I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was struggling with Sara Paretsky’s BREAKDOWN due to the overtly political nature of the book’s content. After putting the book aside for a week or so I picked it up again last weekend and persevered for another week before giving up for good yesterday. For someone who normally reads 2-3 books a week only managing 73 pages of a single book in a week is an indicator that the two of us are never going to get along. One of the reasons I tried to struggle through to the end was so that I could feel able to review it properly but as the book glowered at me from the bedside table for the last week I realised I needed it gone from my life more than I needed to prove a point.
By the time I gave up on the book Paretsky had made me both sad and cross. About the only experience I can liken reading BREAKDOWN to is going to a meeting of Get Up (an Australian left-leaning multi-issue political group similar to Move On in the US or 38 Degrees in the UK). I admit I have only been to a couple of meetings but I found them full of people believing fervently in their own moral superiority on just about every issue you can think of yet so full of vitriol for anyone who dared to have an opposing opinion that I could not wait to leave. I saw little evidence of the tolerance and thoughtfulness the group demands from its opponents. I felt the same way as I picked up BREAKDOWN every night this week and read a few more pages of Paretsky’s didactic, lengthy prose on a variety of subjects that had little to do with the story she was meant to be telling and her thinly disguised and mean-spirited caricatures of real figures from current public life in America As soon as I opened the book each time I couldn’t wait to put the book down again.
I’m sure it would have been harder, but someone as intelligent and well-educated as Paretsky has the potential to write a book which makes all sorts of people stop and think about their view of the world. Instead it feels to me like she’s taken the easy route in which she’s given words of encouragement and succour to the people who already think like she does and treated everyone else like a child. Or evil personified. It’s like she’s given up trying to change the world through her writing and is happy to reinforce the stereotypes and divisions she sees. She’s certainly forgotten how to tell a ripping yarn.