Saturday, March 1, 2008

Laughter Reviews #16

Time for another book review with the focus: funny or not?

FEMALE INTELLIGENCE
JANE HELLER
WOMEN'S FICTION


Premise
Career woman specialized in teaching men how to communicate with women is personally betrayed, with professional consequences.


What Works
The main plot elements showed promise: successful woman with thriving practice, quartet of equally successful female friends, and sensitive, good-looking husband is thrown for a loop when she discovers he is cheating. Worse, news of her divorce is leaked to the press, bringing her business to a halt since no-one wants to be couselled on cross-gender communication by someone who failed at it in her own life. To combat the client drain, Lynn decides one well-publicized, decisive victory will save her professional life, and sets out to capture a famous tycoon chauvinist as poster client. All ingredients for what could have been a good story.


What Doesn't
The writing style (at least, in this book) is pedantic. Over-explanatory and on the fussy side, it makes sense for the protagonist's character but means heavy going for the reader, too often approaching the threshold where reading feels like work instead of fun.

The tycoon character is a collection of cliches, from his somewhat dated expressions, to his choice of girlfriend, to his lifesyle description.

There is a TSTL moment when personal details have been leaked to the press for the second time with disastrous results and Lynn calls the newspaper in outrage. Among other details, she is informed that the informant left a contact number, but she fails to demand it to verify who will pick up. Instead, she spends another quarter of the book trying to figure out the identity of the culprit.

She does eventually, via an interesting method. But even this is unsatisfactory. Unless she is in a philosophical, literary-fiction frame of mind, Apprentice Writer wholeheartedly believes in Oscar Wilde's famous quote that

"The good end happily, the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means."

When Lynn confronts her antagonist, the culprit explains the motivation behind the undermining actions, and that's that. No real consequences beyond losing Lynn's friendship, no punishment, no negativity for that person, meaning freedom to inflict similar malicious behavior on the next victim to come along. This may be the way things often work out in real life, but Apprentice Writer gets plenty enough day-to-day proof of 'Life's Not Fair'; she doesn't need to read books for more of the same.


Overall
From dustjacket accolades including "rollicking", "snappy", "hilarious" , Apprentice Writer expected more.



But does it make you laugh? NOT NEARLY ENOUGH

There was a single bit which Apprentice Writer thought truly funny, involving the heroine going through so-called 'scripts' taken from various working life situations to train the male client on proper verbal interaction. She instructs the chauvinist tycoon to practice phrases to help him bond with his female employees, such as "I don't know how you metabolize dessert, but that chocolate mousse I had last night went straight to my thighs." His horror is palpable.

That's it. A good bit, but repetitive, and unless one is a loyal fan of this author, not enough to make reading the entire book worthwhile.

2 comments:

Julia Smith said...

Sounds rather disappointing, considering the "rollicking", "snappy", "hilarious" endorsements. The strange thing about male tycoons is - how does one not portray this sort of person as a cliche?

M. said...

hmm. good point, julia. there is a whole line of tycoon books out there - maybe i should study them.