I’ve never really put much stock in the opinions of “professional” reviews of film or books (critics). The deep seated suspicion that they are trying to prove how smart they are via the works of someone else seems to be more truth than supposition. Once again, my theories collect another piece of empirical evidence in the form of the book, The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. This is my personal review, my opinion; I’m not a professional and I have to spend hard earned money in order to buy books. I live in Canada – books are expensive as we pay tax on top of tax for the privilege of reading…
On the front cover – just so everyone knows that the book MUST be good, is a review by Dan Brown and I quote: “With intricate plots, classical themes, and erudite characters…what’s not to love?” My translation: with a convoluted plot line, unoriginal themes, unabashed use of the names of historical figures…what’s not to love? Everything.
Books are windows to the personality of the author, if this theory is correct? Matthew Pearl is not someone with whom I would want to be acquainted. The book came off as horrendously pretentious. It appeared to be trying, far too, hard to be interpreted as wildly intellectual as a result, the characters are not well defined, and in fact, are one dimensional. The plot? Hackneyed. Someone using religion to bring sinners to heel. A tired concept and done like dinner. The serial killer with religious psychosis.
Reviewers have stated the plot to have been a framework for the sociological upheaval of civil war era. Civil war is mentioned, there’s a mulatto police detective, held back in rank and privilege by his colour. Framework? Not by a long shot. Like everything else in this book, the refection of Civil War society in Boston, is pale and wan.
The book was also touted as a page turner. Sure, if you wanted to get through it as painlessly as possible, it could be described as a “page turner”. I have been known to stay up and entire night to finish a good book. A mediocre book may take me a couple of days but this one? It took weeks. It was painful. I have a personal rule of reading a book to the end, regardless of how bad it may be. I finished Dreamcatcher by Stephen King, for example.
The Dante Club holds the distinction of the one and only book that was so bad, I couldn’t finish it. Oh, I know who the killer is…I don’t need to waste anymore of my precious time wading through the mired writing of Pearl to figure that one out. As a matter of personal pride, I will eventually finish the thing. Perhaps, bit by bit, when I need a sleep aid.