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02 April 2008

Top Contender for Worst Book I've Read This Year

I tried -- really tried -- to finish Holding Her Head High: 12 single mothers who championed their children and changed history, by Janine Turner (a book I received as a review copy through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program) but I can't do it. When you find you are reading with the purpose of counting the number of cliches per chapter, there is no point in wasting any more of your time. I had begun to feel like a roadside gawker at horrible highway accident.

For the record, in the chapters I read, the phrase -- as if you might not remember the title of the book -- holding her head high was used an average of 4 times per chapter. Maximum chapter High Head Count: 8. If that doesn't give you a sense of the tediousness of this book, I might discourage you with the following: improper use of quotations, misspelled words, poor (or wrong!) word choice, dull sentence structure, sloppy research, an inappropriately casual narrative voice, repetitive paragraphs, and poor organization. In general, it reads like a 8th grade term paper -- one that would get an 'C' from a burned-out easy grader.

How anyone could make the lives of some of the women profiled (Helena Augusta, Christine De Pizan, Abigal Adams*) boring is surprising. More surprising still is that this book was published (although I'd guess that Turner being a Hollywood actress may have had some influence on the book deal). Some LT reviewers commented that this book should have been marketed differently (as a devotional rather than a sociological or history work), suggesting that for a different audience it would fare better. I don't think so; poor writing is poor writing. A sad comment to make about a book with a topic that suggests that it could be so much more.

(*Note: Please don't bother to correct me about A. Adams. I know that Abigal Adams wasn't a single mother; John Adams outlived his wife. But, because she raised her children by herself during the Revolutionary War and Adams' ambassadorial trips to Europe, Turner chose to include her in this work. There are other profiles in this book that are, arguably, not about single mothers.)

3 comments:

Emily Barton said...

Oooh, thank you for the warning. The editor in me would probably be throwing this book across the room in fury if I were to make the mistake of attempting to read it.

stefanie said...

Too bad. But at least you didn't make yourself suffer through the whole thing.

chiefbiscuit said...

I LOVE real reviews - this is a real review and I appreciate it. It needs to be said that when a book is full of cliches, it is tedious and unreadable. Bad writing deserves only to be outed!