Friday, March 28, 2014

#stupidbookisstupid

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably will have seen me using the above hashtag a lot in recent months. Because when you borrow books from the library, you have a tendency to pick up pretty much anything on the basis that the blurb sounds half way decent and it's not as if you're paying money for it anyway. And yet, once I'm 250 pages in, I feel the need to finish the remaining 100 pages even though it sucks. Other times, I've bought a book on Amazon for $0.99 and feel the need to finish it because I PAID $0.99 FOR IT, DAMMIT.

The book that I'm currently #stupidbookisstupid-ing is the former. It's a Pride & Prejudice sequel, which is one of my guilty pleasures. The blurb sounded interesting, and like it filled in the gap between Rosings Park and Pemberley from Darcy's perspective. BUT NO. Instead, it has delivered me with a Caroline Bingley who's apparently shagged half the ton, a Mr. Darcy who's possessive and jealous and emotionally abusive, a Lizzy who throws things and screams and stamps her foot, and is mostly focused on Colonel Fitzwilliam falling instantly for some random American woman.

So obviously, the plot is pretty terrible, and the author has more or less ignored everything Austen told us about her characters. But I think a big part of why it's making me headdesk as much as it is has to do with the writing. And not just the plot or the way the characters are portrayed, but the choice of words.

The author is American, which I have no problem with. Many wonderful authors are. But if you're writing a book set in Regency England - or England in general, for that reason - you should REALLY have a) a deep understanding of the language of the time, or b) an English person read it and check the language for you.

My high school French teacher once told our class that "You should never swear in another language, because you'll never quite get it right. Just ask the French tourist I saw recently who dropped her coffee in the middle of the street, and went 'Oh, sheeeeeeeeeeet'. It just doesn't work." Admittedly, Mrs. R was probably trying to ensure that we made a good impression with our host families on the French Study Tour. But her point remains valid here - there will always be words that have different meanings depending on where you are, even if both places in question are English-speaking.

This book has included a range of these. One of the first to stick out was "trash", which is rarely used outside North America. This was closely followed by one character asking another if they want cream in their coffee, which is not only uncommon in Commonwealth countries, but which would have been very unlikely at the time, especially in London where milk was apparently so expensive that many people used only a few drops in their tea or coffee. Given this, the use of cream in coffee seems enormously unlikely.

And then we had my personal favourite - the use of the word "fanny". There have been two occurrences of this to date - one in which Colonel Fitzwilliam is telling a story about his friend Patrick, who got shot in the fanny during a battle, and one during sexytimes in which we are told that Colonel Fitzwilliam "kneaded" his love interest's fanny. The former made me laugh so hard that I nearly fell out of bed. The latter? That just made me cringe, because NO and OHGODWHY and OW.

And to think, it all could have been easily avoided simply by asking an English person to peruse the text prior to publication...

Still, I suppose then I would have been deprived of the entertainment factor, so I suppose after all that, #stupidbookisstupid was good for something...

Have you come across any awkward terminology in books that means something totally different to what the author intended?

K xx

13 comments:

  1. I had no idea until I heard about these books you read that there were so many legitimately published Pride and Prejudice fanfictions out there. I've heard about the bad ones from you, but are any of them actually good? I did read Death Comes to Pemberley and hated it- so, so boring.

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  2. I have been enjoying your #stupidbookisstupid twitter rants; I can enjoy the highlights (lowlights) without wasting my time actually reading these novels. How did they ever get to a publisher? I once picked up one of these dreadful Pride and Prejudice sequels in a bookshop, and the random page I opened it onto will never let me forget it. The word "impale" was used. :S But it can't compare to your examples. Oops!

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  3. I also hated this book! It was nothing like the blurb promised, unfortunately. But I did once read quite a good trilogy, I have just tried to track it down on the interwebs. It MIGHT have been the one by Pamela Aidan - telling the story from Mr Darcy's perspective. But if this turns out to be terrible and/or what Kirsti is referring to above, then no, it wasn't this series!

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  4. I too am almost pathologically unable to not finish a book, no matter how utterly dreadful. To date, the only two books to have defeated me are 'A Suitable Boy', by Vikram Seth, and some awful thing set in Celtic times that was on the bestseller list in the mid-late 90s, whose title I cannot even call to mind.

    This has been exacerbated by using an ereader, as your unfinished books are the first things that pop up when you turn it on, forever taunting you (plus not finishing affects your stats!), so now Clinton has to listen to me bitching and moaning about lack of character development, plot holes and terrible writing until I finish a book. Most recent culprit was 'Earthly Delights', by Kerrie Greenwood (who also writes Phryne Fisher).

    This experience was enough to make me give up the ereader and go back to actual books, as I've found a lot of the good stuff never makes it to digital format.

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  5. If I spend money on something, I have a pathological need to finish it due to extreme cheapskate-ery. Which means I should probably stop buying shitty $1 Kindle books on Amazon so that I don't have to torture myself like this........

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  6. I think some of them are actually self-published books in disguise - they have the name of a publisher listed, but said publisher is one of those "pay them to edit your book in a half-arsed way and slap a cover on it" publishers. SIGH.

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  7. Ugh, Death Comes to Pemberley was awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwful. She obliterated the characters AND completely screwed up the timeline of both P&P AND Persuasion. And screwing up the latter should have been impossible because Persuasion basically tells you on page 1 what year it's set in. SIGH.


    I've read a few good ones - Solving for Ex was a cute modern adaptation of Mansfield Park. Georgiana Darcy's Diary was a little predictable but sweet. The Perfect Bride for Mr Darcy was fluffy but fleshed out a bunch of the background characters BRILLIANTLY. And my all-time favourite is Mr Darcy's Bite, which is effectively published fan-fic that ADMITS it's published fan-fic. It's totally ridiculous (Darcy is a werewolf) and filled with fan-fic-esque romance. But it was SO MUCH FUN (albeit brainless fun) that I just loved every second of it.

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  8. I haven't read those ones!! DAMMIT ISA, NOW I WANT THEM BUT THE KINDLE EDITIONS ARE $18.


    Also, I'm pretty sure EVERYONE hated Death Comes to Pemberley. Only sold well because of the name attached to it!

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  9. Oh, I wasn't even thinking about timelines. I just thought it was incredibly boring!

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  10. You could always borrow it from a library? ;-)

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  11. This sounds kind of badly written to be honest. (Though I'm noooot an Austen fan. Ack. Don't spear me.) I get this a lot, actually, particularly when I read books set in different countries to the "norm" and you just end up thinking, "Did you actually research the language?!" OH and best yet, I read a historical fiction set in the 1400s and they used...wait for it..."okay". WHAT THE?! Seriously. They only invented that word in the 1830s (I believe). Research pays.

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  12. *headdesk* I HATE HATE HATE sloppy research. I read one a couple of months ago that featured people moving to the Dakota Territory like ten years before the Dakota Territory was permanently settled. Like, SERIOUSLY?! And I really hate modern language in historical fiction books. SIGH.

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  13. I picked up 'The Girl in the Steel Corset' because, really, who could resist that gorgeous cover and that intriguing title? Twenty pages later, I put it down again because the lack of research behind it was just ridiculous. Seriously. Anyone who'd watched a single episode of Downton Abbey would know more than this author apparently did. No, a lady's maid would not be doing her mistress's laundry. Ever. And don't get me started on Axminster carpets... But it could all have been fixed if the manuscript had just been handed to an actual English person before it went anywhere near a printer. Argh.

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