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16th January
2009
written by Steph
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Since delving into the online book reading community, I’ve come across a few sites that offer members the opportunity to read and review “Advance Reader Copies” (ARC). I figured what could be better than having free books shipped to my door, and eagerly signed up for the titles that looked interesting. Eve is the second such book that I’ve actually snagged in such a way, and is due out in bookstores on Jan 27, 2009. Eve is a retelling of the story of Adam & Eve, tracing their time together in the Garden, their fall, and their life thereafter. It is told through the eyes of Eve, as well as her three daughters, Naava, Aya, and Dara. Eve’s story is told largely in retrospect, while her daughters collectively tell the family’s story beginning at a later date, beginning around the time the family encounters an encroaching civilization, one that is polytheistic at that. I was concerned that Eve was going to be poorly written, when on the first page I read a line that sounded as though it were penned by Yoda. I get that sentence structure might have been a bit different in the days of yore, but jumbling word order up (inconsistently as well, since thankfully the whole book isn’t written in this way) isn’t really an effective way to make your language sound appropriately dated. I decided to push forward. Maybe that first part was just a shaky start, but she’d stick the landing? By and large the prose was serviceable, but there were parts that were awkward and even bits that were downright embarrassing. There wasn’t an abundance of sex in what I read (just two short snippets), but at one point Elliott does write that as Adam positions his penis before her it “had grown, like a roll of warm bread”. I kid you not. Talk about someone gunning for the bad sex in writing award! I continue to giggle childishly every time I think of this description, and Tony posits that it was written by someone who has either never seen a penis, or someone who has never seen a roll of bread. I think he might be right. Awkward writing aside, I just didn’t think this book was very good. Obviously the author is taking liberties with the story of Adam & Eve, which is totally fine with me since I’m not religious, and I tend to enjoy biblical retellings, provided they are done well. This, however, read like a sudsy soap opera dressed up as historical fiction. It’s pretty trashy and feels inconsequential, and while I respect the author's stance on questioning faith and belief, this just doesn’t have much heft to it. I have no basis for making the following statement, because I’ve never read any of Phillipa Gregory’s books, but I feel like Eve is kind of exactly what her historical novels about Anne Boleyn are like, only this is just taking place during an even older period of time. As I said, there isn’t a lot of sex in the book (at least not the first 200 pages), but somehow it gives off a smutty, bodice ripper vibe, even though I know the author was trying her best to write something more than a cotton candy novel. Also, there was this scene where Eve first encounters Lucifer in Eden that made me flashback strongly to Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, so I kind of think that if you really enjoyed those books, then you might like this one too. The writing isn’t much better, but I would say it is a slight improvement.  Fans of Showtime's The Tudors (which we all know operated under the premise that sex and smut will be considered artistic if you frame them within a historical context) might enjoy this as well. Ultimately, I couldn’t finish this book because I don’t like any of the things I listed above. I get their place and their purpose, but they just don’t do it for me, they aren’t my vices. I think that Eve amounts to little more than a guilty pleasure read, so when I didn’t find it pleasurable, what was the point in sticking with it? The dialogue didn’t ring true to me, since it really felt as though modern-day people had just been transported to Mesopotamia. I found the book never felt authentic, and every plot point felt gimmicky and like a telenovella twist. Six-year olds speaking like adults? Eve giving birth to a premature still-born while walking through the woods with Adam after having just survived a bear attack? Five-year olds cooking meals with the aplomb of a Top Chef and commandeering home births? Poisoning your mother with hemlock? Do you see what I’m getting at? Some people might find this stuff riveting, but it’s pap and literary dross, and I was bored by it. I could see reading this mindlessly on a beach, but you know what? It’s January, and it’s 2°F outside, and I don’t even know of a swimming pool I could go to. I do think this book will be enjoyed by certain readers, but I am clearly not its target audience. The writing made my cheeks flame with second-degree embarrassment at times, and the plot was outlandish. I could forgive neither, and got little enjoyment from either to boot, so I decided to stop at the halfway point rather than chugging through the 400+ pages.  If you think this book will be moving and reminiscent of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, run, don't walk, away from this book.  Come on! “He pushed up with his arms and adjusted his sex, which had grown, like a roll of warm bread pressed between us.” Do you really blame me? [As an aside, I think I might cease and desist the ARC thing, as I haven't found it rewarding apart from the short-lived thrill of receiving a free book in the mail.  Turns out that being free can't really make up for a book being bad.] Rating: 2 out of 5

6 Comments

  1. 01/18/2009

    I tried to get an ARC of this book through Library Thing, and I am so glad now that I was not picked for this book. It sounds slightly absurd and the bread roll comment made me cackle crazily. Your blog is one of the best I have come across in some time. Very clever and intelligent. I am planning on linking your blog from mine, I hope you don’t mind.

  2. 02/04/2009

    Your review was awesome. I had to call my husband in to read him the part about the penis and the roll of warm bread. I’ll post the link to your review in my post. 🙂

  3. 02/05/2009

    Yes, I tried to keep an open mind after that warm bread line, but as you can see, I never was able to ever really get over it! Thanks for linking back to this review, I’m extremely flattered.

  4. […] Edited to add: There’s a way better review of this book over at Steph & Tony Investigate. […]

  5. […] was pointless and a waste of time.  Obviously I also did not dig A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, Eve: A Novel of the First Woman by Elissa Elliott, or A Theory of Clouds by Stéphane Audeguy, as these were the three books I abandoned for good.  […]

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