Frisson Folly…

I finished a rather cracking read during my commuting odyssey this week – Boyd Morrison‘s The Noah’s Ark Quest.  It was full of all my favourite things in an unputdownable read – history, adventure, subterfuge and a will-they-or-won’t-they-make-it race against time. Excellent material for absorbing oneself completely in a world divorced from the sopping brollies and damp humanity on the train this week.

And then it was spoiled.

Not completely but the brilliance of the ride was tarnished slightly by that most insidious of plot spoilers.

Romance, or for want of a better word, Chemistry…between the protagonists.

I’m not against a bit of frisson in my reading material.  In fact far from it.  But I like my frisson to be relevant to the plot whether it be those all time frisson classics, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice or a bit of chick-lit by the likes of Sophie Kinsella or Tasmina Perry.  And when I choose to read books like these, I’m choosing the chemistry, romance, and lust that they promise.

It seems to me that modern adventuring tales follow a ‘formula’ which features a ‘ruggedly handsome’ fella and a strong/intelligent (sometimes both) and  ‘beautiful’ woman who spend most of the story either pretending there’s no chemistry or avoiding acting on the it (as it would not be wise to distract themselves from the mission at hand).  Only to fall prey to each others charms after some near death incident…

Bo-o-o-o-oring. Bored bored bored bored bored!  Leave my action-packed thrillers alone guys!  If I want the rollercoaster excitement of Space Mountain, I don’t want to be treated to an It’s a Small World boat ride in the middle!

So I deducted half a star from my 5-star rating on WeRead for The Noah’s Ark Quest…

Rant over…for now.

ps…only 17 sleeps to go on the Lil Chicky Birthday Countdown…

1 thought on “Frisson Folly…

  1. Funny you mention this. I just got done watching a BBC 5-part mini-series of Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers, which I ordered from Netflix. It was made over 10 years ago (1995), when I was living in Tokyo. (I'm still catching up!)

    In any event, I loved the first three episodes (on Disc One). But the last two, which I just got done watching on Disc Two, were a let-down–didn't hold my attention.

    Why? The ending, which has the protagonist running off to South Africa with the love of her life, simply didn't ring true to Wharton. Though herself divorced in real life, Wharton suggests in her books that few women are free enough to write their own scripts and in any case there's usually a high price to pay. (Wharton is of course a member of the pre-WWI group of Americans who expatriated to Paris in search of personal fulfillment in ways not possible in America.)

    I did some investigation, and it turns out I'm not the only one who felt this way about the series. (Thanks to the Web, it's possible to reconstruct how the chattering classes responded.) Here's what a writer in The Current had to say:

    The Buccaneers, with a “ride into the sunset” ending that contrasts sharply with the desperation, despair and resignation of Wharton's other novels, readily appears to be a victim of “Americanization” and the tidy, cheerful Hollywood endings that Europeans mock.

    In addition, the production came along at a time when the BBC was under rising pressure to support more of its costs through program sales overseas.

    To be fair, Wharton never finished the book, which left open the possibility of giving it a happier ending than those found in her earlier works. (That said, I don't think it justifies giving it the elements of homosexuality and marital rape that weren't in the book.)

    Now, being partial to fiction that was written by women around a hundred years ago, I don't know anything about Boyd Morrison, but dare I suggest that he (like so many of our contemporary writers) is anticipating that his work may someday be adapted for the big screen–so is already writing in the ending that Hollywood will insist on anyway?!


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