Published: Friday July 13, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday May 30, 2013 MYT 12:49:23 AM

Shallow read


Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Bantam Press, 321 pages

PIQUANT wit, humour, a compelling storyline – these are not elements you’re likely to find in Danielle Steel’s latest release, Betrayal.

The life of passionate, award-winning Hollywood movie director Tallie Jones unravels quickly from picture- perfect to sheer hell when she discovers that someone who she trusts has been embezzling money from her accounts. It could be her boyfriend or personal assistant, but because she has been so trusting, she can’t tell.

That’s the first stumbling block for me: The notion that a Hollywood personality with “living legend” status, someone who is smart enough to make it that far in that dog-eat-dog industry over a span of 17 years, would be so naïve seems unrealistic to me.

Steel leverages on likeable characters to compensate for a formulaic plot and convoluted means of storytelling. In fact, Betrayal reminds me of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series that was aimed at pre-adolescent girls, as it offers a world filled with beautiful but quirky folk. Remember SVH’s gorgeous Wakefield twins, their handsome family and stereotypical friends?

In Betrayal, it’s beautiful Tallie Jones, her good-looking daughter, who’s a “spitting image of her mom” (like the Wakefield twins); her once-hunky-now-aged father; and half a dozen other good-lookers who make it into this romantic thriller, presumably because of good genes.

The only thing that kept me going was the shining hope of a clever twist towards the end, but that didn’t happen.

Although I could relate to the characters, what filled most of the 300-odd pages was a predictable yarn that could very well have been told in just 80 pages. This is my main gripe – I found myself losing my patience as I went through dozens of pages of the same thing.

Here’s an example: “She (Brigitte Parker) was the opposite of Tallie in every way. Everything about her had been carefully thought out to catch the eye, as opposed to Tallie, who preferred to think of herself as invisible, and liked it that way. Her whole business was to show off others, not herself. Brigitte Parker loved the attention she got and had none of Tallie’s subtlety and shyness. Tallie hid them, and Brigitte shone a light on them. Tallie honestly didn’t care how she looked and never thought about it. Brigitte put a lot of thought and effort into her dazzling appearance.”

It goes on ... and on.

Damn it, Steel, we get it. Tallie and Brigitte are different.

The book is filled with repetitive descriptions that ultimately made reading it feel like a nagging session. It made me wonder if this was a ghostwritten project, or even edited at all.

To give the author the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it was written that way for emphasis and effect, although I can’t imagine why it would be.

However, for a romantic thriller in this day and age, the absence of sex and passion in this book was refreshing.

Tallie works with investigators to find the embezzler and struggles to pick up the broken fragments of her life following a series of tragic events – these are the meaningful aspects in the story that I appreciated, that seemed realistic.

Although the emotional complexity that would arise under such circumstances could have been expanded further, its absence does lighten the read.

Overall, the book is like a soap opera and I can understand if that was the author’s intention, since it caters to a wide audience. It may cause the reader to ponder the true motives of her friends and associates, and that’s as deep as it gets.

Tags / Keywords: Books, Lifestyle


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