Monday, July 21, 2014
Book Review: What It Was Like
It tells the story of a soon-to-be college freshman (we are never given his name) who conveys a very detailed account of how an all-consuming love affair with a seventeen year old beauty named Rachel led to the ruination of his life.
It is told in three acts: how they met at a summer camp, how the relationship swings back and forth once they return to the real world, and then how things all fall apart on one fateful night.
I have to admit that I struggled to get through this one. If I was not asked to review it, I might not have ever finished it. I found that the first two acts were painstakingly drawn out. The narrator gives a day-by-day detailed account that could have easily been pruned by a third to a half and still been effective. I get that it fits with the idea of the man wanting to convey every little fact, showing how all consuming this love affair was for him, but no person would realistically remember every little thing like that.
However, the third act is when things finally start to pay off and that is when the details are important. Still, some of the "reveals" in that part just seemed to be coming in from left-field. There was not enough foundation in parts one and two to justify them.
Then again, with the story only told from the view-point of the narrator, there is really no way for the author to easily convey that. And perhaps, ultimately, that might be the failing point of the story - the chosen narration style. By committing to just the point of view as the hapless, lovelorn victim, so many things are left to what is shown on the surface of the other characters (via actions and words).
In the end, I felt little sympathy for the narrator. He had an-out at one point but falls right back into it again because he lets his heart over-rule his head. If this were an actual real-life story, I would have said he got what he deserved.