Book Review: What She Knew, by Nadine Galinsky Feldman

Liz Nabor, a woman in her 40s living in Manhattan as a money manager, with a perfect boyfriend and a perfect apartment and basically a perfect life, but everything is so perfect that it made me dislike the story from the beginning, because it simply feels fake and distant.

I think this was the biggest issue I had whilst reading What She Knew, because I could not relate to the character in any way and I ended up almost hating her. This did not only have to do with the character’s lifestyle, but with the character itself. She is in her mid-forties although she acts like she is in her mid-twenties, and when the trouble starts to come she proceeds the most un-professional way possible: avoiding the problem thinking it may solve itself.

The problem in this case is a lot of drama that does not get solved. Someone very important gets involved in a corruption scandal and so Liz’s firm freaks out because this person in question may be involved with one of Liz’s clients. Then Liz’s aunt is dying and, even though apparently they have not spoken for years, she leaves the city to spend her last days with her, avoiding her job, her clients and her boss. And do not expect the author to explain where the problem comes from between her and her auntie, because all you have instead is a vague explanation that does not feel enough for someone to just stop their relationship like that.

Now combine all this with a poor editorial work. You will find too many explanations that do not add anything of importance to the story and just make it boring and repetitive. These explanations slow down the story when what the story needs is to go way faster, because if a character’s life is disbanding, you cannot have this character just thinking about her problems over and over again and not doing anything about it, as she simply turns off her phone and goes running. I could not stop thinking how she got so far with that approach to life, honestly.

“All this happens while the West Coast is greeting the day. Liz, innocent of  what’s to come, lounges on the sofa, sore from the day’s work bending, stooping, and sorting. She grabs one of  her aunt’s journals and leafs through it.”

Of course she falls in love whilst being away with a handsome and loving man, and when she comes back to Manhattan there you have it, all the problems solved, magical happy ending.

I appreciate the hard work and I know how difficult it is for an author to self-publish a book, but I believe that if this book had had a second editor behind it, it would have been different and, well, better.

If you are a money manager with a perfect life, go read it. It is a simple story, with simple writing and basic characters, and I am afraid that I have to be honest and say that it is definitely not for me.

Book Review: Five Thousand, Three Hundred Miles, by Cecily Knobler

28425192I am not really into romantic novels as most of the times I have tried and get into one, and I either don’t feel related to the characters or I don’t like the story, and so I end up leaving it midway. However, I was gladly surprised when all the contrary happened whilst reading Five Thousand, Three Hundred Miles.

To put you into situation: Beth, the main character, receives a three days trip to London from her sister for her birthday, and, as expected, she falls in love during her trip. Almost half of the story is set in London, and the main character is a simple American girl to whom everyone can feel related to quite easily (because of the setting and the character itself, I am obviously not American). The first Irish man she meets in the story is the perfect representation of one of plenty you could easily find here any evening out (sadly), and the second and charming man, Jack, is the proper stereotypical image of the English gentleman, who is a bit less easy to relate to (they are endangered species), but who is obviously the one Beth falls for, giving the story that “Hollywood rom-com” atmosphere, which will make any young girl fall for this book.

What also surprised me is that, even though the way it is written is nothing too exceptional, the author achieves to be pretty funny and close to the reader, which matches the story and the characters involved in it pretty well.

“I wanted to ask him everything about his life just because he had an English accent. The same went for the cabbie, the gentleman in customs and the lady who took my train ticket. I wanted to Facebook friend request every single person I came across, but I decided to tone down the Yankee in me, if only for a moment.”

The story is written in first person narrator, but it switches from Beth to Jack, the charming English man, from chapter to chapter, which makes the whole thing a bit more interesting having these two points of view. Why so? Because *spoiler alert* their ways are separated before they can swap details, due to an unfortunate situation right before Beth is leaving to the airport, and so they cannot find each other once she returns to America. This gives the author a great opportunity to explore both characters months after this happened, as the author does not stay in a simple love story, but narrates more realistic situations in their now separated lives, like the fears of being with someone unsure if they are the right ones, the uncertainty of love and the fear for the unknown future. Yet, the part I liked the most was the one set in London, but mainly because here is where the change happens, and where the story gains its intensity.

“His eyes, now looking as green as Hyde Park, lingered on me for a moment. They then expressed a sentiment that read: “Please forgive me, but I can no longer not kiss you”. If only there were just one word for that. I’ll bet the French have it. But English speakers don’t, so thankfully we can read eyes.”

It was a lovely reading. It was also refreshing to read a new author for once, not knowing what to expect. Recommended for any hinting people out there who is avoiding romance; you may fall for this one.