Friday, 11 April 2014
And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass
First off, I don't like titles that begin with ...And. It reeks of artsy-fartsy and honestly sounds pretentious. After consulting my elementary school grammar book, I'm confident to say that and is a conjunction, a joiner and putting it at the beginning of a title makes it impotent. So this title really is: The Dark Sacred Night and the Impotent Conjunction.
I'm uncertain why anyone does this but I assume it's because it implies that there is more to the title than a dark sacred night and we will need to read on to understand what it is because the author is being stingy so as to create suspense. Another reason may be that authors are now being paid by the title word count and so adding that ...And at the beginning means twenty percent more money. That would be cool. Or maybe it's to ensure that the book turns up first on online book lists?
However, despite this annoyance and my 156 word rant, beginning a title with ...And wouldn't keep me from reading the book.
On the other hand, the pronouns in the opening sentence are more annoying, used to create, I don't know, mystery or melodramatic effect? I put a question mark at the end of the previous sentence because I'm not sure why writers start a novel with a pronoun anymore. It's as if they're holding back the story on purpose because they are stingy with it or something, thinking that by slowly drawing out the plot with unknown pronouns, they're hooking a reader. I just skip those boring parts - or depending on my schedule, I skip the rest of the book. What makes me mad is that I can't skip the opening line; unfortunately, opening lines are unskippable.
Then there is the word almost used before a verb. It almost sounds weird. Why write what a character is not doing? She almost woke and then almost had breakfast before almost going outside for a walk. Then she almost received a phone call, before almost going home...etc. You almost get the point?
The opening paints a scene without much conflict, which is fine for a landscape painting, but this is supposed to be a novel with, you know, that nifty little thing called conflict - that thing that makes a story a story - not the backdrop drawn with words - though important, shouldn't begin a book; it rarely hooks.
It is the time of year when Kit must rise in the dark, as if he were a farmer or fisherman, someone whose livelihood depends on beating the dawn, convincing himself that what looks like night is actually morning.
The only conflict here is that someone needs to get up early. While a hellish prospect for some, it's not really that interesting to read at the beginning of a novel. Though, I think its main purpose is more to establish setting than conflict, so it's a sneaky way of beginning with setting. You see, at first I'm thinking this is taking place in a rural area. I am unintentionally associating this way (I always do this with uneventful sentences) because of words like farmer and fisherman, but we learn in the next sentence that this guy must get up early because he is a father. So this novel begins how the creative writing textbooks say it should: with exposition and in bed.
Theo (the blog admin) now forces me to attach at least one compliment to each negative review I give, so here goes: You James Bond fans will be almost disappointed. Not only because this does not start with a bang, but also because it is well written.
First thing said:
"What, not practicing?"
Verdict: A Potent Fail