Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

Suki Piper is a stranger to her hometown.  After ten years in New Zealand, she has returned to London only to find herself more alone than ever before.  But a chance visit with Peggy, an old family friend who still lives in the building in which Suki grew up, leads Suki to believe she has discovered a way to reconnect with the life she left ten years before.  As she becomes more and more involved with Peggy's family, Suki finds that she is mysteriously slipping back in time to one night, a party her parents threw in their garden, and an incident that took place in a long-unused air raid shelter there.  

I'm feeling a bit like Typhoid Mary right about now.  Not the historical version, more like the Marvel supervillain.  My mind has fragmented into a few different reactions regarding this book, and I'm not sure what I'm actually going to be able to say about it.  I need to find a way to separate the way I felt about the writing and the way I felt about the story itself.  Really not sure if that's even possible, but I'm going to try.

I think I'm going to start off with the writing, or the Mary side of my conflict.  For the most part, I enjoyed the way the author used language in the crafting of her story.  There are not a lot of authors who are able to manipulate language in such a way that I can find myself falling in love with a book, despite myself.  She created, through her words, a world that held me captivated and confused.  I can't say that style got in the way of substance, I actually think the style is the only thing that saved the substance, but I'm not sure it allowed the story to really go anywhere either.

Which takes us into the Typhoid territory of my conflicted brain.  I don't normally mind jumbled narratives that have a reader trying to figure out what's what and why things are happening.  I actually tend to enjoy books that allow me to fill in the gaps and do some critical thinking on my own.  What I don't like are jumbled narratives that uses so much misdirection and blind alleys that even the basic information needed to fill in those gaps, may not be there.  I'm pretty sure I know where the author was wanting the reader to go, but I'm also pretty sure that's not where I went.

And that leaves the Bloody Mary side to explore a bit.  If any of you don't already know, I'm a huge mystery fan.  What that means regarding this book, who the freak knows.  I'm still trying to figure out where the mystery aspect comes in.  I know that while it wasn't a strict mystery, there were so many elements that were picked up, examined, and then tossed away that I'm still a bit confused by the whole thing.  The many hints and clues given to explain Suki's behavior as an adult, just never panned out for me.  She is floundering in her life, and supposedly the answers can be found in a troubled childhood.  If that's the case, she needs to get the hell over it.

From the impression I'm left with, she refuses to grow up because her father left and her mother died from cancer.  You know what, a lot of us lose one or both parents and a young age and we don't act like a 12 year old when we are almost 30.  Now if what was hinted at in the book actually happened to her, then I may be able to give her the benefit of the doubt.  I can't even count the many glaring hints of sexual abuse, whether at the hands of her father, two male friends that where at the party that night, a creepy neighbor, or some stranger that never showed his face; were just thrown out there.  Disembodied hands that would undo dress bows being the most obvious.  The problem, it never went anywhere.  I can't tell you what happened in that bunker, other than a girl losing her balance and knocking out some teeth.  But from what I can tell, the sexual abuse didn't happen.  So what I really don't get, is why all the hints.  What was the point of building it up, then never going in that direction.

To be honest with you, I don't know what happened to her as a kid, and I don't care.  I don't even care if she was actually time traveling, or if it was all some sort of walking memory.  I don't care about any of it.  This is one case where the author's adapt use of language, which she obviously has, could not save the book.  For all I care, Suki can move into that bunker and mope for the rest of her life.  I don't think she will, because from what I can tell she finally got over the "trauma".  I just wish I knew what the trauma was.  On second thought, no I don't.  I just don't care enough.

For those of you who are interested, the author visited the Mystery forum at the Barnes & Noble website, the conversation can be found here.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review the book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Challenges: A-Z


bermudaonion said...

A read another review that said pretty much the same thing. It sounds like this book tries to do too much.

Lauren Hairston said...

I hate when this happens! I feel like maybe there should be a for writers: "good writer/bad plotter seeking good plotter/bad writer" or something like that. I can't tell you how many times I've stopped reading a book (that sounds like a plot I'd really like to read) about two chapters in because the prose was atrocious. The good writing/bad plotting is really annoying, too, because usually I end up reading the whole thing and being disappointed. I laughed when I read, "I don't know what happened to her as a kid and I don't care." I've totally been there! I always wonder who the literary agent and editor were.

Jill Buck said...

That is too bad that you had a disappointing experience with this book. Hope you enjoy your next one more.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Darn, I'm sorry this one didn't turn out to be your kind of book Ryan, but thanks for sharing your thoughts on it for the tour.

Lisa said...

I've seen this one around but haven't read any of the other reviews yet. So before I commented, I wondered what other people had to say. Everyone seems to have some issues with the story, even those who liked the book and opinions about the characters seem to be all over the place. But the thing that would really put me off this book are the issues you had about what happened to Suki and her inability to get over whatever it was.

Teddyree said...

Sorry this one didn't work for you, I won't be reading the book but I did enjoy your 'typhoid territory' review ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree completely... All those hints and "mystery" about her past led nowhere- and the supernatural aspect was non existent!!! I was really disappointed by the book