ThreeOranges: Tastes Classical And Feels Trended (threeoranges) wrote in carol_goodman,
ThreeOranges: Tastes Classical And Feels Trended
threeoranges
carol_goodman

My problems with THE SONNET LOVER

I'll cut & paste the list of gripes I posted on the Amazon.com forum for TSL, about 11 days ago. PLEASE don't read this unless you've read the book!!!


Was I the only one who couldn't stand the character and plot implausibilities in THE SONNET LOVER? I'll get started on a list and if you've read the book, you can either attempt to argue me out of my disbelief (I might be persuaded...) or add further implausibilities to the list.

Here we go!

1) Rose has about 30 seconds between seeing Mark walk onto the balcony and eventually getting on there herself. In those 30 seconds the killer has forcibly taken a piece of paper from Robin, pushed him off the balcony, AND received a silent agreement from all present that they will protect him.

How likely is it that ordinary people would shield a guy who's just pushed a boy off a balcony? Imagine you'd just seen your boss do that - wouldn't YOU be straight round to the police immediately, regardless of the fact he's your boss? Even if you think it's an accident, you'd make sure the police knew everything lest you later get implicated as an accessory, wouldn't you?

2) The three people keeping stumm have no good reason to protect the killer! Leo is allegedly afraid that a murder scandal would put paid to the movie - well, as a film professional he should be aware that money couldn't buy the sort of worldwide publicity that would come as the result of a boy being murdered for what he knew! The film would be a sell-out if he went to the police - imagine the TV fees he could command as a witness to the crime! So why does he keep stumm?

Gene and Mara allegedly keep stumm because Mark's his boss - does it never occur to this bright spark that with Mark in jail for murder, Gene might actually RISE in the academic hierarchy of Hudson College? What reason do they have to keep stumm?

3) As well as the three people keeping stumm, we also have Robin's two lovers, Zoe and Orlando. Zoe was there but we never find out what she saw, if indeed she saw anything. Why didn't she see anything?

Orlando was there, saw Mark push his lover off the balcony... And does sweet diddly-squat about it. He doesn't go to the police, he doesn't take revenge on Mark later when they're all at the villa, he doesn't even say the magic words "I'm innocent" to Rose when she near-as accuses him of murder. Call yourself a hot-blooded Italian, sir? I call you a weenie!

4) Ginevra de Laura commemorates her rape and consequent internal haemorrhage in a scarlet rose-petal design in the marble flooring of her rapist's house. (She has been installed in the rapist's house by judicial order, as her recompense for having been raped; the house, however, is still the rapist's.) We are asked to believe that

1) she has enough spare money to afford the pietra dure necessary to make the design
2) her rapist would not destroy the floor when he saw it - it might be pretty but does, after all, commemorate his crime for future generations
3) the 14-yr-old victim of a sexual violation would, through art, turn the trail of her blood into a come-hither invite to her next lover ("Here I am, darling! Just follow the red rose petals up into the bedroom!") Nice to know that a rape victim can take such a sanguine attitude to her forcible deflowering, eh?

Because of these elements, I cannot enjoy this book - and that's a shame, because usually I like Goodman's work.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?

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I finished the book a few days ago and, like you, I was quite disappointed.

I couldn't agree more with your gripes. Too much of the characters' actions made absolutely no logical or psychological sense.

*phew* Thanks, I was worried that it was just me!

The problem is, I think, that Goodman as a poet works through imagery rather than through psychological unravelling. Hence, rose-petals = drops of blood = internal haemorrhage = rape MUST have seemed a clever trail to follow at the time, but it's when you try to apply this reasoning to a frightened fourteen-year-old girl that it all falls apart. She wants to commemorate her rape? SUUURE she does. She wants her father, the pietra dure artisan, to get her the materials to work with, and her father wouldn't object? SUUURE he wouldn't. The rapist wouldn't mind when he catches an eyeful of that marble flooring? SUUURE he wouldn't! The rape victim would launch into another sexual relationship with an Englishman so soon afterwards that, when she falls pregnant, she can claim to the rapist that the baby was HIS? She'd be THAT comfortable with a sexual relationship just a few months after a violent rape and betrayal of trust? SUUURE she would...

And so forth. One of the problems with the novel was that there was a big hole where Ginevra de Laura should have been: we really should have had more of an idea of who she was and why she attracted the Bard, but no, nothing. And as for her poems... I can appreciate the "Italian poet wrote in English" is a direct mirroring of John Milton writing sonnets in Italian to his hosts during his "Italian tour", but the sonnets provided were just too modern-sounding. The scansion was faultless, but I think you need a little more than that to sound authentically 17th-century. (To put my money where my mouth is, I'm thinking of composing some "more authentic" sonnets for this group. I don't pretend mine would be as good as Slonimsky's, mind... just more Shakespearean-sounding. Let me know if you'd be interested in this challenge too!)

Also... THAT AWFUL NUN. I know she was just a walking "plot delivery service", but even so I have rarely seen a cameo so unconvincing! Those nuns I have known would never have been so indiscreet about the private affairs of others!

And I will shut up now, although if you would like to rant please feel free to get it off your chest. Call it "Primal Scream" therapy! :)