I bought this book a while ago and have been meaning to read it. Then it got picked for book club so I had to read it. This book was a struggle for me from start to finish. I equate it with Wild, in that people went crazy about that book and after two readings, I still didn’t fully understand why. I’m getting the same vibe about this book – it’s so highly spoken about that you’re supposed to like it. Then I question myself for not finding it likable. Here are my problems with this book.
First and foremost, I think information is missing. Whether that was omission by choice or by accident, I do not know. But it doesn’t feel complete. Example: her fellowship at Harvard. She says that shew as watching television 20 hours a day. She says she thinks she was failing. Then, she’s back at Cambridge and getting counseling. There is no discussion whether she passed or failed her fellowship and if she did pass, how she did it. I do not like loose ends when there is an easy an obvious answer to be had.
Second, the footnote that appears every time she talks about a discussion in which she has paraphrased the discussion. She has email, for example, that she paraphrases and says that it’s paraphrased, but the meaning has been retained. If you have an email conversation, why not print verbatim, the relevant parts? Why do you have to paraphrase it? If you do have to, explain why? To me, it indicates that, for reasons we are not told, she doesn’t not want the original language in the book. I have issues with that.
Third, and this is probably not a fair criticism, but things just seem to fall into her lap. She just so happens to be talked into applying for, and receiving, a grant. She gets talked into and wins the fellowship to Harvard, etc. I’m positive there are more to all those stories. And yes, I realize that if you discuss every detail of every event you will have a thousand page book that no one will read. But. In order for me to buy into this story, I would like to have heard more detail about these things.
Fourth, her language. She’s very flowery and uses way too many attempts at foreshadowing, that, to me, did not pay off. I did not appreciate lines like, “as I would find out years later.” Get to the point. Don’t keep telling me something is going to happen. That gets old and annoying.
I appreciate what Dr. Westover went through and how hard she worked to get where she is. And I generally don’t like to negatively review books. However, were I to give this book a good review, I wouldn’t be honest about what I thought and how I felt about it. I did not like it. I can’t change that I did not like it. I can only try to explain why I didn’t care for it. It’s just not my cup of tea. I am sure I’m in the minority here and if you feel you need to check it out, by all means, do so. But don’t say you weren’t warned.