June 2, 2013
Usually, after reading a book I feel drained, or ripped off, or (rarely) deeply content. But last night, after finishing Nancy Richler’s The Imposter Bride and I felt nervous, restless even. I paced the kitchen tiles then kept moving from one room to another – trying to figure out what was making me so jumpy. I now realize what it was. For the last few months I’ve been reading good books, solid books that I’ve enjoyed, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve read a book meant for an audience of writers. I’m not even sure I can articulate what I mean by that, but I’ll try with an example all readers can relate to:
You’re sitting there reading along when your eyes drift up and you find yourself skipping a few words first then a chunk of lines, and finally whole paragraphs – knowing, with a sinking feeling, that the words you skip will make little difference to the final story. In this case, the author has relinquished control; it is up to the reader to choose what to read, what not to read. In contrast, when a writer grips you from the first line and you are compelled to read straight through to the end – even when led deep into descriptive territory – THEN it is a book for writers to appreciate. Books like this teach you as much about the craft of writing as the enjoyment of reading. They make you feel alive – an electric buzz of hope for the story you’ve been building in your head, that with time and ink, you can construct a book that effortlessly spans 65 years in 300 pages and bring in enough beautiful, rich and diverse voices to fill a choir.
And that’s why The Imposter Bride is so good. The opening scene of a bride who has taken on the identity of a dead woman and is marrying the brother of her betrothed grabs the reader’s attention and the initial plotline engages. But as Richler moves through the novel with clever use of flashbacks and flawless shifts in point of view a more complex story emerges about love and lust and fate, and how every generation is impacted by the ones that came before it. And that’s when it becomes a writer’s book.
This is a lovely reminder of why you love to read, yes – but more, why you love to write.