What makes you pick up a book? What keeps you reading? What turns you off a book? What makes you obsessively wait for the next book in a series? (Outlander…Seriously, Diana Gabaldon, get on with it!) What makes you throw the book away because no one should have to read that…? We all have certain tropes and archetypes that grab us and others that don’t. And we all have those that repel us. It can be really complicated and nuanced. I like Zombie stories; all of them. From World War Z and 28 Days later to Warm Bodies and everything in between. But when it comes to vampire stories I like the dark ones not the sparkly ones. You can read my post about My Id List here.
I picked up a book by a very well known Australian author and began to read. I picked it up because I’d heard her on a few podcasts and I am intrigued by bestsellers mostly because I’d like to write one. The author describes this novel as her best work yet, so I was intrigued. The story starts in London and then goes to Paris but its background is World War 2. I mean, you had me at Paris, but it has the tropes I look for; A woman who is a world renown expert working in prestigious museums, an artefact pops up, dramatically changing the direction of her life, there’s a monster lurking in the past… Okay, I love that story line. These are the tropes catapulted Dan Brown to international stardom and made the visiting the Mona Lisa a living nightmare. (okay, that might be a touch dramatic.)
I am usually turned off when a writer goes into detail about the simmering beauty of the heroine (it’s still okay to use the word heroine as the root in Latin is heroina, from the Greek hērōinē, feminine of hērōs.)
I just don’t know why every heroine must be exquisitely beautiful, YAWN! I mean us regular looking women can do amazing stuff, too!
But I kept reading.
The beautiful woman returns to Paris and she’s tired of hiding her true identity. So after 20 years of carefully being someone else, she meets a mysterious dude in the park and tells him everything. Now, I was a little off-put by this particular turn of events. Surely you’d be a little more choosy? If the character had come to her honestly and said ‘hey I’m a Nazi hunter’, which I think he is, I could understand her willingness to blurt it all out. Or, if she had revealed the truth to the kindly man at the British Museum. Surely post-war London was a safer place for a young woman stalked by a cruel Nazi than a park in Paris? But hey, that’s the story.
During the process of revealing to a total stranger her true identity she begins to explain some of the architecture of Paris using her unique knowledge as an expert but then discusses a building that won’t be there for another 25 years. I’m no expert by any stretch but I am a lover of Paris and I knew that building, that bloody huge, very famous building on the western edge of Paris wasn’t started until 1985. It only took a quick Google search to confirm it.
But I kept reading… Maybe she’s a time traveller and I LOVE a bit of time travel. Time travel is firmly on my Id list, probably #1 or #2.
Then, as the MC recounts her story to the stranger, there is a brief child abuse scene which made my stomach churn. This man is the very real monster stalking our heroine. I put the book down at this point because sexual abuse is definitely not on my Id List. Each to their own. I am not going to judge any reader because everyone is different. What’s more, I don’t really believe in trigger warnings. But then I’m not triggered by such things. It would probably be awful for a survivor of child sexual abuse to read that paragraph.
I really don’t know what forms the basis of our Id lists but it’s a real thing and I’m not sure I am going to keep reading.
And I’m guessing the info about the building in Paris was a mistake not a hint that the MC is a time traveler. The upshot of this has been a metaphorical kick in my own pants to get my final edit done and re-release Hotel Deja Vu. Mistakes are going to be made no matter how picky you are as a writer or an editor, so I might as well just get on with it.