Have you ever felt so disappointed by a book that you couldn’t get over it for days?… or is that just me? This happened to me twice in 2013. At the same time.
In the summer of 2013 I was performing an internship doing eBook cataloging and while I waited for batches to load I had a lot of time to read. My first date with disaster was in the first week of July with Frances Mayes’ Bella Tuscany. The month prior I had read Under the Tuscan Sun, admittedly because I love the movie and thought I should give the book a whirl. I was wrong to do so. As it happens in Hollywood, the movie and the book are about as opposite as they can get – the only similarities being a woman named Frances Mayes buys a house in Italy and some Polish men help remodel it. I disliked the book so much I had to keep going on with the next book Bella Tuscany. It was like Twilight: something so bad you just couldn’t stop staring at the “car crash” as you drove by in slow motion.
One of the things I loved about the movie was that Frances is portrayed as a strong woman learning to pick up her life again after a terrible divorce. Alone, she takes risks and dives into the unknown while she navigates through a new world on a new continent, and lives each day appreciating the beauty in it.
In reality Ms. Mayes and her boyfriend were college professors and had planned the purchase of the house and they spend the summers and some winter breaks fixing it up. While the movie inspired me to want to take risks and just got for it!, the book’s constant complaints about remodeling made me want to shake her to try to make her realize how great she had it.
Now this is what really grinds my gears. Directly after Bella Tuscany I read Happier At Home, a “sequel” to Gretchen Rubin’s bestseller The Happiness Project. I enjoyed The Happiness Project for what it was, and marched on through some of the annoying/unnecessary anecdotes to appreciate the “life tips” Rubin gives about de-cluttering your life and trying to reach “happiness”.
I work at the retail store Anthropologie which has sold The Happiness Project since it was published and as soon as we got in Happier At Home I bought it without even opening it, thinking it was as good as the first. I was wrong.
It’s true that The Happiness Project was marketed as a relatable mom-next-door’s search of happiness while living in Brooklyn. However, if you research into the family you learn that Rubin married into one of the most wealthiest families in New York and enjoys a life relatable to any woman living in a Penthouse with a help staff.
Happier At Home was the first book that made me disappointed enough to actually review it on Amazon and give it one star. Rubin’s writing in this book is so unbearably repetitive I had to skip pages at a time. For example, in a book less than 300 pages she mentions at least three times about working/interning for Sandra Day O’Conner. She talks about how people in her life were giving her advice and ideas on ways to achieve happiness and doesn’t even want to entertain the thought of trying them out for herself. She comes across as ungrateful and uninterested in hearing anything that she hasn’t thought of first.
Her “tips” for happiness are far from what she discusses in her first book, and the second time around they consist of “I decided to kiss my husband more because I heard affection makes your love stronger.” On that note, I couldn’t believe one section she included: Rubin discusses trying to come up with a once-a-month date night with her husband so they always have something to look forward to with each other. She brings it up to her husband multiple times and he shoots her down multiple times by ignoring her. She basically shrugs at the reader and says, “that’s how my husband is.” Why would you include a, frankly, awkward failure like that in your book that’s about bonding with your loved ones?
I’m not even going to go into this, but WAY too many pages of this book were devoted to Rubin’s sense of smell. You’re just going to have to read it yourself to learn about that one.
For what it’s worth, Anthropologie still sells The Happiness Project, and Happier At Home went on sale within three months of us getting it in.
Need to rant about an awful or disappointing book? Let it all out below, friend. Let it all out.