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Tag Archives: Danielle Steel

Flick Friday: Secrets, by Peter H Hunt

This is the movie review I said I would do last week. (I wish I had an excuse better then “the heat is messing with my head”. Seriously, how long before autumn?) It is a made-for-tv adaptation of the Danielle Steel novel of the same name, starring Stephanie Beacham, Josie Bisset, Ben Browder, Gary Collins, Christopher Plummer and Linda Purl.

Secrets_1992_dvd_cover

I avoided specific plot details in my review of the book, but a large portion of this review is going to be compare and contrast, so be warned: spoilers ahead for both book and movie.

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Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: Secrets, by Danielle Steel

secrets-danielle-steel-paperback-cover-art

Now that book, I did read as a teenager. I remembered enough of the story during this re-read o be sure of that.I also watched the movie, starring Christopher Plummer and Stephanie Beacham. I spent days tracking a copy of the movie, to give it a serious re-watch. I’m going to be talking about the movie on Friday, but for now, here is what I thought of the novel.

I think the book is best approached as a loosely connected collection of character vignettes. As a single narrative unit, it leaves a lot to be desired. There is no one story here, and that is the simple fact. There are six stories here, the story of five actors who star in a new primetime soap called Manhattan, and the story of it’s producer.

Of the six stories, those of the lead actor, Zach Taylor, and the producer, Mel Weschler, are the least developed: they have a lot of backstory, which is exposed in a few pages, and they have their romantic relationships: Zach with second lady Jane Adams and Mel with leading lady Sabina Quarles. I especially wished that the character development of Zach had been better explored. On the other hand, his story is one that could very easily become insulting to a lot of people if not properly handled. The 80’s romance novels field being what it was, it’s probably best that the author didn’t delve too much into it.

The stories of Jane Adams and ingenue Gabby Smith are more detailed, but they are wrapped up early in the story, leaving little room for the characters to evolve, other then in their romances, Jane with Zach and Gabby with the brooding new sex symbol Bill Warwick. Sabina Quarles’s story is also wrapped quickly, but the effect is disguised by the fact that Sabina is the first character we are introduced to, and her story is the last one exposed and resolved.

The only real narrative arc that really lasts for the length of the novel is that of Bill Warwick. His problem, his secret, is introduced on chapter 3 and is wrapped by chapter 32 (of 39, the next four chapters are when Sabina’s story finally unfolds, and the last three are pure fluff) and with every appearance his story moves along one careful step at a time. If all the stories were set up that carefully, the book would likely be much better for it.

Then there are the little quirks that bugged me, like the endless repetition of certain plot points (any editor worth it’s salary should have caught those!) and the plot bunny that is the fake tv show. The characters are all presenting this Manhattan thing as something brand new, unlike anything anyone has seen before. The book was written in 1985, and nothing about the setting indicates that the story is set in the past. Primetime soaps weren’t new by 1985. Dallas existed, and so did Dynasty, and probably others that I just can’t think up right now.

Far from the best book I’ve read. There are many ways of improving that story, and the movie actually does improve on some level. But it’s not essentially a bad book: it is entertaining, and the nostalgia factor boosts the rating to 5.5 out of ten.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Tuesday: Jewels, by Danielle Steel

jewels

(all the page number I use are from my personal edition of the book)

I used to read a lot of Danielle Steel as a teenager (and by that, I mean when I was thirteen or fourteen, maybe fifteen) but it had been years, and besides I didn’t understand English at that age, so I was really reading the translations. I think it’s worth my time to re-read those I already read, or to give a go at some of her books I haven’t read.

I’m pretty sure that Jewels falls in the second category. I have no memory of having read it, at the very least. It’s possible that I’ve obliterated the memory, that it was simply not consequential enough, but I doubt it. I’m sure that something would have sounded familiar in the 470 pages paperback.

Anyway, the resume: Sarah, the dowager duchess of Whitfield, is preparing to attend her 75th birthday party, and on this momentous occasion, she remembers her life. That is literally all that the book is, and anything else that I could say would be spoiling details of the story. Not that the editors and/or the marketing team seem to mind, but I’ll get to that in a second.

First, I want to say that I did like the book, and that the proof of this statement lies in the fact that I finished it, despite all challenges it presented me with.

There is the obvious one: from the very first chapter, we know that the heroine will live to be 75, that she is a widow, that she has four children and many grandchildren, that she lives in a castle. She is nearing the end of a very long, very good life, and telling the reader as much right up front robs the narrative of all its tension.

It goes something like this:

BOOK: Oh, no! The heroine is in danger!

ME: It’s fine, she lives to be seventy-five.

BOOK: Oh, no! The hero is in danger!

ME: He’s not going to die just now, they haven’t had their four children yet.

BOOK: The heroine is considering an abortion.

ME: It’s the fourth kid from chapter one, she’s not aborting anything.

And so on and so forth.

The back cover is even worse. It gives up something like 80% of the story. From reading that cover, we learn that the heroine is a Stater (my personal name of Americans, when I remember the use it: America isn’t just the US, people!) who lived in the ’30’s, who gets divorced and is dragged through Europe by her parents, where she meets the hero. We learn that the hero is a distant heir to the crown and that he gives up his place in the line of succession to marry the heroine. We learn that they buy the chateau in France as newlyweds, and that they are separated by World War Two, with the heroine already having one child and being pregnant with a second. We learn that after the war, they begin to buy jewels from war survivors who need the money more then the stones, and that from there they open up a jewelry store in Paris, before expending in London and Rome. We learn the names of their four children, and that they are all connected to the family business in their own way. The fourth kid is born on page 357 (of 471, 75% of the way through). The store in Rome opens on page 422 (89% of the way through), for crying out loud! Anyone who pays the smallest bit of attention will have no surprises whatsoever.

Then there is the fact that the book feels like a history lesson in disguise, like the characters were chosen to be the type who would reflect those events to the reader the best. (A Stater divorcee and an heir to the British throne, anyone? Lady Author isn’t even pretending to be subtle: Edward VII and Wallis Simpson are not only referred to specifically, they are characters in the book and they interact with our heroes.) Now, a history lesson in disguise isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re going to do that, try to be more discreet. There is also the fact that the years 1935 to 1949 are covered in the pages 1 to 314, leaving only 157 pages to cover the years 1950 to 1991. Almost thrice as much time in half the space; a lot of stuff gets skipped over in that last third of a book. Unfortunately, that’s the part with the life story of all the children, so they feel really shallow as a result. And then there are the sentence structures, which were sometimes genuinely terrible and distracting from the story. I don’t want to have to re-read the same sentence three times just to figure out what the author was saying, and I shouldn’t have to.

I’m griping a lot, I know. I really did like the story. I found the hero and the heroine attaching, I loved reading about their courtship and their marriage. This book is a solid six out of ten.

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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