Secret Smile more like a frown
I was supposed to have blogged about Secret Smile, by Nicci French on Feb. 3rd, but it being the weekend, and I,being tired, just didn't. Actually there's another reason, and that reason is called The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to his Country.
The latter is a book that is being touted as "YA literature (young adult), and is one of the most disturbing, beautiful, unearthly books I have ever read. So as much as I intended to talk about Secret Smile, which, in a nutshell is about a socio-path named Bernard who ruins the life of one family when the woman he dates, Miranda, spurns him after catching him reading her journal, I've been far too distracted.
Secret Smile does have some wonderfully paced moments of anxiety, and the author duo who write behind the moniker Nicci French, do a fabulous job of really making you both fear for Miranda and hate Bernard for all the right reasons. I read it in a day. The problem is, unlike even parts of our last book, Suite Francaise, it doesn't stay with you. It's like fast food. Tasty and a little bad for you in the reading, with no nutritional value later. I am not intending to trash the book. It will entertain you, and it is well enough written that I didn't labor over the language, but it confirmed my feeling that when a narrative puts a character in so much unrelieved stress/conflict/suffering without a break, it wears the reader down.
Octavian Nothing, on the other hand is a singular book. I have never read anything like it. It skirts all the cliche ways, the stereotypes that have been used to write about the subject it contains, which the reader does not at first know. I really don't know why they call it YA literature. If it is, it should be read with others, so it can be discussed and understood because it is so dense, so dark, and so complex that a young adult could find themselves lost in it.
Read Secret Smile if you need a beach book. But if you want a truly meaningful, glorious reading experience, then read Octavian Nothing.