My rating: 1 of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars to Barbara Gowdy‘s novel, The White Bone, a story about a family of elephants wandering around the safari. Yes, that’s right, I’ve given out a 1 star rating… of ~500 books I’ve read, only (5) five have gotten this poor of a rating, and this unfortunately, is one of them. I usually try to find something redeemable, but this one will be tough. And I mean no harm to the author, as her writing style was fine… it just was such a poor read.
I suspect this was a brilliant idea gone far off track. To start, it’s about a group of elephants wandering around the safari in Africa, focusing on young Mud. Everything from vicious attacks by lions to childbirth to starvation to fear, find their way into this book. And on the outskirts, it sounds like a wonderful story full of heartache, emotion and that quintessential journey.
But somehow, other than a few spots where you get a bit sad, it feels half completed. When you’re supposed to feel bad for finding a dead family member, remember that the book is seeing this thru the eyes of an elephant. The reaction feels like “oh, dead. let’s move on.” Do elephants not have feelings? I guess not. Now I feel silly for not knowing that.
I couldn’t decide whether this was a half satire, half sad look at the unfortunate problems animals face. But just when it started going down either of those paths, it was a complete reversal and I thought I was starting a new book. Same characters. But as though I suddenly functioned with a lot less brain power. And I don’t have that much to give, Barbara… and now I want it back.
I rarely skim pages in a book. If I find myself skimming more than 3 or 4 pages, I put it down and pick it up a few days later, hoping it was just my mind at the time. No… that wasn’t the problem.
I had a month to read this book, and I seriously couldn’t focus. I read the whole thing, but there were times where I re-read the same page ten times to see if I could get anything out of it worth discussing. And I did. I learned that you can mess words up on a page and create something equal to scrambled eggs when all you wanted was a beautiful, sweet and delicious custard. Oh, how I love desserts. I’d rather talk about them than this book anymore. Ugh.
And to be honest, I’m still confused as to what the white bone is or was… and what the heck it had to do with the whole story. Metaphor? No. Theme? Nah. A weapon to stab my eyes so I’m finished with the read.
I’ll take… maybe 20%… of the fault and blame for not fully engaging, as it just felt like a bad book and I couldn’t get interested. It was someone else’s pick.
And let me tell you what this book club meeting was like… first of all… we took turns having it either at quiet restaurant, or someone’s house. People often liked coming to my place because I cooked and had lots of food options — and wine… and then we all stayed and hung out afterwards so no one had to drink and drive. For this book club, it was at my house… and I couldn’t even talk about the book. Every time I started, someone shoved food in my mouth or poured me more wine. They didn’t want to listen to me go off on it… BUT!!! No one else liked it either, so it was just that I was so vocal, it was ridiculous.
But the other 80%… don’t ask me what happened. I think it was a misprint. Something accidentally got thru and the publisher said “let’s see if anyone notices… they may just be so interested in the elephants that they will still love it.”
I could have been riding the stampede thru the safari on this one and still have fallen asleep. OK, I’ve put you through enough pain.
Don’t read it. Please do not. And if you do, smack yourself for me. Twice, at least.
Ms. Gowdy: Please don’t take offense to my review. I’m sure your other books are good, as you have published quite a bit. I’d like to buy you dinner and understand how this entire thing came to fruition. And then find out your secret to getting this into people’s hands.
Off to find a lion… the only saving grace… elephants have a really good memory, so hopefully they are suffering as much as I did having to be part of this. Only fair.
P.S. I love elephants.
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