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DS is up to her old tricks
on November 3, 2012
A few of DS's recent books have been readable and higher concept. But Friends Forever signaled a reversion to thin plots, hastily crafted scenes, and detail overload. Unfortunately, The Sins of the Mother suffers from the same problems.
We're given a glimpse into the world of Olivia Greyson...er, Grayson (has DS been watching Revenge?) as she manages a global business called The Factory. She's a workaholic and left the raising of her children to her husband and mother. To win back their affections she indulges them with a luxury vacation every year. It takes ninety pages to get to the South of France, where a world-class yacht waits to transport the Grayson family to Mediteranean hotspots like Portofino and Elba.
An overwhelming number of characters bounces in and out of the sputtering plot. The descriptions of the destinations are disappointing, even mundane, and the dialogue is uninspired ("No more travel plans for August?"). Much of it rephrases what has already been explained in paragraph upon paragraph of narrative. I had a hard time developing an emotional connection to the characters. Liz was too spineless, and how her "allegorical" book will have commercial appeal remains to be explained. (It's ridiculous to think she wouldn't at least know her previous literary agent had died.) Amanda reminded me of Brianna from Betrayal, especially with her ultimatums and luxury label addiction, and Granibelle was a lot like Buster, another character from Betrayal. Olivia's relationship to her grandson, Alex (who is about to enter college but sounds like he's ten years old for much of the trip), had potential, but a more skillful writer could have handled his revelation with more sensitivity and realism.
There was an excessive amount of additional details, from breaking down outfits in nearly every scene to what the characters like to read or the complete history of their family. It's hard to care about these details when you know the character will disappear from the plot for several pages a few sentences later. There are the signature glitches in the writing, such as the overuse of "And." At times, it appears nearly thirty times (!) on one page. And it really becomes irritating. And an editor should catch this.
I would have liked to learn more about The Factory as a business--the problems it faces (beyond strikes), the issue of globalization in manufacturing, etc. It's handled in extremely vague terms, but some corporate intrigue could have added some much needed tension to the plot. I'm looking forward to a DS book that focuses on the experiences of a single strong woman heroine and isn't crowded with characters. The formula of bringing several different people together and waiting for the plot emerge has lost steam.