Monday, April 30, 2012
Author: James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Genre: Contemporary, fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2008
Source: Personal copy
Read for: Recommended by a friend
Jane is a neglected child, but she doesn't really notice it, because she has Michael, her imaginary friend to people-watch and eat ice cream with. However, as she grows up, Michael disappears from her life -- until the fateful day when, as an adult, she glimpses him again. Despite the fact that she is dating a handsome actor and has a successful career producing Broadway shows with her mother, Jane has spent her life feeling unfulfilled, and she wonders if this mysterious encounter with her one-time imaginary friend will provide the answer.
One of my book club friends recommended Sundays at Tiffany's to me, saying it was an adorable story and so romantic. I had never read anything by James Patterson before, so I didn't know quite what to expect. What I discovered was a sugary sweet plot with somewhat flat characters and writing.
Sundays at Tiffany's is really a perfect mainstream book. While its literary value is clearly lacking, I can see why it would appeal to a wide readership -- it is extremely easy to read, tells a sweet, fantastical tale, and does it all in less than 300 pages. And while I wasn't overly impressed with it, I certainly didn't mind it, if you know what I mean. It was sweet, and I did have some warm fuzzies while I was reading. For a light vacation read or some guilty pleasure time, it is harmless.
However, I was disappointed with the characters. They are incredibly one-dimensional. Jane is the typical harried working woman -- she feels like she is too fat but sneaks Ben and Jerry's at midnight (if you want ice cream, woman, eat it proudly!), insecurely puts up with her handsome boyfriend's bad behavior, and cowers in fear of her mother's disapproval. When Michael reappears in her life, she begins to feel more confident, but it seems as if it is only because he is nicer to her than her boyfriend. She still needs a man to build her confidence -- nothing stems from her own inner reserve of strength. Michael is also one-dimensional. He has know idea where he comes from and lives life from moment to moment, dallying with women and eating lots of fatty food in between his "assignments" to be an imaginary friend to lonely children. He has a wide-eyed, Buddy-the-Elf type of innocence that would be appealing to a child but doesn't quite work when he interacts with adults. The only character with any depth is Jane's self-centered mother, Vivian -- and the depth is limited; it is just deeper than other characters because she undergoes a slight change of heart.
The writing was also sub-par. The sentences were simple and stark, with no style or aesthetics. While this made for a simple reading style, it was a little too simplistic to me. I think the story would still have appealed to a wide readership with a little more verve in the writing. Then again, I am not a published author by any means, so maybe I am just judging the genre too harshly.
Overall -- the story was fine. Sweet, even. I didn't feel as if reading it was a waste of time. However, I wish it had been a bit more sophisticated with more character development.
Warnings: Some f-bombs, some allusions to sex