Friday, 25 April 2014

Thirst: A Society History Lesson in Novel Format

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(ARC given by Netgalley)
Author: Mary Donnarumma Sharnick
Publishing House: Fireship Press
292 pages
Publication:  2nd March  2012
Review written by Lady Entropy


Allow me a slight deviation on the topic of this book. In Portugal, there is this idea that if you're "smart", you can write books well. That's why we have so many books written by teachers, journalists, politicians, etc. that are absolutely unbearable because the person might be smart and an expert in their field, but that doesn't mean they can write. Because, you guessed it, writing is something you need to learn to do. If we don't expect a butcher to be able to perform surgeries, why do we expect journalists to be able to write books?

That rant done, that is the chief problem with this book. This writer, well, can't write. Oh, she tries very hard, that shows, but I remember that one of my earlier thoughts on the book were "This sounds like something written by a history teacher". And when I was done reading it, 'lo and behold, I find that the author is a history major. Yeah. It shows. The only reason this books doesn't get one star less is because, individually, the scenes are very instructive. We learn a LOT about the Venetian society of the time, and if you look at this book not as a book, but a guide to society\era, you actually pick up some interesting things. Unfortunately, that also means that, unlike a lot of books which are more than the sum of its parts, this book -- just isn't.

There isn't a clear protagonist, at least 4 of them, scenes jump back and forth in time and protagonist, so god help you if you don't remember just who that character is and what her\his story is, because it means you might spend half the chapter trying to identify who this is about (especially problematic with the Nuns, because they have different names in their civilian life and as Nuns. And then there is the issue with some of the scenes focusing on lesser, almost nameless characters.

This is the danger of people who follow religiously the "Show don't tell" motto. We get swamped with details that just contribute to confuse you and distract you from the main story. There should be an addendum to this "SDT" motto: only "Show IMPORTANT things that contribute to the story". Knowing that Victoria (whose only role is to make a small testimony in trial) was violated anally when she was younger just comes across as a pointless attempt at being edgy and dark.

The structure is a mess, the main story isn't clear, the "side plots" are many and follow different characters so this book is not particularly pleasant or easy to read. The only recommendation I could do was for people interested in the era, and read this as a series of disconnected scenes portraying the several classes and society of the era in Venice.

I'm still puzzled by the cover blurb that says "Venice will never be the same..." since the conflict is quite small in the grand scheme of things, and the establishment wins in the end, so any changes are quickly smoothed over and forgotten.

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