31 May 2007

Book Review: The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

New Year’s Reading Resolution #13

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing As a teenager, Jane Rosenal tries to make sense of the dating game by observing her big brother. But that doesn’t stop her needing a lot of trial and error later on. She moves from one Mr Wrong to the next, while struggling to keep her career on track and cope with her family. Just when all seems hopeless, she hears about a book called How to Meet and Marry Mr Right, which claims to guarantee success in landing a man. After summoning the nerve to take it to the bookshop counter, she attempts to put its principles into practice. Will they work, or not?

I finished this book in one day. Normally that would be a huge compliment, but it this case it was merely to make sure I’d finish it well before the Bill Bryson, because I knew I’d need Bryson to cheer me up afterwards. I didn’t realise it till now, but if you threw in a bit more label-dropping you’d have the perfect chick-lit cliché. I was bored senseless and only the knowledge that if I didn’t finish it today, I’d have to face it tomorrow, kept me going. Fortunately the prose was easy to skim through so it was only the plot and the characters that were the problem. That, and the two chapters that didn’t fit in with the rest of the book. Most of it was first-person narration by Jane, then suddenly it switched to her late aunt’s neighbour. I kept waiting for the reason for this to be revealed, but nothing happened. A later chapter was even more bizarre: second-person narration by who-knows-who. The two misfits and the main story shared the topic of disreputable men, but that was the only connection.

I had believed that this was a great book with a great heroine, but I never warmed up to Jane - in fact, I cooled down. At the start I reminded myself that it’s probably normal for a teenager to be judgmental and catty. She did get nicer, but she spent ages in a dead-end relationship with a man more than twice her age. She let her new boss turn her into a glorified PA. Then she read the book, and proceeded to hold imaginary conversations in which the authors exhorted her to stick to their inane rules for landing a man. ‘Nothing is more compelling to a man than lack of interest,’ one of them tells her. (Really? I would have thought nothing was more likely to make a man think you’re not interested.) And of course Jane nearly loses her best prospect because of the rules before finally realising her mistake.

I was also under the impression - strongly reinforced by the review quotes on the back - that this was a funny book. ‘Laugh out loud’ I think one of them said, but I didn’t even smile. All the things Jane said or thought that I suppose were meant to be humorous, I found smart-arsed or bitchy. Well, okay. I did smile once ... on the last page. A tiny bit because Jane finally got Mr Right, but mostly because I was finished - and because I could give it a gentle celebratory throw to the foot of the bed.

There. Catharsis. I feel much better now.

Rating: D

N.B. Between writing this review and posting it, I went hunting for other reviews in the hope that I wasn’t the only person who hated it. Turns out it’s not a novel at all, but a collection of short stories, a fact not so much as hinted at anywhere. Indeed the blurb makes it sound definitely sequential. I guess that would account for the misfit ‘chapters’ - sort of. I considered revising my grading in light of new information, but decided that to do so would imply it had some redeeming feature beyond being easy to skim through. (And no, I was not alone. In the minority, though.)

9 comments:

Kailana said...

I am with you on not knowing that this was a collection of short stories before reading it! I never heard anything about it. This book was just okay for me. It quickly want breezing out to the second hand store upon completion.

Arukiyomi said...

aha... I am SO looking forward to your review of Notes from a Small Island...

CoversGirl said...

After posting the review, I went back to the book and checked the quotes on the back. Sure enough, one from the Mail on Sunday definitely referred to it as a NOVEL. No wonder I got confused.

Dewey said...

I was given this book as a bonus through a bookmooch, and one of my friends, who knows me well and reads everything, laughed and said I would HATE it. So we'll see! But from your review, it sounds like she'll be right.

Bookfool said...

Oh, thank you for that rating. I HATED this book and it seems so odd to me that so many people loved it and that it was turned into a movie. Blecch.

tanabata said...

I didn't care for it either and I also didn't know it was a collection of short stories until well after I'd read it. I was so glad it was book I'd gotten for free.

CoversGirl said...

I'm noticing a common theme here of getting it for free . . . just as well, really.

Dewey: I'll look forward to reading your thoughts on it when you get around to reading it!

Bookfool: Nice to see I'm not alone in my opinion! I can't understand the appeal either.

sage said...

as a guy who spends a lot of time outdoors--I've always wondered about this book. After your review and the comments that agree with you, I no longer worry. I'll wait for the next Bill Bryson book!

sulz said...

another book i couldn't finish! i really didn't see what's the point of the book. oh well, one's bookworm's rave another bookworm's grave.

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