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Friday, October 14, 2016

DNF Discussion: The Valley by Helen Bryan

the valley helen bryan

The Valley by Helen Bryan
Book 1 in The Valley trilogy
e-book, paperback, and audio, 607 pages
Lake Union Publishing
July 19, 2016

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review for tour

Book Blurb:

Left suddenly penniless, the Honorable Sophia Grafton, a viscount’s orphaned daughter, sails to the New World to claim the only property left to her name: a tobacco plantation in the remote wilds of colonial Virginia. Enlisting the reluctant assistance of a handsome young French spy—at gunpoint— she gathers an unlikely group of escaped slaves and indentured servants, each seeking their own safe haven in the untamed New World.

What follows will test her courage and that of her companions as they struggle to survive a journey deep into a hostile wilderness and eventually forge a community of homesteads and deep bonds that will unite them for generations.

The first installment in an epic historical trilogy by Helen Bryan, the bestselling author of War Brides and The Sisterhood, The Valley is a sweeping, unforgettable tale of hardship, tenacity, love, and heartache.

I want to first start off by saying that this is NOT a review – I did not read enough of this book to feel comfortable enough to call this a review.  I completed just about 100 pages of this 600 page book before ultimately calling it quits – and for those of you that have been with me for awhile now you know how rare that is.  In fact, it has only happened once before and that was with Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which I did ultimately finish with the help of the audio version.  I did not make the decision lightly as I am one of those from the camp that intends to finish every book I begin, but this one was just a mess from the start.  Before ultimately making the decision to put the book down I was conflicted, but talking with several other bloggers who were reading it, were at a further page count than I was, and were still also struggling, I made the decision to quit while I was ahead.  So, I wanted to share some thoughts and encourage you to leave comments on your thoughts on the book if you have read it. 

My first issue was with the writing – it could use a serious editing job – and not just for small grammatical things either.  There were entire sections of the novel (even just within those first 100 pages) that could have been purged and the story would have been better for it.  There were even sentences that appeared almost word for word a couple paragraphs after they first appeared on the page, and this happened over and over.  This book quite likely had no reason to be 600+ pages.  The writing was weighed down and clunky and sentence structures were difficult on the ears, such as:

“Sophia felt herself happily in looks tonight and, observing the other girls and the fashionable ladies, saw that her own dress was much the prettiest.”

There are areas where there is a lot of detail – which would be great if it was something that mattered, rather than just superfluous  comments about how the clothing appeared. 

Quite frankly, those first 100 pages didn’t seem to matter to me at all and made no positive impression on me to keep reading.  Considering that this is a sixth of the book, I would think that by that point there should have been something in the book that mattered to the plot and I should have been made to care about what was happening.  I simply had no drive to pick up the book again.  Additionally, if I hadn’t taken notes on this while reading I would have had no recollection of what happened in these 100 pages, which tells you how much it stood out to me.  From what I gather from other reviewers, the story that was promised in the book blurb, which made me want to pick up the book to begin with, didn’t even begin to get moving for almost another 150 pages after the point in which I stopped!  So that means it was almost a third of the way through the book before it really got anywhere – which makes me glad I put it down when I did.

I still find the premise intriguing and if it went through a much more rigorous editing process I might have had a chance of enjoying it.



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