Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: Marina in a Green Dress by Alan Davidson (2/5)

By Jessica Veter

Jessica is newly arrived in London, living in a bed sit she dislikes, working at a job she dislikes and dating a boy she – well, doesn’t dislike, exactly, but she doesn’t wax rapturous about him, either. There is only one thing in London that has caught her attention: the star of the smash West End hit Marina in a Green Dress, a young man named Kennedy Orr.

Young and vaguely romantic, Jessica writes a letter to Kennedy Orr. She has no intention of posting it, but her boyfriend, Steve, dares her to ask Kennedy Orr to meet her the following week, and he posts the letter for her. Much to her surprise, Kennedy Orr shows up and for reasons Jessica, Steve and the rest of us can only guess at, he wants to see more of her. And that is only the beginning of the mystery.

Marina in a Green Dress falls flat for me. The characters are neither interesting nor strong enough to make the book character-driven, and the plot is predictable. The introverted Jessica seems happy to play the helpless little girl as she allows her parents, her landlady, her boss, Steve, Kennedy Orr and ultimately the plot of a musical to tell her how to live her life.

I can’t be the only woman in the world who is sick unto death with weak, insipid female characters barely capable of fending for themselves. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but let’s have a look at the other female characters in this book: there is Gemma, the absent best friend, who reappears just in time for Jessica to have a roommate in London so she won’t have to make it on her own (kind of like the absent father figure, but she comes back). We have Linsey, Steve’s best mate’s girlfriend, who spends a lot of time squealing, giggling and cuddling her man... and shopping? But, of course. The boss, Mrs. Cole, is the evil witch who dislikes Jessica for no reason that we can see, except isn’t that just like an older woman, guarding her kingdom against the threats of youth and skill. The other evil witch, Mrs. Zein-Bayte, who, apparently concerned that Jessica’s nubile presence in her house will disrupt her Queen Bee status, jumps at the first chance she has to evict the young woman and cast her out (luckily for Jessica, her knight in shining armour saves the day). And, at last, the tragic Nita, who kills herself when the boy she has a crush on tells her he’s not interested (won’t HE be sorry!).

Good grief.

What can a reader take away from this?

The male roles are not much better: the boorish boyfriend who is really a nice guy, deep down; the loyal friend; the bad-boy superstar who just needs to be understood, and the nerd who sees the heroine for who she truly is.

My kingdom for a horse.

But I get it. It’s so easy to slip into these kinds of facile stereotypes when telling a story. You’re writing along, and, like clich├ęs do, these ready-made characters pop into being. They’re comfortable and familiar, and they behave so well on the page. They do not, however, stay with the reader. They do not ring true, they don’t feel like real people, we do not associate with them, we don’t care if they live or die, and that, dear readers, is a death knell for any novel.

One star for being well-written, without a single editing error or formatting issue in the Kindle edition I received, and a second star for not including werewolves, vampires or angels.

About the Author: Alan Davidson is the author of the Annabel series, the Catfoot series and the Clover Club series for children. He has also written a book about the mass escape of a crowd of imprisoned chickens from a battery farm (Escape from Cold Ditch) which, he will be shocked to discover, I want to read. His YA titles include Queen Rider and The Bewitching of Alison Allbright. He lives in Langholm, U.K.
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About the ReviewerJessica Veter is a novelist raised in rural Ontario. Having escaped to Toronto, she spent the 90’s over-educating herself at York University and then the University of Toronto. Once she accepted that there were never going to be any job listings in The Globe and Mail headed “Medievalist Wanted”, Jessica went to Japan. There, she met her husband and they lived in England before returning to Canada with a son and a greyhound.  Now in rural Flamborough, Jessica and her husband raise 3 boys, 6 chickens and are owned by 1 dog. You are welcome to visit her at www.jessicaveter.com.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, that's too bad it fell flat, the premise sounded intriguing. I agree with you, I'm tired of weak female characters in books. I need characters I can root for. Nice, honest review!

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    1. The Bella Swans of the literary world can go die. And btw, the ending to Breaking Dawn? Horse crap. Deus ex Machina to the enth degree. I cry foul!

      Note: I have not read any of the Twilight series, only been relayed the events by my wife and forced to sit through all five movies. Wanted to make that clear lest my man-card be revoked.

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    2. I find weak women especially disturbing in books geared for a YA audience. I don't believe that strong women should simply be 'men with boobs', either. Perhaps we need to put out a call for books with strong female protagonists. I submit 'Anne of Green Gables' as a starter.

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  2. That was an awesome review! Quite enjoyable, too bad the book fell flat!

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    1. Ta very much. I have a soapbox and I carry it with me everywhere I go. It also doubles as a getaway car.

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