Monday, July 16, 2012

Game of Secrets

by Dawn Tripp
New York, Random House, 2011
253 pages     Fiction

I was relieved when I read many of the reviews  that my problems with Game of Secrets weren’t mine alone. This should have been a quick read, but instead it dragged on for me for two weeks of falling asleep, getting bored, not caring. And I was really sorry about it, because the prose is so lovely that I wanted to relate to the book. Besides, I play Words with Friends (a scrabble-like game) every day and Scrabble is one of the lynch-pins in the plot. The Scrabble game is what first whetted my curiosity for the book. However, as one Good Reads reviewer says “The Scrabble game doesn't cut it for interest or metaphor.” And that is precisely what I felt.

The stream-of-consciousness prose style intrigued me at first. Let me give you an example: “…and even in the dead winter, her favorite season, that certain honesty of winter, all things stripped back to being only what they are: even then, on those Saturdays of the most unkind weather, when the northeast gales drove in off the sea, and the cold flooded under the walls of the house that had not settled well—the wind in a high-pitched sudden whistle swelling up in the belly of the carpet by a gust.” Unfortunately, the prose doesn’t wear well, and after while, the reader wants to say, “Oh, for heaven’s sake, just get on with it.” The problem is that the characters who would be thinking such lyrical prose are not the characters that inhabit the book. These are small-town hard-bitten characters, and one wouldn’t expect profundity in their thoughts. The language is poetic and flows in beautiful, idyllic ways, but the characters are crass, and the beautiful prose is lost in their un-idyllic behavior. I wanted to like them because their inner thoughts are so beautiful, but sadly, their inner beauty isn’t matched by their outward actions. Several reviewers thought that the author was trying a bit too hard. 

I didn’t like any of the characters; I couldn’t identify with any of them. All the way through the book, I wanted to say, who cares? Also, there was a mystery, but by the time the mystery is solved, the writing has scrambled your brain to the extent that you couldn’t remember who did what or why. 

My readers know that I am a very tolerant reader, and I can usually find good in most of the books I read. Additionally, I am usually able to relate the story or the plot to some aspect of my life. I thought I could link up with the Scrabble game; that perhaps the Scrabble game would relate to the plot or the killer or something. Sadly, I could find no link. 

One reviewer said: “The author couldn't seem to decide what this book should be - murder mystery, family conflict, ties of one's hometown...or who the story should be about - Marne? Jane? Huck? And the great conflict between Marne and her Mom (Samuel) is poorly explained. Ultimately a jumble that adds up to not much.

So, dear readers, let me just write this off as two lost weeks. Now on to better things. 

Dawn Tripp is the author of two other well-regarded novels, Moon Tide and the Season of Open Water. Maybe you had better try one of those. Her website is:

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