Monday, 30 December 2013

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

October 1916

I was dreaming of food.

So we finally encounter the infamous dream opening cliché. It's probably the biggest clichéd opening going and the one most modern writers make an effort to avoid. Despite this, it's inclusion here was inevitable.

To be fair this opening doesn't embrace the dream cliché in all its irrelevant glory. After reading this beginning, I realized there are two types of dream openings (or am I splitting nose hairs here?): The first is the dreamer actually dreaming a forward narrative of sorts - though nothing to do with the novel's actual story arch, and the second is the dreamer recalling a revealing dream like a fading synopsis. The first is worse and a big no-no. The second is only slightly better, deserving just one "no". Overall, one wonders what effect the writer intends when employing such a cliché.

Oh, and with the date inserted before the opening line, the reader's forced to make an inference that this person hasn't been dreaming about food for the whole month of October. Forcing a reader to make such an inference so early should please English teachers.

The next sentence describes the dream:

Crisp baguettes, the flesh of the bread a virginal white, still steaming from the oven, and ripe cheese, its borders creeping toward the edge of the plate.

This line started to make me hungry until ...the flesh of bread a virginal white... That's just weird. So I read on, as perhaps this dream isn't really about food after know, flesh of bread, steaming oven, ripe creeping cheese...are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Of course the bed opening cliché is a must with the dream opening cliché and in this case the bed setting overwhelms the senses when later the character thinks, still in bed: I could taste the cheese.

If I had that sensation in bed, I'd be concerned.

Nevertheless, one wonders if the decision (never an easy one) to begin a novel with a dream is for the purpose of revealing character, perhaps Sigmund Freud style? That might work if the reader agreed with Sigmund Freud's theories - or hell, even understood them, but if not...well, what then? In any case, if this is the purpose, then this character seems to me to be a cross between Homer Simpson, always dreaming about food, and a dream E.L. James might have - if you use 2.68% of your imagination.

First thing said:

"Get off."

This comes at the end of the first paragraph so that's encouraging - though, it doesn't really do anything except announce the dream is over.

Verdict: Fail

I'm tempted to give this an even peevin' 2.5 stars or maybe 3, but there are the clichés, and so I can't in good conscience...

Theodore Moracht

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