Monday, October 2, 2017

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

You know, I was surprised (and amused) that I was given a copy of this book to review at all considering some of the things I've said about some of this author's other books. There's a scene in here, where the main character, Helena, writes a scathing four-page letter to one of the author characters in this book, detailing every single one of the book's flaws in pedantic detail. I did something very similar with one of TORRE's earlier books, BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE (I was perhaps harsher then than I would be now - but oh, friends and neighbors, how I despised that book). I tried HOLLYWOOD DIRT, and hated that, too. It wasn't until I read THE GIRL IN 6E that I began to thaw towards this author just a little bit. She had talent, and could tell a good story: I just hated the stories she was telling. Finally, I can say that there is at least one Torre book I liked.

Helena Ross is a best-selling romance author. She's a big-name and publishing houses fall over themselves to court her. Her agent bends over backwards for her, despite Helena's lists of rules and cold and entitled approach to dealing with other human beings. They do this because no matter how high maintenance she is, Helena's a safe bet that always pays off. It seems that, when it comes to writing, at least, Helena is the poster girl for literary achievement with her whole life ahead of her. But she doesn't.

She has terminal, inoperable cancer, and a prognosis of three months at the most.

She also has a final story to tell. That's where the title comes into play. Helena decides to hire someone, a ghost-writer, to help her tell this story before time runs out. It's a grim, awful story... one that helps to explain how she became so cold and bitter, and why, even though she starts out with a vision of the perfect family, she ended up jaded and alone in her early thirties. She isn't sure whether it will succeed or fail, and she doesn't care - she just wants it done right.

Helena Ross is probably one of the most unlikable characters I have encountered in a while. It's impressively done, I thought, especially since Torre manages to portray her sympathetically. It made me sad how she poured her whole life into her books at the cost of everything else. I felt like that was a cautionary tale - that creativity can make people selfish, blinded by their vision, and that it's important that one doesn't let work consume them or harden their heart. I found it very fitting that Helena was able to forgive herself and find release only when she finally let go of that need for control.

I can't say much more without spoiling the book, which I do not want to do. I think I can safely say that if you're a fan of Jodi Picoult or Jojo Moyes, you'll probably enjoy reading THE GHOST WRITER. It's emotionally manipulative in some ways, and definitely a tear-jerker (I won't lie - I teared up at the end), but it also makes some very insightful commentary on humanity, writing, family, relationships, and the importance of living one's life in the moment instead of behind a screen.

Or in a book.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

4 out of 5 stars

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