Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: All is Vanity

All is Vanity by Christina Schwarz

2.5 stars

Reasons for reading: book club selection, hardcover book for Four Month Challenge

Description: "In All is Vanity, Margaret and Letty, best friends since childhood and now living on opposite coasts, reach their mid-thirties and begin to chafe at their sense that they are not where they ought to be in life. Margaret, driven and overconfident, decides the best way to rectify this is to quit her job and whip out a literary tour de force. Frustrated almost immediately and humiliated at every turn, Margaret turns to Letty for support. But as Letty, a stay-at-home mother of four, begins to feel pressured to make a good showing in the upper-middle-class Los Angeles society into which her husband’s new job has thrust her, Margaret sees a plot unfolding that’s better than anything she could make up. Desperate to finish her book and against her better nature, she pushes Letty to take greater and greater risks, and secretly steals her friend’s stories as fast as she can live them. Hungry for the world’s regard, Margaret rashly sacrifices one of the things most precious to her, until the novel’s suspenseful conclusion shows her the terrible consequences of her betrayal."

First line: "I was a promising child."

My thoughts: Well, none of the book club members liked this one much. We felt there were some sparks of good writing, but the two main characters were a bitch (Margaret) and an idiot (Letty). Letty's financial situation spiralled out of control too quickly and too ridiculously for it to be believable. The book is referred to as satire, so I suppose that was supposed to be the satirical element about consumerism. Still didn't make it an enjoyable read. The person who chose the book had heard it was great, but couldn't remember where and now doesn't know why anyone would say it! One thought was that it does describe how difficult the writing process is and how people tend to treat would-be authors as though it's very simple. So maybe other writers liked it for that!

The verdict: No-one thought it was actually all that badly written, but overall it wasn't enjoyable and neither character got our sympathy.

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