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A town called Corny
on June 22, 2001
I honesty cannot find any redeeming qualities in this book. Everything is ruined by the writing style, even the almost salvageable descriptions of the outback and the Malay jungle. The abundance of irrelevant facts (is Anne Tyler a direct descendant of Nevil Shute?) that drag the storyline along for ages and provide absolutely nothing to the plot was unbearable. Same thing with the myriad of characters that pepper the pages, which have a half-a-minute cameo appearance, never to be heard of again. I estimate the adverb 'presently' was used about once per page. Joe has the adjective 'sheepish' tacked on every other time he is mentioned. If this book were to become a movie, i would picture Gerard Depardieu playing the part of Big Oaf Joe. The old lawyer is the narrator of the story, yet how could you narrate dialog taking place between two or three people 12000 miles away? Surely Jean did not write all that verbatim in her letters!
From a documentary standpoint, one could see that this novel uses racial epithets for male and female Aborigines (boongs and lubras) because it is reflecting the spirit of the time (another example is when Jean starts her shop and she decides to have an annex where the colored can go). However, i do think that the descriptions of the Japanese in the early parts of the novel are very racist. These descriptions went beyond reporting, and i did not appreciate that.
The funniest part of the book is when Joe and Jean finally reveal their love for each other, and Jean almost loses her virginity in the heat of passion. She and Joe decide to cool it off, and the next morning, when she is taking a bath, she discovers bruises all over her body, and reflects on "the narrowness of her escape from a fate worse than death". WOW! I know the story takes place in post WWII time, but it was hilarious to read those sentiments.
There are lots of contradictions in the book. For example, Joe and Jean go to a semi-desert island for the weekend, and that's when they get passionate. But they decide they are going to keep their romance a secret, so that the townspeople don't gossip. Well, what would they be thinking when they saw the young couple take off for the weekend to a paradise island, no chaperone invited??? How about when Jean goes to the ranch overnight? Hmmm...
Anyway, there are romance novels in your local supermarket that can be far more entertaining and less unnerving. Don't waste your time on this one.