These days, I’ve been cutting myself some slack. If I’m not liking a book, it’s okay to put it down. I repeat, it’s okay to put it down! There are so many great books out there, why waste my time on something I don’t like? That said, I still feel guilty every time. Maybe I’m too lax about it, maybe it’ll get better and I’ll miss out… I go through this every time I decide to end things. A process that typically takes me a couple days. I’d hate to give up and find out later I would have loved the rest of the book (like The Opposite of Everyone). This break up is different though – the easiest so far, actually. I hate to have that alone be the basis for my review, but I couldn’t find many redeeming qualities in Sara Gruen’s newest novel At the Water’s Edge. You probably know the name, she also wrote Water For Elephants that became a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. Though I have yet to read her previous works, I can honestly say At the Water’s Edge is not her best.
The story begins as Madeline Hyde and her husband Ellis attend a New Year’s Eve bash, celebrating the new year and America’s joining in WWII. Among the high society of Philadelphia, Ellis drinks himself into disgrace, makes a huge scene, and is still in awe after they find themselves the new social pariahs of the season. Still reeling from his last embarrassment (rejected from the army for color blindness, of course), his family cuts him off – they’ve gone through enough. Ellis is dejected and looking for an escape, and Maddie just wants him to be happy, while his good friend Hank is looking for adventure without a care in the world. So the trio make their way to the Scottish Highlands looking to prove, once and for all, that the Loch Ness Monster does exist! Finding herself alone at the village inn, and uneducated in the ways of war, she befriends two local women who’ll open her eyes to the dangers and unexpected beauties of the world outside her door. She’ll come to question everything she’s held dear, starting with her marriage, and embrace her inner strength…or at least I hope so – I didn’t make it that far.
Ellis and Hank are two peas in a pod. Both rich, selfish, uncaring, and childish – the world is their oyster, whether or not Daddy will pay for it. They no regard for others and care on for themselves and their games. Enter Maddie, they treat her as a toy the two are forced to share. That is until she starkly turns down a proposal from Hank and turns around and accepts Ellis’ not a day later because she, I kid you not, “hadn’t realized we were in love.” This was my stopping point – I just couldn’t take any more of her. She lets anyone and everyone stomp all over her, and after pages and pages of her complaining about her mother-in-law, and her inability to dress herself or do her own hair because Ellis prefers her to dress a certain way and pays for a salon to set her hair twice a week anyways…. I can’t stand her! She’s no better than the jack asses she hangs to. While Gruen’s writing is beautiful, comparable almost to a fairy tale, her characters are weak and the story flat. She should have reduced the complaining to a few measly pages and made something interesting happen to her – okay, so Maddie has no idea she needs to carry a gas mask at all times now that she’s in Scotland, how about an air raid to spice things up!? That would be much better than her constantly crying over lipstick and hosiery. I hope, for her sake, she dumps Ellis and grows a back-bone.
Did you finish At the Water’s Edge? Does it get better?
Do you break up with books? Or do you see them through?