Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review | Friends Forever by Danielle Steel

She is one of the world’s most acclaimed authors with over eighty novels to her name and 600 million copies sold – more than JK Rowling and Nora Roberts. She is Danielle Steel. She is over sixty and still banging them out. This particular one, Friends Forever, is number 6 on the New York Bestsellers list. Number 6! After all these years, a Steel novel was begging to be read and what a trudge through the swamp it was. Here is my review.

Warning: Review contains spoilers and Danielle Steel’s prose

Plot Summary: The story follows the lives of Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean from the time the meet in kindergarten to when they start falling apart. Gabby is the pretty one, Izzie is the smart one, Billy the jock, Andy the nerd and Sean- has a cokehead for a brother. Danielle Steel calls them the ‘The Big Five’- a homage to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five I think. The first couple of chapters go quickly, a narration of how they become friends. They have growing pains, develop crushes and I am waiting, waiting for the action to begin; for the synopsis to end. While I have never a a fan of using the dry synopsis to set a context, it is often necessary and in some cases, especially chicklit novels, lots of fun to read. But here is Steel's version- An excerpt:

Andy was valedictorian and gave a moving speech. It was eloquently written and his classmates cheered for him…people were starting to cry. This was a long awaited moment for all the parents…”

Is it a synopsis you wonder? No that’s how the entire novel is written.  By chapter 3, I start to look for a change of pace, perhaps some emotion. Nothing happens. The prose waddles along.  We soon realize that Danielle Steel’s favorite words are ‘She cries’ 'He cries'. There is hardly any dialogue. When someone dies; you almost miss it. Then someone else dies- this time you are taken aback. Is this a script for final destination 5? All that’s missing is the token African American and she’d have all her bases covered. Anyway, Billy gets famous and so does Gabby. Sean goes on a crusade of sorts to avenge a death. One set of parents gets divorced and someone else dies. Yes, really. By this point, it is so contrived you start laughing. It’s so bad; it’s starting to become good. Andy? You ask. What happens to Andy? Nothing, Steel forgets about him halfway through. I think she needed five people and just popped Andy in on an afterthought. At this point Danielle Steel has covered all major causes of death- drugs, drunk driving, and shooting.  I put the book aside and decide to understand the macabre inspiration behind this Chainsaw Massacre death toll and I find it -she lost her son a few years ago. That was my only true moment of empathy. I sigh and go back to the book and keep at it till I finish. Two of them make it, just about, and you do rejoice, not in their happiness but because you finished the book. They cry. I cry. The End.

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