Paint it Black

July 18, 2008 at 9:57 pm (Books) (, , )

I recently finished reading “Paint it Black” by Janet Fitch, and I have to say, I was really disappointed.  The problem wasn’t so much that this book wasn’t good.  The problem was that this is Janet’s second book, and her first, “White Oleander,” is one of my favourites.  So, it’s not that this book is bad, it’s just that it isn’t as good as the last one.

The other problem I have with this book is a matter of setting.  This book was set in L.A. in the 1980’s.  The main character Josie is an art model.  She’s living in the punk scene.  She listens to music that I’m not familiar with. And music was a very important theme in this book.  She’s very casual with her recreational drug use.  Something with which I honestly have no experience.

I suppose really my problem with this book is that the environment is crucial to the story, but the assumption seems to be that the reader is at least passingly familiar with it.  I’m not.  It was little things; the year was never stated in the book (that I noticed) but the story begins just a few days after John Lennon was killed.  That’s the kind of thing that would set the timing perfectly for someone more familiar with the time/place/atmosphere, but didn’t help me.  I had to go look it up.  At best, given that info, I was able to narrow it down to the decade.

The book was depressing too.  It’s about the girlfriend and the mother of a young man who has just killed himself.  I really found it a downer.  Again, this was surprising to me, even knowing in advance (from the back cover) about the dark themes in the book.  It was so surprising, mostly because “White Oleander” also has a depressing set up (young girl’s mother sent to prison, her struggles with the foster system) but I don’t find that book a downer.  It may not be uplifting, but it doesn’t make me sad.

Overall, I’m not sorry that I read Paint it Black. But I’m not likely to ever read it again.  And I am most definitely the kind of girl who rereads books.


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