20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2013
There is always plenty of material to be had when you are writing about the complicated relationships that siblings can have. All three of the Hellinger sisters have had achievements in various forms in their lives and while they see each other frequently, they don't seem to really like each other very much. We are introduced to Pia first, whose story seems to be the most prominent for most of the book. Her trip to a New Year's brunch gives the reader a small background into her life and into her relationship with her two other sisters. Although a lot is made of their labels (the pretty one, the political one and the perfect one) and how their mother was guilty of thrusting these roles upon them, I never felt like that idea was fully developed in the writing. Each seems to be trapped in their own hellish existences as they approach middle age and face individual crises while side-eying each other and feeling competitive.
It's not that I don't appreciate the reality of what the sisters faced in their lives. I actually thought that the author did a good job of getting into their respective heads and showing us their inner turmoil. However, it was a barrage of negativity without any way to create empathy. The sisters seemed to have no redeeming qualities and, quite frankly, I found them all to be unpleasant. I didn't care what happened to them because they were so unlikable to me. The structure of the story was a bit choppy and there was a storyline that was introduced and dropped, which seemed really odd to me. It was almost as if it was too much to keep up with all three sisters, so we didn't get a complete picture of any of them. Although I was intrigued by the idea and the synopsis, this ended up being a book that didn't speak to me.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle Edition
Lucinda Rosenfeld's The Pretty One is a fascinating novel about the sometimes complicated relationship between adult sisters.
The Pretty One raises some very interesting questions about family relationships and how family expectations and labels come into play throughout adulthood. Perri, Pia and Gus are now in their mid to late thirties and they seem stuck in the roles assigned to them as children. Oldest sister Perri is The Responsible One, middle sister Pia is The Pretty One and youngest sister Gus is The Rebellious One. The sisters' relationship is complicated by their petty jealousies and insecurities that each of the women feels toward their sisters. They are a close knit family, but they continually undermine one another with gossip and their envy of each others' lives.
The Pretty One is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, I found it to be mired in negativity since each of the sisters is going through their own individual crises. They are unhappy with their lives and they are extremely hypercritical of one another. No one was satisfied with what they had in their lives and all they could focus on was the negative.
But the further the novel progressed, the more reflective and self-aware each of the girls becomes. They still place way too much emphasis on their "assigned" childhood labels, but they do begin to realize that perhaps there is more to them than their perceived roles.
What saved The Pretty One for me was the fact that the sisters do finally begin to change and Lucinda Rosenfeld manages to pull off a happily ever after ending. It is an interesting and easy to read novel that is realistic and depicts the good, the bad and the ugly of family relationships.
I received a complimentary copy for review.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This novel took me by surprise. I was unprepared for what it was-- an awkwardly comedic, and awkwardly written, story about white, professional, mid-aged, middle class sisters living in suburban New York in the year 2009. If it were in another format there would be a name for it: Romantic Comedy (movie) or Situation Comedy (TV series). In literature there is: Chick Lit and Woman's fiction (two among many categories that inform a reader what they are about to delve into.) Maybe this could be called: Bitch Lit, for middle-aged ____ bitching. The middle sister is "The Pretty One," the older sister the married with children perfectionist one, and the younger the confused, rebel one--a lesbian. It took me a while to realize what it was I was reading, and more to the point--what was the point? Which is part of the author's style--to ask lots of questions without answers (which is the point. I think.) The author does this via the main characters, the three sisters, but their thoughts' and the narrator's are blurred, and I often didn't know who was doing the questioning. In addition, Rosenfeld often uses parenthetical asides, seemingly at random. (Who is talking to whom? To me?) And this: If a distance continues to increase - is it getting farther or further away? (I'm asking you, reader.) Where was the editor? And/or, was this intentional--making the overall point that life is complicated?
A few words about the characters. I didn't like any of them - the sisters, their parents, their significant others, the children. (There were no pets.) Life was complicated, but none of these characters were--they were all pretty stereotypically shallow, in a non-funny, non-attractive way ... which is kind of funny, once I got used to it, but boring. All sexual references were also awkward, and truncated with ellipses, hyphens, dashes, or chapter breaks ... . Again, was this intentional because sex is often like that - a big let down? And/or, because of the author's limitations?
~ ~ ~
Humor is hard to write in, in a story, (not unlike sex) because so much of what is funny about people is the complex interaction of words, facial expressions and body movements. The non-verbal component. Which is a skill not many writers master. ( A soundtrack can help. Emoticons, too.) Humor is better depicted on the screen or stage. In my opinion. In my opinion humor is best, really best, experienced first hand, live, and spontaneously. (Like sex.)
This is Rosenfeld's forth novel and most likely she's peaked. Creatives tend to get less creative as they get older. It's almost a law. Maybe she'll settle down, and into, being a less curious and complicated wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend - now.
This book, for me, was like eating soup with a celery stick. One more thing. I came to this book by way of a writer friend's "liking" it on Facebook. The writer is an essayist whom I hold in high regard. My question is: What are the consequences of this review. Damn. Life is complicated - which is not the same as interesting or impelling just for the living of it.
Finally, I'm not saying you won't like this book, there's likely a market for it. People are different and so are their "Likes." I read and reviewed a novel, The Perfect Elizabeth: a tale of two sisters, four years ago and liked it. It was written before 9/11, before smart phones and the pointer world, so there is that; but it was different - serious. The world has changed a lot since 9/11, and no more so than in the publishing industry. Which means there are millions of more choices when trying to decide what to read. And, in my opinion, what you read matters--because what you read has an influence on what you think, and what you think matters because ... . Anyways, writers, in my opinion, should take what they write very seriously, even when they're trying to be funny. A reader deserves a writer's best effort. Published literature is a permanent record of the time in which it was written, the person who wrote it, the editor, the publisher, and "The Market." It matters.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2013
"The Pretty One" is an unvarnished, but crazily funny tale of selflishness, venality, jealousy, grudges, admiration and full-dress love among three highly articulate and complex sisters. Scene by scene, it's like the TV show "Girls"--filled with dialogue and awkwardness, and the ring of absolute truth. I don't have sisters, but "The Pretty One" illuminated my relationships with women, and especially women with sisters! Just read it. It's fantastic.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2013
The pretty one is a tale of three sisters - one perfect, one accomplished and one pretty (hence the title); piqued yet? I wasn't, a quarter of the way through. It seemed like nothing happened, and all I was privy to were the physical visits, the comings and goings of the sisters into each other's homes, with very little insight into the hows and the whys. The narrative is split up between the three sisters and we get to hear of each one's story, trials and tribulations (although not in first person). In the beginning at least it seemed like there was a lot of "telling" going on instead of "showing", but then there were also lines to make me smile.
After a sisterly meltdown, the book really got going, and the pages flew by. I will say that each sister is interesting in her own way, although I am most sympathetic to Pia, the pretty one. While married-with-children Perri is fighting middle-age blues, and lesbian Gus is having a rocky time in her relationship, Pia is the single mother of 6 year old Lola and doesn't know who Lola's father is. She is on the brink of losing her job, beset with loneliness, beleaguered by her competitive, professionally successful sisters, and critical mother. She doesn't need more heartache but she gets it anyway.
While Perri's meltdown is the trigger that sets off chaotic events, this book is not about them. It is about the relationship between sisters, and parents and the ties that bind family together, even in the face of raging jealousies and big betrayals. Rosenfeld's writing style is casual, but she etches out her characters very well and manages to make them real people we can identify with. I wasn't too enthused about this book in the beginning but I am so glad I stuck with it; I might have lost out on a heart-warming read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A brainless read, good for taking up time. Characters unmemorable, and the politics infused within were disturbing. I am one of 3 sisters, and can relate to some of the relationship drama, but was a shallow and silly book.