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Colette Dartford – Learning To Speak American

Book Cover

Sidewalks and pavements.

Publisher: Twenty7 (Bonnier)
Pages: 371
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-785-77002-9
First Published: 1st October 2015
Date Reviewed: 7th August 2016
Rating: 3/5

Lola and Duncan lost their daughter two years ago. They’re still suffering as though it was yesterday; their marriage, once very happy, is a fragment of what it was before. Desperate to make her happy again, Duncan agrees to Lola’s idea of buying a holiday home in California – they are spending their anniversary across the pond – but doesn’t factor in his own issues. Duncan’s been unfaithful for a long time, though he’d never admit it, and there are problems at work.

Learning To Speak American is a quick, easy read, that has a nice premise – hope for healing – but doesn’t achieve its potential.

This is largely down to the writing – the level of telling over showing is very high and it means there is little room for imagination. Lola boils pasta and we’re told her face steams up, the dog brings back the ball and we’re told it’s soggy. On these occasions there is no space to feel for the characters – at times it can seem as though they are puppets, walking around so that things can be detailed.

When the narrative turns to dialogue, the book is a lot better. The first few chapters and the scenes in the book that are mostly dialogue are great examples of showing. The dialogue itself is generally very good. It isn’t always perfect grammatically as the phrasing doesn’t always ring true – the book could have done with more editing and proofreading – but as an overall element it works and the pages pass swiftly. The characters come into their own.

Unfortunately the editing issues involve repetitive statements that should have been noted and some of the plot elements are odd, for example the estate agents that sell Lola and Duncan the house know the neighbours, which makes sense on some level as the house had been on the market for a while, but they all seem bosom buddies and it’s not explained. The details of daughter Clarissa’s fatal accident are kept from you until the end. And it has to be noted that many will find Duncan’s infidelity, the nature of it and the way it carries on, difficult. When does the story take place? Bush and Blair are mentioned, but Lola’s forty-two years and no computer or phone knowledge don’t add up. Mobile phones that everyone has speaks more of our present time.

Learning To Speak American is an easy read and that’s due to the good parts but it really needed more time spent on the drafting and editing process.

I received this book for review from Midas PR.

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