Almost Perfect by Delia Franklin
|Almost Perfect by Delia Franklin|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: The potential is there for a gentle story of relationships and self-discovery. But it suffers from lack of editing, with confusing structure and too much explanatory narrative.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 197||Date: September 2014|
|Publisher: Brick Lane|
Almost Perfect is the debut novel for Delia Franklin, and comes with a delightfully quirky front cover, which is part of what attracted me to it. It starts well, too. Gloria, who works as housekeeper for a late middle-aged farmer called Will, is happily surveying her vegetable patch. The tractor approaches and as Will climbs down, his mobile phone alerts him to the fact that his only granddaughter Lucy has had a fall, and is in a serious state in hospital.
A quick flashback tells us about Will’s wife dying, and how his beloved dog Sarge helped him through the worst of his grief. We then learn that Lucy’s mother Holly is at her daughter’s bedside but Holly’s husband Gilbert is, as usual, away on business…
So the scene is set, and it appears to be a light-hearted book as Will sets off for the station in his tractor, still wearing his muddy wellingtons.
However, after Will arrives at the hospital, and we meet Holly, the book begins on a series of lengthy flashbacks which explain Gilbert’s background, tell us how he and Holly met, and also how Holly’s mother died. The whole is evidently leading up to the first scene - except that the first chapter established all that was necessary, and the back-story doesn’t really add anything to the plot. We get some insight into why Gilbert travels so much, and also some information about Holly’s career as an artist - but it takes up over a third of the book, meaning that by the time I reached the seventh chapter I’d almost forgotten that Lucy was in a life-threatening situation.
So the story moves forward with a series of different incidents, and I kept feeling that there was quite a lot of potential; however it didn’t really work. Most of the characters were rather caricatured, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I was rather keen on the jolly Jamaican Aunty Tilda, for instance. But the main characters are flat and lifeless. I couldn’t relate to Holly at all. One of the great maxims of fiction writing is: ‘Show, don’t tell’. Unfortunately, most of this book was told rather than shown. Even when action takes place, it’s peppered with adjectives and clichés, most of which should have been cut in the editing phase.
And there’s my gripe, really, not with the author but with the editor: it’s a good idea, a workable plot, a nice mixture of people. However it should have had significant rewriting to bring the characters to life, to organise the structure more logically, and to cut out the unnecessary parts. Editing should also have established whose viewpoint we were seeing in each scene rather than it changing continually.
Oh, and a personal bugbear: someone should have noted that one chapter had the word ‘momentarily’ used at least five times, most of them incorrectly. Bizarrely, the word did not appear anywhere else in the book.
I wanted to like this, I really did. It’s gentle women’s fiction (albeit with a couple of dramatic and unpleasant scenes) and the kind of story I usually enjoy for bedtime reading. But it had no emotional impact at all. It felt like a first draft that had been proof-read for spelling and grammar, but without any editorial input.
The potential is there for a three-and-a-half or even four-star novel, but, as it is, I can’t give more than two-and-a-half.
If you like the kind of book with multiple and confusing viewpoints, you might also enjoy Gardens of Delight by Erica James For a very different kind of book that involves a sick child, you might try The Mummyfesto by Linda Green
You can read more book reviews or buy Almost Perfect by Delia Franklin at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Almost Perfect by Delia Franklin at Amazon.com.
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