Monday, 8 September 2014

Secrets from the Past by Barbara Taylor Bradford

It was a beautiful day.

This is a horrible opening line for a book. It does nothing. With an opening line perhaps the most visible in a novel, you'd think the author could do better or at least be a little more creative. Not only is it all weather, it begins with a pronoun. This line is worse than: It was a dark and stormy night... as at least that line suggests conflict but a beautiful day? Where does the story go from there? Just about anywhere, that's just how irrelevant this line is.

I always wondered what it was when referring to weather. What is it that is a beautiful day. Of course I could google it; Google has all the answers, but I have to admit I don't really care much.

The rest of the paragraph is about the weather, defining what beautiful means, adding only that this beautiful day is happening in Manhattan and that this is a first person narrative.

The next paragraph begins:

As I walked up Sutton Place, returning to my apartment, I began to shiver.

So this gets the walking cliche opening in addition to the weather opening. One more cliche and this is automatically an utter, epic fail. Let's see where it goes. The rest of the paragraph continues with more weather reporting and a fashion statement.

Paragraph 3 begins:

It was unusually chilly for March.

Paragraph 1 ended with: ...this cold Saturday morning; so we don't need any reiteration that it is cold. Readers figured that out in the first paragraph, even though it is a beautiful day, which as one reads on does not seem to be entirely accurate.

Before page 1 ends we get some back story pumped in without having any clue what the forward narrative is - that is to say, what this story is actually about. Writers who do this without presenting a forward narrative hook are at risk of not being read - at least not by me.

First thing said:

"It's Arctic weather, Sam."

It really doesn't sound like that beautiful of a day. This dialogue comes on page 2, so early dialogue is a plus. Yet here the dialogue neither reveals character or moves a plot point forward, it merely repeats the weather, which we already know all about - in spades.

This short two-page chapter 1 ends with the narrator certain she is in danger and that a story-worthy problem is about to present itself soon, perhaps as early as chapter 2, but if it doesn't, this is the narrator's way of guaranteeing that a story will emerge at some point in this novel, just not in chapter 1, which is, you know, usually where a story is supposed to start.

Verdict: Epic Fail

Just words on paper. Nothing to see here. Skip chapter 1 and you might get pulled in, though chapter 2 doesn't interest much either.

Rudy Globird

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