A Really Dumb Book

It could have been such a good book!

by Ridley Pearson

Here are some elements it contains—those of a possibly great story:

  • a post-Victorian American woman who marries a rich oil man
  • they take a honeymoon around the world and hang out with other rich people
  • the narrative consists completely of the supposed diary of this young woman
  • the real author, Ridley Pearson, will sell books whether they suck or not (might as well write a good book)
  • they live in a Great Big House
  • the house seems to have secrets and be haunted
  • they have children and the children, too, live in the haunted house
  • the husband is a hopeless womanizer
  • the wife has one confidante – her African maid
  • they throw big parties at the house
  • people start disappearing in the house
  • the wife and the maid see a ghost

–OK, these aren’t original plotlines, but I love a good ghost story and even wrote about a couple of really fabulous ones here.

However, not all good stories are original, and not all original stories are good.

Simply put, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer is neither original nor good.

Here’s what goes wrong:

  • No character development
  • A progressively unlikeable “protagonist”
  • No likeable characters at all
  • The woman’s narrative (a diary) is so clearly written by a man
  • The author ignores the interesting time & place – he says just enough to let you know he never picked up a newspaper or did any research 
  • The auxiliary characters are even flatter than the main character, with seemingly no motivation or intentionality
  • I never cared what happened next
  • A lame, half-hearted attempt to fool the reader by marketing the book as a real diary found at an estate sale in 1998
  • Nothing happens at the beginning
  • Nothing happens in the middle
  • Nothing happens in the end

This book was very lucky that I was otherwise in between novels and waiting for two library books to arrive before I could start something else. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have given it the time of day. Mercifully, it ended (the author apparently got tired of writing–the book has no climax, no denoument, no resolution to speak of).

Lessons learned: 

  • Always have another book on hand (not just on order at the library) in case the one you’re reading doesn’t work out.
  • Don’t waste time reading anything by Ridley Pearson.
  • Quit books you don’t like, and take a nap instead.
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