Saturday, September 10, 2011

If You Could See Me Know by Cecilia Ahern

I tried to start reading this a couple times, and I felt like the beginning was just too much.  Too much information, too forced, and I didn't really like the writing.

But because I've put down a few books lately, because the main character is named Elizabeth Egan (!), and because I liked the idea of the plot, I kept reading.  Honestly, the whole first half kind of got on my nerves.  I think the story was OK, but the writing style and the characters kind of bugged me.

Elizabeth has had a sad life.  Her mom abandoned her family, she mostly raised her sister and her dad is emotionally distant.  And now she is raising her nephew because her sister is terrible mess. Elizabeth is kind of a control freak, but is successful in her career and her younger life is revealed haphazardly throughout the book.  Her nephew meets an imaginary friend "Ivan" who take turns with Elizabeth in telling the story.  So because she is lonely and needs him, eventually Elizabeth can "see" Ivan and their friendship helps to relieve some of the sadness and pain in her life.  Imaginary friends come to help children with what they are struggling with and he does the same for Elizabeth.

Because I knew what the story was about, I decided to follow the book through to the end.  I know some people love it, so you might too.  But for me there were just too many annoying things.

There is a meeting of the Imaginary Friends, and they all give a report of their friend they are helping.  The conversation is so trite.  Like maybe the author looked up reasons kids have imaginary friends, then created the profiles by going down the list.  It was dumb.

Then there's this cheesy conversation between Ivan and Elizabeth when she's trying to figure out what his job is.  In fact a lot of the conversations between them are supposed to be clever with Ivan attempting to answer her literally as she misunderstands over and over.  Assuming he's Sam's dad, then assuming he's a silent partner, that he works with children, etc.  It was annoying to me.

So many times I felt like the whole character of Ivan was a copycat of Will Ferrell's character in Elf, and maybe even a little borrowed from Tom Hank's character in Big.  Like a child trapped in an adult's body, but most of what he says seems really profound, and only sometimes ridiculous.  Everytime he says things like, "spinning is my favorite"  I couldn't help but hear Will Ferrell's Buddy's voice.  Not very original.

I will say that the overall idea and story is heartwarming.  The idea that Ivan could fill a void in Elizabeth's life and help her learn to love again, is very sweet.  There is this moment of clarity when Elizabeth relives a tragic moment from her childhood, that seems to embody all her fears, and give her all the answers she's been running away from.  I felt like it was almost great.  It was a little too tidy for me, and the writer was trying too hard for me to really get into it.

Here are a couple of sweet quotes.

"My special power is friendship.  I listen to people and I hear what they say.  I hear their tones, the words they use to express themselves, and most importantly, I hear what they don't say.  Sighs and silences and avoided conversations are just as important as the things you do talk about."

"Those were the best times because her mother would be in one of her happy moods, delighted to be home, telling Elizabeth how much she'd missed her, smothering her with hugs and kisses so much that Elizabeth couldn't remember ever feeling sad."

I read the back flap of my library copy of this book and learned two things that say a lot.

A) Cecelia Ahern is 24.  Or was when the book jacket was made, which means that she was even younger when she wrote this.  Maybe her writing with improve with age.  (PS.  She wrote the book P.S. I Love You)

B) Film rights to this book have been bought by Walt Disney Pictures.  I bet they could make a pretty good movie out of this story.  With the right editing, it could be a really good story, the book just didn't pull it off in my mind.


Kai said...

EXCELLENT critique of this book & I totally agree! I just finished THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS where the central character is a young woman whose life has been a series of disappointments. Her 'Ivan' is flowers. It was really wonderful! IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW is definitely a terrific IDEA for a story. But, as you said, it wasn't well executed. Made ME want to write the story in another way. Hmmm ... that's not necessarily a BAD thing! LOL! Inspiration, challenge ...!

Sharlene, Mom, Grammy said...

Hmmmm. Very interesting critique here. I think I'll skip the book and watch for the movie to come out. :) :)

Kammy T said...

Thanks Kai, I'll have to look that up!