Sunday, December 4, 2011

In the King's Arms by Sonia Taitz

One of my favorite places to read about reading and small presses is The Next Best Book Blog. Lori, who runs the blog, had a contest in October to give away copies of this book. A condition of winning was to take part in a book discussion on Goodreads involving the author. I entered, won, and read it.

I thought it was an absolutely horrible book. Every time I picked it up, I found myself groaning within a few paragraphs. The story is about an American girl, the daughter of Holocaust survivors (and when I noticed a new novel in our small press collection also was about a Holocaust survivor, I commented to a co-worker that there seems to be more novels about Holocaust survivors than there were Holocaust survivors), who goes to Oxford for graduate school, and I don't mean Ole Miss. She falls in love with a shallow, good-looking guy who happens to be the brother of a friend of hers. The family of the brothers are anti-Semitic, apparently for no other reason than as a plot device. The heroine gets impregnated, the lover flees, they find themselves back together for some reason. The end.

It's supposed to be a tale about love conquering all but it was just so bad. The dialogue is brutal. The heroine is fanatical about being the daughter of Holocaust survivors and the injustices done to her parents, but her Judaism seems to be important to her simply as a point of contention, just as the anti-Semitism by the boyfriend's parents lacks grounding in anything. The characters are downright insipid. They're empty husks whose sole purpose is spouting the awful dialogue.

Part of the reason I wanted to win a copy of the book was to put it in the small press collection. The publisher, McWitty, is new on the scene, having only put out five books of which this is one. They didn't help matters. The covers of the book (it's paperback), mysteriously curled. I've never had that happen to a book before. There were a couple of typos I noticed and several spots in the dialogue where it was difficult to determine whether they were typos or the character was supposed to be stammering and it just wasn't printed in a clear fashion.

Something I found strange, too, is the author wrote this book 25 years ago. In the discussion I asked why she waited so long to try and find a publisher and I also wondered whether she had made any changes when she submitted it to McWitty. The answers were she knew the publisher was the right fit for the book and no.

I really wish that someone had opted to make some changes with the book. I feel that the quality of the book, both the content and the physical manifestation of the book itself, doesn't help promote small presses.

Others have rated the book on Goodreads and given it decent marks. I'm hoping the discussion enlightens me as to some merit this book has because right now I think this beats out Time Travelers Wife for worst book I've read.

Update: Well, the Goodreads discussion ended and nothing good came out of it from the standpoint of appreciating the book. There was no actual discussion of the book and I wondered if any of the other winners read the book. One said she had not.

On the other hand, Ms. Taitz was very entertaining and engaging. She realizes that her writing isn't for everybody and is cool about that. She has a wonderful optimism about herself and her writing that I appreciated a lot.

Nice author, horrible book.

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