The Acid Tongue
Literary Death Is Hereditary
Selected By Cyril Wong
I found this funny and downright bitchy review on BookMunch by Becky Ohlsen. The poor book that is being slaughtered is Jenny Davidson's Heredity. Here's how the slaughter begins:
A slutty historical romance complete with duplicitous travel writers, pus-gushing crotches, stolen corpses, furtive sex in doctors' offices, artificial insemination by skeleton -- seriously, how could you go wrong... She starts off all right. Her heroine, Elizabeth Mann, is a twentysomething American, smart but shiftless and disaffected to the point of being bitchy, who goes to London on a spur-of-the-moment travel guidebook assignment. A bitchy heroine is a good thing... now we're really getting somewhere.
Then it is downhill from there:
Unfortunately, where we're getting is straight into the 18th century. Just when you're starting to think Elizabeth is the shit, our gal Jenny Davidson drop-kicks you into the ungodly awful journal of one Mary Wild, third and final wife of Jonathan Wild, the aforementioned skeleton/thief. Intentionally or not, the writing here is so tripelike that it might -- almost -- be funny, if only you weren't expected to actually read it. "I have always been blessed with a naturally good complexion. Other women might resort to rouge and paint, but not I: of course, a little red-pomatum to plump out my lips, burnt cok to blacken my eyebrows, lotion for my hands, all these I use when necessary"... It's beyond parody. It's just bad.
The other main problem with the book, besides the fact that its ending is a total copout, is the uncomfortable mixture of absurd situations and scathingly pointed observations. As a novel about a disaffected girl on a search for whatever disaffected girls are usually on searches for, it's great; as a pop-science satire it's funny and at least mildly interesting; but in trying to be both at once, it falls apart... the story keeps shifting from believably mean to needlessly ridiculous. Elizabeth seems much too cool and skeptical a character for us to believe she'd seriously try to give birth to Jonathan Wild's clone (using DNA she got by breaking into the museum display and scraping samples off one of his leg-bones...uh, yeah)… She's enough of an interesting woman on her own -- she doesn't need to be dragged through unlikely plot developments and stilted barroom debates about the ethics of cloning.
Ohlsen's overall verdict:
QLRS Vol. 6 No. 1 Oct 2006
If you could filter out all the goofy crap in the story and focus on Elizabeth's moody narrative voice, you'd really have something...