That What You Fear The Most Could Meet You Halfway …

So I’ve finally finished my second book of 2014 and have moved on to my third.  I’m actually making a lot of progress with my third novel, though, so hopefully I’ll have yet another new book review to post next week.

This week’s Saturday Book Club post is all about the book I just finished, though.

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Image courtesy of www.barnesandnoble.com.

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne

470 pages

After reading only a couple of chapters in this book, I was kind of dreading the thought of suffering through the rest.  To start, there were a ton of spelling and grammatical errors.  That always annoys me.  I understand that sometimes it’s easy to overlook a mistake or two before a book goes to print, but seriously … Where were the editors on this one?  One of the main characters even has her name butchered in the last third or so of the book.  I was like, “What?  How could no one catch such an obvious mistake?”

I know I just sounded like an incredibly pretentious asshole, and I’m sorry for that.  Like I said, I understand that mistakes happen.  I guess I just feel like so many people read and edit and then reread and make more corrections in the publishing process that it’s hard to understand how simple spelling errors slip through.  Maybe I’m the only person who cares about this sort of thing though.  (If so, sorry for the rant!)

In addition to errors, the beginning was slow.  Readers are introduced to a bunch of characters in various periods of time (including a younger version of the aforementioned main character, Simone), and the chapters skip around between them without much warning.  I’m usually a fan of books that skip around in time because they often offer glimpses into events in a character’s life that may help explain why certain things are happening in the present.  With A Dark Dividing, there was almost too much going on … At least within a single chapter.

The novel begins with an introduction to Harry Fitzglen, a journalist working at a London gossip rag (and hating every minute of it), who has been given an assignment to cover a new art gallery opening.  His boss isn’t just interested in the art gallery (or even the socialite who funded it), though … He wants more information about a photographer being featured there, Simone Marriott.  He has suspicions that she’s actually Simone Anderson, one of a set of conjoined twins with a mysterious family history.

The focus then shifts to diary extracts from 1899.  These are written by a woman named Charlotte Quinton, who is expecting twins at the time the diary entries begin.  Charlotte’s entries are scattered throughout the novel and span about 15 years.  As the story progresses, we learn that the Quinton twins are conjoined.

In addition to these characters, readers are introduced to present day Simone Marriott/Anderson and, a bit later, a younger Simone.  The glimpse into her past allowed Sarah Rayne to give readers a more complete picture of what happened to Simone’s conjoined twin sister following their separation surgery and why she and her mother were constantly moving around England.  We also get to know Simone’s mother, Melissa Anderson, and her husband, Joe.  Their story begins around the time that Melissa discovers she’s expecting twins … Conjoined twins.

And then there’s Roz Raffan, a nurse working with the obstetrician who will be delivering Melissa’s twins (and later working to create a top-notch surgical team to separate them).  Roz was, for me, one of the most interesting characters.  She wasn’t overly interesting in the beginning and only made a few minor appearances, but as the novel progressed, she became an important part of the story.  I don’t want to spoil too much in case anyone reading this decides to pick up the book, but I will say that she was interesting because she was so batshit crazy.

Obviously there were several subplots going on in the book.  And if that wasn’t enough, Rayne tossed in another.  Harry gets his hands on an old, out of print novel written by none other than Charlotte Quinton’s secret lover, Floy.  This book within a book appears multiple times throughout and appears just as suddenly as all of the other subplots.  And while I understand why she included the excerpts from Floy’s novel, it became kind of distracting since readers were also “treated” (I’ll use that term loosely) to Harry’s reactions as he read it.

I really wanted to like this book a lot, and at times I did.  There were definitely sections that were pretty suspenseful, and each time I hit one of those, I found myself wanting to stay glued to the pages.  Unfortunately, there were also sections that just sort of dragged on.  I think she definitely could have cut some of these things out (such as Charlotte’s descriptions of World War 1, which honestly weren’t that important to the overall story) and easily shortened the novel by 50 or even 100 pages.

I almost feel as though Sarah Rayne read House of Leaves and thought, “I’m going to do something like that.”  (By the way, that book is seriously complex and fascinating … And it literally took me something like 6 months to finish it because it is so complex.)  But A Dark Dividing could not even begin to compare to that book.  Though, to be fair, I doubt many authors could create something like that.

Overall, A Dark Dividing presented some interesting plot twists, a few sections of suspense, and I thought Rayne did a nice job of connecting all of the subplots to one another.  However, my issues with the large number of errors, several boring sections that I had to force myself through, and the cheesy ending (even one of the characters makes a reference to the situation being kind of cheesy) were enough to knock the rating down a bit.

That said, I give A Dark Dividing TWO STARS.  If I gave half stars with my ratings, it would probably be bumped to two and a half stars since it wasn’t absolutely terrible … But I felt kind of “meh” after reading it.  Although I own it, I doubt I’ll read it in the future.  I may have to take it to a used bookstore or something to see if I can trade it for something else.

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