Wow, this one was a bit of a struggle to put into words. Glad to finally have it done and published.
10 reviews away from R&R 100. Must find a way to celebrate… 😉
Something Beginning With… (UK Title) / The ABCs of Love (US title)
First published in: 2004
This edition: Bloomsbury, 2004
Cover illustration by Donnersmarck; design by Yeti McCaldin
A is for…
Alphabetized. What made me notice (and want to read) SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH… is its unusual format; the story is alphabetized, subjects relevant to the story ordered neatly from A to Z. I'm a sucker for quirky hey-let's-be-different!-books, and I'll admit, gimmicks sometimes work on me. I go with it. Obviously. *points at format of review*
B is for…
Bell. Verity Bell. A British woman in her twenties, orphaned, best friend to Sally, Gwyneth Paltrow fan, extremely insecure. Disapproves of Sally's relationship with a married man, Colin. Finds herself ending up in Sally's shoes when Verity falls in love with a married-with-children man, herself. Trouble, trouble.
Despite being a story about adulterous relationships, it's more so a story about a rather dependent friendship between two young women, especially from Verity's end – seeing as how Verity looks at Sally as "all she's got". Verity's life seems to emulate Sally's; who is Verity, really?
C is for…
Column. You (reader) begin with A and end with Z, figuring out the puzzle called Verity Bell, reading clues in their intended order. The alphabetized format of SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH… makes it feel like one is reading a column; hacked up portions ultimately cover a similar subject (for instance, SEX AND THE CITY).
Initially, you don't expect Verity's story to flow well at all; there's a dissociation going on what with the book being chopped up into "articles".
Keywords at the end of each article appear to function to offer some form of connection and clarity between the scattered subjects, but honestly it isn't necessary, and it's not like you're going to use the keywords to read the book in any different order.
And you know, from A to Z, it's extremely readable. Salway manages rather well to keep the storyline going because there is a chronological order to it, despite the format.
D is for…
Dark. The book is an easy read, with light and humorous chapters, which makes it very relatable for any (female) reader – but it's also dark in ways. The disillusions that come with being a mistress to a married man ("he will leave her for me…") seem spot-on. The reader comes to look at Verity not as a terrible, despicable person for sleeping with a married man (life isn't black and white), but as a naive, lonely girl with a childlike view of the world and the people in it. Verity Bell: little girl lost.
E is for…
Effect. Or lack thereof. The book certainly isn't mediocre, but I can't say it had a real impact on me. I feel it all just went by me; I read it with ease and ended up rooting for Verity to get out of a hairy situation and take control… but when I finished it, something was just missing for me.
While the format was unusual, I found that the story itself really wasn't. In my experience Verity Bell wasn't all that interesting, either. The spark that Salway must have wanted Verity to have just wasn't there. In fact, I think Salway went overboard, making Verity so quirky that it took away from her fragility, which ended up being more important to the story. Yes. It took me a while to figure that one out, but that's exactly it.
F is for…
Forgettable. The alphabetized format provides this read with a charming and original touch, but in the end it really is just a gimmick, and it doesn't save the story. SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH… itself is quite forgettable. And there isn't much to add to that.
(Except maybe GHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.
Oh come on. Had to be done.)
R&R series © Karin E. Lips 2008-2010 (and beyond)