Musings on Winter Flowers

June 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hazel had just put the phone down on Gerry Henan’s wife, a person she had never expected to hear from, still less hear telling her that her boys were alive and well and on their way home.

[Expect some spoilers with this one!]

I received this book for free from Eason’s last summer, sat down to delve into it in mid-December and have deeply regretted it ever since. Honestly, the best thing about this book was the fact that I received two pieces of Butler’s chocolate with it!

It’s actually kind of surprising but I have read up on a few reviews of this book, both professional (The Irish Independent describes it as “a gripping story”) and non-professional and none have addressed that issues that I’ve found very blatantly present in the book. In fact, each of them have praised Coffey on the book, which I find a little baffling, considering how much I found wrong with this book. I do wonder if perhaps I am too critical of literature or maybe others are not critical enough of literature.

At the front of the book, The Sunday Independent claimed that “Carol Coffey is a must-read for fans of Jodi Picoult” which quite excited me because though I grew tired of Jodi Picoult’s books which all follow the same formula, I always enjoyed her writing style and the issues that her books dealt with. But Carol Coffey is far from Jodi Picoult and if I was Picoult, I’d be more than a little insulted at the comparison.

Let’s begin with the fact that at about page five, I realised that Coffey was less than a mediocre writer. I’d even go as far as to compare my own first drafts with her final, published draft. The prose was bland, boring and monotonous. Oftentimes, Coffey spent paragraphs on mundane tasks that had next-to-no impact on neither the plot, nor the characterization.

Iris looked up at the clock on the wall above the television. There was nothing good on it and it was only eight o’clock. She sat in silence for a few minutes and wondered what to do with herself. She could hear the rain start to fall heavily against the window. The flat was cold and she rose to get another cardigan to put around her shoulders.

Let’s continue on to the fact that the constant switch in perspectives disallowed me from being able to relate to any of the characters. But of course, that wasn’t simply because of the constant switch in perspectives. It also had to do with the fact that these characters, many of whom were supposed to be middle-aged “mature” adults showed the maturity of a 13-year old at most times. Whilst this was understandable at most time from Hazel, the younger sister, who was supposed to be immature for the majority of the book, what was Coffey’s excuse for the immaturity of Iris, the older, “mature” sister? But even Hazel was supposed to have grown as a character by the end of the book. A growth that I either failed to notice or the writer failed to properly portray.

Joe Egan sat beside Hazel on the sofa as they watched a late-night movie. Hazel could not believe that he didn’t try it on and gazed at him as he sat upright beside her on the sofa… Hazel couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to try to get her into bed, especially as he wouldn’t have to try very hard. Yeah, so this is Hazel’s (the character who has grown oh-so-much) thoughts a short while after she finds out that her father was not dead as she believed for a very long time, got back custody of her two kids who were taken away by social workers and saw her older sister recover from cancer. Why wouldn’t your most important thought be about bedding a man you’ve only known for a few short weeks after all that?

The only redeemable quality about this book was the fact that it did actually have quite a promising plot. It followed Iris and Hazel’s dysfunctional family as they attempted to put it back together, facing ghosts from their past. However, the poor writing and characterization barely even allowed me to focus on the plot, which was only promising, but never quite lived up to what it promised to be.

I definitely don’t recommend this book if you’re looking for something with a gripping plot, convincing characterization and well-written prose.

Have any of you read Winter Flowers? Do you agree with my opinion or completely disagree?

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