When I started Rose Reads Novels, I hadn’t decided if I would review books I didn’t like. Initially, I wanted my blog to be positive and happy, brimming with recommendations of books I enjoyed. But not all of the books I read are light and bright, although often dark novels have other qualities which make them good. For example, a book might have a sad plot but be beautifully written, or unhappy characters who live on in my mind long after I have finished reading their story.
The choices were: one, review everything I read honestly, and say why I haven’t enjoyed a book, or two, treat my blog as if I was training a puppy – ignore books I don’t like and praise those I do.
Being honest won. I’m not Little Miss Sunshine, I don’t like all of the books I read, and not every book is great. To be fair to the authors whose work I don’t like, I’m probably not their ideal audience anyway.
So, on to today’s book, which is Uncoupled, by Lizzie Enfield. I considered not finishing Uncoupled several times during my reading of it, mostly because I was bored by the story, but stuck with it because I was on the train and didn’t have any other reading material available. Funny, really, because Uncoupled is the story of an English woman named Holly, who was in a train crash. The carriages in Holly’s part of the train become uncoupled from the engine inside a tunnel, then another train smashed into them. Holly was trapped in the wreckage, where another passenger, Daniel, stayed with Holly and comforted her until she was rescued.
After the crash, Holly and Daniel develop a friendship. Meanwhile, Holly’s marriage to Mark is struggling, partly due to the role reversal in their family – Holly is the main breadwinner and Mark, whose business is failing, is taking on more and more of the household duties.
Nearly every other couple in the novel are having marriage problems too – becoming ‘uncoupled’, as per the book’s title. Almost all of Holly’s workmates appear to be having extra-marital affairs and so do a great many of her friends. Even Holly’s parents join in the the act, with Holly’s father running around after a recently widowed family friend while her mother jaunts off to Thailand alone.
As Holly’s marriage deteriorates, her relationship with Daniel, her rescuer from the train, gains strength. I found Holly’s behaviour irritating and frustrating. This next sentence is probably more about my value system than the book, but anyone with a sense of honour knows that messing around on your partner won’t take you anywhere worth going.
For me, the problem with Uncoupled was that I just didn’t care about any of the characters. Holly was boring, even when she was contemplating an affair of her own with Daniel. The story got bogged down in the trivia of Holly’s life. Drinks at the pub, whinging about her husband’s cooking, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All of the other characters were similar, uniformly shallow and wallowing about in misery which was mostly brought on by their own vanity and selfish behaviour.
Uncoupled could have been improved by removing some of the other character’s stories, which I don’t believe added anything to the story. Holly’s story could also have been tightened up, and her character strengthened.
I feel a bit mean writing a negative review about a book I didn’t enjoy, especially when writing a book is something I am not capable of. Still, the whole point of my blog is that these are my reviews and my opinions, which I have come to based on my own experiences. We’re all different.