because he thinks his readers are fucking stupid and need everything explained to the nth degree:
When at last Lola spoke her tone was reflective, as though she were pondering subtle currents of counter-arguments.
but the question, which she had quite forgotten, from the Book of Common Prayer
If only she could reproduce the clear light of a summer's morning, the sensations of a child standing at a window, the curve and dip of a swallow's flight over a pool of water. Fucking no. Experiments are supposed to prove something. Experiments for the sake of experiments are facile - such as abstract writing. Hey, maybe this whole book was an exercise in automatic writing! It would explain SO MUCH.
"Don't worry," she said soothingly, and in the second or two during which she drew deeply on her cigarette, Briony flinched as her hopes lifted unreally. "Don't worry," her sister resumed, "I won't ever forgive you.".
Worst. Structure. EVER.
I mean, LOOK at it. The balance is off, the lines are convoluted and the multiple 'shes' create epic mind confusion. Not to mention I've seen that shit done hundreds of times before and better. How can you fuck up a riffed line, seriously? Does he not even think about how it reads, aurally, like a movie scene?
All the writers I've read so far this summer could have done with some serious time in fandom. McEwan is not an exception.
Contrived, let me SHOW YOU IT.
I mean, clearly he woke up from a nap, as you do, thinking: childhood friends, sexual spark, dirty notes, interception, lovers, mistaken identity, tragedy, BOOM! Oscar nomination. He wrote them all down, also as you do, because otherwise they just evaporate. And then he forgot to edit. Ever.
We are never shown Robbie and Cecilia being friends. We are never shown the merest hint of a spark between them, aside from that ludicrous vase thing which was obviously some DEEP and MEANINGFUL metaphor designed to conceal the fact that McEwan can't do UST for shit. The idea of anyone being happy to get a note like that - that it would make them realise their repressed love - that you could establish a meaningful love bond that survives prison and war and causes estrangement from your family after a five minute fuck in which NOBODY CAME - is absosfuckinglutely RIDICULOUS. Even with that said, he also made no attempt to sell it. Again, covering his tracks with reams of delirious prose. Someone give the man a cookie.
He can't write sex. It's not actually bad, it just - he can't do it. People who can't write sex, shouldn't. If you can't write crime thrillers, don't add a crime plot to your story. Simple. They invented fade to black for a reason.
I got the impression that Briony's stint as a nurse was supposed to make us feel sorry for her. (After what a shithead she was earlier? HA.
Naturally, she had never heard the word spoken, or seen it in print, or come across it in asterisks. Yet naturally, she knew what it meant! Really is a fucking genius. I had to look it up in the dictionary the first time. Then again, I'm not a genius.)
It only made me sorry that hospitals aren't run like that any more. Good times.
Cecilia was so badly written, ohmygod.
All this was clear and not worth struggling against - she would not be abandoning herself to a lucious summer's night, there would be no long session with Leon, she would not be walking barefoot across the lawns under the midnight stars. - get fucking dressed quicker, dude
Even as she said the words she imagined herself being dragged back, incapable of packing her bag or of making the train. totally useless individual, HI
Why did they both become nurses? In fact, why was there a Cambridge storyline at all?
This is how it should have gone:
It starts with Cee and Robbie as kids, playing together, best mates. He's the handyman's son and she's the daughter of the house. He is NOT sponsored by Cee's dad - what, it was so irrelevant. He stays on working in the village, getting buff. Cee goes to finishing school, not Cambridge, as really that seems to fit the fifties more. (Only of course we must have the war!) Anyway, she comes back and Robbie's hot but she's snobbier. One day it's really hot and the plumbing breaks down. She's all hot and sweaty and gross, and Emily wants her to fill vases for some reception because the maid has the plague. She goes to the fountain to do it. Robbie's around being manly, he offers to fill it, the scene breaks down like McEwan wrote it, only not so fucking subtle there's actually no chemistry at all. Briony sees them struggling and thinks Cee's being taken advantage of. She also sees teh sexytiems. AFTER this, Robbie writes his gross note and Cee replies because she's obviously a perve too, this goes on for a while until Briony finds one, maybe involving Robbie tying Cee up (she's kinky like that). Horrified, she goes to her parents who have him either charged - and blackmail Cee to keep her quiet - or sent away. He still fights in the war, Cee still cuts herself off from her family, and Briony still has a lot to atone for before she goes to fucking BED.
I like my version so much better.
Also, Hermione was the most interesting person in that dull dull dull family, why did we never get to meet HER?
I've just started To The Lighthouse and I can already tell McEwan is no Virginia Woolf. The point is, who'd want to be?
On the back:
'a magnificent novel ... beautiful majestic panorama ... a superb achievement ... utterly satisfying ... smoulders with slow-burning menace'
Who are these people and what book were they reading?