Thursday, 14 October 2021

Don't believe the hype

Where the Crawdads Sing Here's one thing I liked about Delia Owens's Where the Crawdads Sing. It's a vivid description of the onset of a storm: "The wind hit first, rattling windows and hurling waves over the wharf." The use of the word hurling is very evocative. Unfortunately, that's about the only positive thing I have to say.

The plot, briefly, involves a six-year-old girl named Kya who's abandoned by her family in the North Carolina marshlands. She raises herself and avoids contact with most of the neighbouring community except for traders from whom she must buy supplies. Two boys are fascinated by her and when they become men, one is found dead in mysterious circumstances.

It's a good story, but I found myself rolling my eyes and groaning over the telling of it. In no particular order, these are some of the notes I made about things that detracted from the reading pleasure.

The characters are clich├ęd, especially the all-American jock: "They had known Chase since he was born. Had watched his life ease from charming child to cute teen; star quarterback and town hot shot to working for his parents. Finally, handsome man wedding the prettiest girl."

Descriptions are trite: "Yes, we got stuck, but what’d we girls do? We made it fun, we laughed. That’s what sisters and girlfriends are all about."

Is it credible that an 18-year-old boy would easily teach the 14-years-old Kya to read? And in no time, she's writing poetry and reading biology textbooks designed for students four years ahead of her?

Did we read the same Rebecca? Kya "took her first novel, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, from Ma’s bookshelf and read about love" (my emphasis). Rebecca is about jealousy. De Winter's proposal to his second wife goes, "I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool." Heaven help you if you imagine this is love.

Why is Kya embarrassed about her periods and having to wear a bra? After all, the girl has been living in the wild with little human contact. How has she learned to be ashamed of these things? I might understand being fearful of period pains and sudden bleeding. But not shame, especially with her knowledge of the natural world.

What do these descriptions mean? Kya has "shapely lips". All lips have a shape. And then, one man "leaned down and kissed her softly at first, and then like a man" (my emphasis). How does one kiss like a man? With tongues or without tongues? Fast? Slow? Immediately blowing a raspberry afterwards?

I finished the book, but gave up making notes of things that I disliked. Is it possible that Where the Crawdads Sing has been over-hyped by those who have an interest in seeing it transferred to the big screen? Do yourself a favour and read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier instead.

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