Friday, 19 December 2014

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go*: Judy Chicurel

Title: If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go
Author: Judy Chicurel
Publisher: Headline/Tinder Press
Release date: October 30th 2014
Order here: Waterstones Amazon













This book follows the ins and outs of 1970s Long Island as told through the eyes of Katie, an 18 year old girl who is witnessing teen pregnancy, drug abuse, racism amongst other things. She tells of an everyday life in a working class seaside town.

Right, so lets start with the glaringly obvious issue first, the title. I am all for a long title, don't get me wrong, I don't want anything to do with this one word business, but there is long, and then there is this. A title has to roll off the tongue, it has to be memorable, you have to be able to pass it along in recommendation. This does not tick off any of that criteria and whats more, I am reluctant to type it again in this post because it breaks up a sentence so clumsily. Many a time I stumbled over my words as I tried to tell friends what I was currently reading: 'wait was it "if I had known"...no "if I knew you were going to be..." gahhhh' (you catch my drift). But, regardless, I do actually like the meaning behind the title, I think it would have been brilliant as a little sub title, a follow up to a catchier, shorter title, or even as a part of the blurb. But, alas, it wasn't to be. How it got through the publishers, I do not know.

But anyway, I went in with an open mind, 'don't judge a book by its cover' and all that. I had high hopes, the blurb created a brilliant picture of 1970s America, war veterans, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy amongst other things. It painted an exciting, dirty image of Long Island which would be told through the eyes of teenager Katie, as the world around her changes, as she falls in love, as she dreams of a life unlike the one all of her friends are falling into. It was all very promising. But, sadly, I found it to be somewhat lacking. There was a lot of description and not a lot of action. A lot of time was spent describing people and places, which is fine, in fact I often find that many books are lacking in quality description. But, in this book, the description was so excessive that I would forget where the story was heading. When the plot did move it was so slow and without purpose that I couldn't quite figure out where it was heading or if in fact it was heading anywhere. It was beautifully written but for the life of me I couldn't stay interested. A tragic case of style over content. You can be a good writer but not a good storyteller.

It deals with homophobia, sexism, racism, drugs, teen pregnancy, being a war veteran. All very important issues and I do feel that they were dealt with beautifully in a raw and realistic fashion. But they were almost told in mini stories, in little tangents from the main story line. This only added to my confusion as to where the story was heading. Too many issues were dealt with and really the author should have focused on one or two aspects and told them in a beautiful cohesive story. What the author was able to do was create an amazing image of 1970s America, but a story isn't simply about painting a beautiful picture, it has to give more than that. The blurb I read before picking it up suggested that there was going to be some sort of focus on this elusive boy that Katie was in love with, sadly this wasn't the case and he only appeared sporadically, with most of his story being told in the last couple of chapters.

I felt very distant from the characters and I felt as though they were merely a medium to deal with other issues. I didn't feel as though they were really present in the story which is sad because the glimpses I did get of some really quality character development was brilliant and I just wish that the author had paid more attention to making a few characters a bit more three dimensional, rather than bombarding the reader with an endless supply of minor characters.

It reminded me of one of my GCSE english language exams where we were told to describe a view from a window, the descriptions were over drawn, excessive and a teeny bit pretentious. It may win all the awards for fancy writing and good use of vocabulary, but as far as I was concerned, it wasn't a story my brain was willing to stay connected with.

There was a brief mention of Katie 'reading a book about growing up in the 1950s when life was simpler with happier endings' I liked this touch, the author putting the main protagonist in our position, reading a book about a not so distant past, but it being distant enough to be rose tinted. For me it was almost inceptionesque, and although simple, it made a powerful point about how the bad gets forgotten and people look to the past with a fondness. There were a couple of other lines in the book that really stood out to me: 'I was tired to renting other peoples dreams' and 'I never liked the look of a retreating back'. In reality they are portraying very simple actions or feelings but the author has said them in a more interesting and obscure manner.

The problem with reviewing this book lies in the fact that I thought the writing of it was absolutely beautiful, in fact I wish I could write like that. The issue however still lies, that the story to me was just not strong enough, you cannot imagine the times I had to reread pages just to make sure I understood it. Sadly I won't be passing it on, nor will I be rereading. But I can see huge amounts of potential, and I will be definitely looking out for any future novels in the hope I can be proved wrong!
Please let me know what you thought of this book in the comments!

*I was given the opportunity to read and honestly review this by Negalley and all opinions are my own.

Eilidh 

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