A Thousand Beauties
Written by: Mark Adam Kaplan
Narrated by: David Rollins
Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
Release Date: 08-13-13
Publisher: Mark Adam Kaplan
My recent reading habits have pointed me mostly towards books that are fiction and are relatively easy to digest. This could get kind of monotonous though, so when I got the opportunity to review the audiobook version of A Thousand Beauties I thought to myself ‘Huh, that looks a little different from what I usually read. Why not, it might be good.’
It’s one of those books that no matter what is going to make you feel something. Whether you’re annoyed sometimes with the characters, as I was, or relating to their problems, you won’t be able to stay indifferent. So, if you’re looking for a quick feel-good type of read that’s not it.
The protagonists in the novel are well done and very realistic most of the time. Rupert Ruskin is an overweight, wealthy but quite lonely business man who after two whole years is still dealing with his divorce. It was a poisonous relationship with many ups and downs which were caused mainly by his eccentric (that’s a light way to put it) wife.
Elaine is like a force of nature. One day she’s filled with joy, makes jokes and fills Ruskin’s heart with love. The next, she’s throwing violent tantrums over insignificant things that go on for hours. But he still loves her anyway. Well, that’s real love I guess.
It would be an understatement to say that she has huge power over him. Even after they’ve been separated, one day she comes out of the blue back into his life and drops a bombshell on him. Naturally, he is ready to make it all well again and until the end of the novel will try desperately to fix her and himself before it’s too late.
No crazy over-the-top action sequences here. The main driver of the story is how the characters are feeling and what they’re thinking as they go about they’re business. It’s written in first-person point of view, mainly Ruskin’s, although we get to see a little bit of what is going on in Elaine’s head too.
Since the characters and their relationships are the main point of the novel, I guess they’ll be the main focus in my review. I’ll be honest when I say that I found Elaine to be completely insane and a little scary. The fact she was terminally ill didn’t make any difference for me at least. I felt sorry for her because I can’t imagine what it would be like to know you’re going to die, feeling your body slowly degrading and giving up on you bit by bit every day. Still, that’s no excuse to act like a crazy person and manipulate the only people that care enough to be around you.
Rupert Ruskin, while being Elaine’s complete opposite in character was equally annoying sometimes. He’s very relatable, growing up as the chubby kid that read lots of books and didn’t fit in, etc. Fairly stereotypical but believable. He made a good life for himself, developing a very successful business, priding himself in doing a lot better than some ex-classmates who got higher education which he didn’t. When it comes to Elaine though, he’s a complete door mat and let’s to be stepped on repeatedly which makes for some uncomfortable reading.
I’m still wondering how could I like these characters? They were self-absorbed and annoying, constantly feeling sorry for themselves. Then again, most people would behave like that in such circumstances, which I guess shows that Kaplan is a good writer. The prose was good and kept my attention throughout the book. It was occasionally too heavy on details though. The characters observing the world around them, noticing small details of their surroundings and things like that. The narration was OK. Nothing spectacular, but it didn’t get in the way at least.
I generally liked the ending of the novel. It wasn’t surprising but was the logical conclusion, fitting with the overall theme. What would be the takeaway from the story? The cynical part of my brain would say ‘Don’t stick your you-know-what in crazy and don’t get cancer.’ There must be something more to it, right? I thought for a long time after I finished the audiobook trying to summarize what was the point of it all. I guess it’s that sometimes unexpected and unpleasant things will happen to you or someone you love and you have to try deal with it in the best way possible. Not what’s best for you, but for them.
If you want something a little different and don’t mind the existentialism that inevitably brings sadness, I recommend you to read this book.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions above are mine and completely unbiased.
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