Monday, August 18, 2014

A LITTLE LESS OO, A LITTLE MORE LALA, PLEASE










I wanted to like Renee Swindle's A PINCH OF OOOLALA. I wanted to say at very page, as I am doing with the novel I am currently reading, “Beautiful.” Despite the title, which hints of cancan and fin-de-siecle hoopla, this is a story of love and loss in which flippancy is very much out of place. Billed as a satisfying tale of love, friendship and family, it does include all these ingredients, along with a bakery called Scratch where Abbey Lincoln Ross, visually stunning wedding cakes.” This sounded promising and most readers hope that a new book will live up to the promise of its blurbs. This one does not.
I found as disappointing a cake that outlived its shelf life. Mind you, with every new novel I read, I want to praise its author. Unfortunately, I find it impossible in this case.
That does not mean that A PINCH OF OO LALA will not be a commercial success. There have been writers I found mediocre and who went on to sell movie rights for their work to the likes of Julie Robertson. I am well aware that every reader has a different definition of competent writing. Movie makers probably think less about the music of the words than they do about the music of the cash register.

Well, then, A PINCH OOLALAH might yet make cash registers play symphonies all over the country. It is hip, it is very much in the spirit of the age, it has a main character whose career seems to be more more rewarding than her love life. I confess that I know very little about the universality of Abbey's plight. I do not think about target groups and demographics as publishers must. I tend to focus on the way the story is told. My problem with Abbey is that she never really comes to life on the page. I know that she is owns a bakery, that comes from a an unusual family, that she has very good friends and I I know that she loves jazz. In fact, she uses her deep understanding of jazz as a yardstick to measure the potential compatibility of a prospective lover. Well and good. As someone who experienced betrayal and pain, she is very cautious about opening her heart to a man. She yearns to be part of a couple, to have children, to continue to honor her own values. No doubt there is universality in all that. But does it read well? I do not think so. I am not sure whether the essential truth of this novel is that you cannot have your cake and eat. I know this much about this story--its ingredients simply refuse to blend.  

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