Sunday, July 4, 2010

CBRII: Devil's Food by Kerry Greenwood

In which I wonder if, maybe, Greenwood's been fucking with me.

Okay, the premise. It's another Corinna Chapman book. For those who've forgotten, she's a Melbourne baker who's a perfect size 20 (the weight is important. *sigh* Yes, it's so very important). She's in a relationship with Daniel, a tall, mysterious, gorgeous private investigator. In Devil Food, Corinna's mother shows up because her geriatric father's decided to go chasing tail and ended up disappearing. This leads to a terrible house where a small child is doomed to one hell of a fucked-up life, a wonderful hostel for the homeless and a wacked-out cult that thinks eating is against God's will. There's also somebody roaming around with a 'diet tea' that'll kill ya.

It's hard to explain what I found distasteful about this book without sounding like a bitch. So I'm just going to blurt it out. See, Corinna and Daniel visit the aforementioned awful house. There's a small girl there, who's got a baby to look after and a mother riddled with cancer. Corinna is horrified that such circumstances exist in a Western country. She can't sleep that night, she's so upset about it.

Then she watches a cat slide into a pond, and she feels much better. Daniel tells her to 'let Sister Mary handle it'. They go back to their happy little lives and forget the kid even exists. Gee, Corinna, you were wondering how children can live like this in Australia?

Both characters, by this point, have repeatedly used the term 'middle class' like it's an insult. But what in the name of all that is fucking holy is MORE middle class (in the worst possible way) than witnessing another person's suffering and either making it all about yourself (as Corinna did, with her 'oh poor me, I couldn't sleep, I was soooo upset' routine) or simply offloading the problem onto someone else (like Daniel, who decides that only Sister Mary could possibly have the resources to help, neatly forgetting that once upon a time, Sister Mary was just Mary, a woman with empathy and some fucking drive to do something about it)?

Look, people are self-absorbed shit heaps, I know that. With any other character, you wouldn't even notice the hypocrisy. You might even feel sorry for poor Corinna's soft heart. But given the constant barrage of 'Corrina sighs over the state of the world' that fills these books, you think she'd have realised that everybody sighs over the state of the world. The truly decent people are the ones who actually do something about it (and not for selfish reasons, Miss I-joined-the-Soup-Run-because-I-wanted-to-shag-the-Heavy).

So, either Greenwood's gone Full Satire in this book, or Corinna's her Mary Sue and she's too close to see that the character has passed right through the Land of the Opinionated and into Hypocritical Cow territory. I have an awful feeling it's the latter, though. Let's call it Bella Swan Syndrome - one of the reasons I never finished Twilight was because Bella kept saying she was an unpopular outcast, while the behaviour of everybody around her said exactly the opposite. It didn't make her sympathetic, it made her seem like a self-obsessed lunatic.

In this case, it's even worse. Bella Swan had the excuse of being 17. At that age, you're allowed to mistake opinion for understanding. But Corinna is an adult. There's no excuse.

Greenwood, please, learn from Meyer's mistake. If you want your readers to like your character, you should not be giving them the urge to tell Corinna to take her never-ending bitching about politicians and shove them up her arse.

Oh, and the fat thing? Yeah, just copy and paste everything I said above and swap out 'ignoring the child while pretending to be some Protector of the Poor' for 'Proclaiming to be Perfectly Happy with her weight then flipping out AGAIN when she overhears some guy who's clearly mentally ill saying nasty shit about it'. Coupled with 'Thinks she shouldn't be judged while insinuating that every thin person is some media-addled anorexic'.

You know, I tend towards books like this when I think I'd be better off with some light escapism. But fuck it, I'm going back to the sci-fi and heart-breakers. At least they don't piss in my face and try to tell me it's puppy-breath.

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