Friday, November 20, 2009

Laura Rider's Masterpiece - Jane Hamilton


I've had this book on my shelf for several months, which I won as a giveaway from Frances @ Nonsuch Book. Thanks Frances! I selected it for my next Random Reading Challenge book, and took it with me on my cruise with my girlfriends. It was short (only 215 pages) and was described as a "full-blown comedy". It seemed the perfect match for what would be my state of mind on the trip.

Laura and Charlie Rider have been married for 12 years, and own a successful landscape business in a small town in Wisconsin. Charlie is an eccentric but lovable free-spirit. Laura has grown a little bored with the marriage, and has decided she is done with sex. She has also always wanted to write a romance novel, despite the fact that she denies any romance in her real life, reads infrequently, and hasn't written anything more complicated than her monthly landscaping newsletter. She believes so much in her skill and originality that she feels she can transcend the stereotypical romance, and will cause the clouds to part when she unlocks the secret of what Every Woman wants in a man.

Every Woman just happens to come in the form of Jenna Faroli, a local celebrity who broadcasts a nationally-recognized radio show. Laura has always had a fixation on Jenna - idol worship from afar. When Jenna and Charlie Rider just happen to bump into each other and exchange e-mails, Laura sees her opportunity. Posing as her husband, Laura begins an online correspondence with Jenna, luring her into a flirtatious relationship. A mental menage-a-trois if you will. Soon, as part of her "research project", Laura encourages Charlie to meet with Jenna:

Studying Jenna was the goal. She must keep in mind that if Jenna, the most superior kind of woman, could love Charlie, then Every Woman was capable of loving him, and Laura would understand the universal female. Laura must always keep her eye on that prize.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict the outcome of Laura's idiotic plan, but Hamilton kicks it up a notch with a twist leaving you shaking your head saying "oh she DID NOT just do that!". The characters are amazingly vivid and real for such a short book, and the plot is clever.

I can't say I found the story all that comedic however. It did have some great moments, but to describe the book as a full-blown comedy is overstating things in my opinion. My reaction at the end of the book was to sit there and gape for a moment, then throw it. My opinion of Laura Rider was rather benign at the beginning of the story, but by the end had firmly declared her to be a despicable, conniving, narcissistic dumbass. Yes, I felt that strongly. Is that a sign of a great book? Probably. I love to hate characters, but I just couldn't get past it here.

I probably need to do a little meditating to figure out why, for example, I find an evil character like Fumero in Shadow of the Wind thrilling, but can't even think about Laura Rider without wanting to slap someone. (I promise not to take it out on my cats or kids or pig.) Perhaps it is because her character is completely oblivious to what she has done.

I did find this video on YouTube of an interview with Jane, and it really is quite endearing. I like her alot, and she gives a little insight to what inspired this book (cosmic karma at work...she was on a cruise ship!).






3.5 out of 5 stars

10 comments:

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I love to hate characters too and your review has got me intrigued! I need to know what happened.

bermudaonion said...

I wouldn't describe this book as a comedy either - I thought it was meta-fiction. I liked the book, but hated Laura.

Alyce said...

I have heard similar things about this book and the characters from other reviewers, although I do recall reading at least one in which the reviewer loved the book.

I totally agree with you about Fumero by the way - he was an amazingly evil character.

The Bumbles said...

Wait - when did you get a pig?

Sandy Nawrot said...

This would be the Wonder Pig, Rufus. A sweet little multi-colored guinea pig that we rescued from an animal shelter an hour away from home about two years ago. We love him so. Frankly, he is ten times the pet than the cats.

Lisa said...

Threw the book? Now that's a visceral reaction! I may have to pick it up just to see if I get the same reaction.

heidenkind said...

Uhg. Well, as I mentioned before, I also picked up this book (for the Take a Chance Challenge), and I didn't make it past page... twenty, maybe? Your review has made me very happy I saved myself the misery of continuing to read it. I suspected Laura was a serious narcissistic dumbass from page two--but the part that really got me was the implication that all midwesterners are homophobic, and thus they think Charlie's gay...? WTF? I don't even live in the midwest and that still annoyed me.

As for loving to hate characters, some characters you're supposed to hate. But maybe Laura Rider is, for some twisted minds, a character that supposed to be lovable? Who knows.

Alice Teh said...

Wow, I think the author has successful did something to you. I think I need to check this out to see if I get the same reaction...

The Bumbles said...

Oh yeah - and another thing real books have over audio - you can't throw the audio when the characters piss you off. Well, I guess you could throw an ipod - but then it would break. Or you could delete the recording - but it wouldn't be as dramatic. I once chucked my math textbook so hard against the dorm wall that it caused damage. But boy did I feel better ;0)

Jenners said...

I have to say your review was fun to read ... even though you wanted to slap the main character!