Danielle Steel was a favorite of my mother’s when I was growing up. She read Danielle Steel novels all the time. When I was a teenager, I’d flip through them looking for the erotic parts, but I never read one all the way through. Until now …
I asked my mother if I could borrow a copy of her favorite Danielle Steel novel. She said she usually gave them away after she read them, but she dug around and finally found one, one she hadn’t read yet, titled Coming Out. Copyright is 2006. So it’s a little dated, but not too bad.
All my reviews have spoilers.
BACK COVER PHOTO
The back cover photos of my mom’s Danielle Steel books always fascinated me when I was a child. They always featured the author herself doing something … weird. I remember one that showed two Danielle Steels side by side. Another one showed her lounging on a chair beneath a giant painting of … herself. All her photos seemed to scream “crazy conceited person” which made them interesting to me.
For this book, Coming Out, there is a photograph of Steel “coming out” of a fancy front door. Two giant lion statues flank both sides of the entrance, and she’s stepping out in pink shoes, black hose, and gigantic pink coat/dress … thing. She’s smiling and her brown hair is pulled back in a slick ponytail. Seeing as the picture shows her “coming out” a door, I guess this book probably isn’t about someone coming out sexually? Well, I better start reading and find out what it’s really about then.
OMG. The first sentence of the first chapter starts out with the main character’s full name, Olympia Crawford Rubinstein, and I already hate this book.
Kay, so I’m only a page in and it’s just a massive info dump of backstory. Terrible. It has sentences like:
She had gone to law school after her divorce, fifteen years before, and married Harry two years later.
Yup, time to speed read. I so don’t care.
It’s now going into the back stories of her and her new husband’s parents. I care about their parent’s childhood because why? I don’t even care about Olympia and Harry yet!
Hey, did you know that –
Olympia was turning forty-five in July, and Harry was fifty-three.
Thank God I know that now. I don’t think I could’ve gone the entire book without knowing their exact ages. I’m just disappointed I don’t know what month Harry was born. I’ll never fully understand his character without that information.
What it’s about: There’s a Waspy ball type thing the twin daughters are invited to. One wants to go, one doesn’t, for political reasons. Olympia’s new husband also thinks the whole coming out ball is racist, but her ex-husband thinks it’s important. Olympia views it as just a harmless party even if it does only invite wealthy society people. They’re all throwing fits about whether the girls should go to this stupid ball. That is the plot. Yup. That. Is. It. It’s all told in a past tense, omniscient perspective.
She frequently writes long lists of adjectives to describe her characters. No scene, just a list. For instance:
Olympia was shy and serious, though prone to easy laughter, especially when it was provoked by Harry or her children. She was a remarkably dutiful and loving daughter-in-law to Harry’s mother, Frieda.
I’m just told how people are over and over.
CONSTANT DESCRIPTION OF WHAT EVERY CHARACTER IS DOING
This Danielle Steel novel is bad. Very bad. It started out with tons of back story, something a new author could never, ever get away with, and then it went into what everyone in the family was doing. This one went to soccer, this one stayed late at work, this one, blah, blah, blah. She tells me what every single character is doing at any given time. It has nothing to do with the plot. It does not help characterization. Did I mention this book is terrible?
Here’s an example:
At noon, she had to take the girls to get their hair done. She had an appointment in the same salon at two herself. By four they’d all be finished. She made breakfast for everyone, brought Freida hers on a tray, and Frieda wished her luck for that night. She asked if there was anything she could do to help, but as far as Olympia knew, everything was in order. Both girls were still asleep. Harry had gone out early to play squash at his club. Max was feeling better. Charlie had spent the night with friends.
No sex to be had in this book. I was surprised. I was under the impression that Steel was an erotic author, but I guess she’s more like a romance author? Still, there wasn’t much romance to be had either. Olympia’s husband Harry tells her she’s “the best wife in the world” and “an amazing woman” and other blatant compliments frequently, but that’s about as romantic as it gets. It sounds weird, to be honest. Who goes around liberally doling out generalized compliments to their significant other every single day? Maybe I’ve just been in bad relationships … Of course her children, strangely enough, do the same thing. They’re forever telling her how wonderful she is and how she’s the best Mom in the world.
WRITING STYLE – TELL, TELL, TELL
I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing Steel just types and types whatever comes to her head and then only edits for SpaG. I mean who cares if everything you type is as boring as hell and not relevant to the story at hand? What really matters is that words fill up pages, right? Right. She’s all about filling up those pages.
I hate her writing style, just a long string of spoon feeding. Too much back story. It’s tell, tell, tell-y. This writing style is the reason so many amateur writers are told to “show, don’t tell.” Sometimes people get upset by that advice because people have a habit of taking things too far. There are moments when telling is better than showing, but anyone who completely disagrees with the “show, don’t tell” advice should read Danielle Steel, and then they’d understand. When you are told a story, but have very few actual scenes, you are not engaged. You are not part of the story. It becomes boring and more like a summary of a story than an actual story.
Lots of detail about what people are doing. Oh, wait, did I already mention that? This book also has lots of redundancy, so I’m forcing some redundancy on you now. She’s constantly telling me what the characters are – He was the peacemaker. She was the champion of the underdog. This person’s that. That person’s this. – and also telling me what they are to each other. Over and over. It’s unbearable.
How are so many people reading this stuff? It’s tedious reading what all they did in a day. If it’s this boring to read, I can only imagine how boring it would be to write. It makes me wonder if Steel didn’t just jot down the events of her own days and then change the names. The girls went ice skating and the boys ate chestnuts and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s such a drag.
All right, here’s another example. I could probably open the book anywhere and blindly point and find an example, so here’s one out of a million:
Olympia went back to her office the next morning when the girls left. Harry had gone to work early. The school bus had picked Max up, and she had a thousand messages on her desk when she got there. She waded through them and returned all her calls, before a court appearance that afternoon. During her lunch break, she called Chauncey.
Like, seventy percent of the book is written like this.
It seems to me, this entire book is Danielle Steel trying to convince herself that coming out balls are okay. Her characters go back and forth on whether these balls are elitist and racist or not. Her main character takes a stance early on that they’re no big deal, and, of course, in the end, all the other characters come around and decide Olympia was right, coming out parties are a-okay. That’s the entire plot! Mishaps occur right before the coming out party – various illnesses and the discovery of a tattoo, but nothing serious. There is nothing interesting about this plot. The characters weren’t interesting, and the writing was dreadful. This Danielle Stell book may very well be the worst book I have ever read to completion.
The only “unexpected” part of the book was when her oldest son comes out at the coming out party. He tells his mom he’s gay when she’s dancing with him. Of course, Steel likes to beat horses to death, so there’s this line:
In a different way than his sisters, he had come out, too.
Yeah, we get it.
Later the book says:
Each in their own way, they had all come out that night.
Uh-huh, we get it. Can you see me rolling my eyes? I feel like it’s noticeable through the Internet.
Later Olympa says to Harry:
“Charlie came out tonight, too.”
Yeah, we get it. Coming out means many things. We get it.
Even if this book had been truly about someone’s struggle to come out sexually to their family, which would have been a much more interesting plot, it still would have been a bad book simply due to Steel’s writing style. If this is how she writes, it doesn’t matter how deep the topic is, her books will always be horrible.
I don’t understand how she is a popular writer. My theory is that she started writing romance when the getting was good. Then she made a brand for herself, and today, even though there are millions of better romance novels out there, she remains a bestseller due to her brand name. Just goes to show you how important branding yourself is. Once your name is popular enough, people will read you no matter how awful your writing becomes.
I would give Coming Out negative 15 stars, but I don’t have that option so zero stars. ZERO.
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