I try not to read the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads until after I’ve finished a book (when I find it incredibly interesting to compare my impressions with others’) because I find it can colour my views as I am reading. About a third of the way through this book, though, I was running to Amazon to find out if everybody else thought it was as awful as I.
This novel, by British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman centres on an upper-class London family, who run a high-end art gallery and associate with Russian oligarchs and the like. The arrival of a strange, co-dependent brother and sister from Italy sends their perfect world into a spin (etc. etc. etc.).
So what did the good denizens of Amazon make of this novel? I was surprised to discover that what several Amazon reviewers hated about this book were the parts I most enjoyed – namely the depiction of the elite lifestyle that the characters enjoy.
For me, the best bits were the descriptions of how Olga the oligarch’s wife plans to renovate her country estate, how the family celebrate an extravagant Christmas at their own country pile, and the schmoozy soirees at the Mayfair art gallery. Amazon, meanwhile, thinks that these parts are smug and irritating and make the characters unsympathetic.
The other reviews were overwhelmingly positive. But for me, the rest of the novel was stiflingly boring. A real shame, as I had eagerly looked forward to it – probably because I knew I would enjoy the bits mentioned above.
The ‘plot’ is pretty much non-existent, despite a teasing flash-forward prologue promising drama involving a medical evacuation helicopter. Said drama, however, does not in fact materialise until the very last pages, and has an abrupt, disconnected feel to it.
Minor spoiler alert: the extra marital affairs which form most of the ‘plot’ are boring, clichéd and eye-rollingly predictable (hence why only a minor spoiler).
So if, unlike me, you read this review before purchasing the book, do yourself a favour – don’t bother. What a shame for book two of 2017.
This year I have set myself the challenge of reading 40 books. Pre-baby I'd have gone for the big 52, but that may be a tad too ambitious! I shall be posting a review of every book here on my blog, and welcome your comments and discussion.