Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Framing Devices

I recently read a book (The Keep by Jennifer Egan, in case you're interested) which claimed to be about two cousins renovating a castle. It is a lot more interesting than it sounds, I'm deliberately over-simplifying it. And on the back cover, it goes into a little more detail about that, and throws in a mention of "a story within a story."

Except it turns out that this story, the one I think I'm buying, is the story within the story (by the way, this is not a spoiler, it's all made very clear in the first chapter and not a surprise then to anyone who bothered to read the blurb). The stuff about the cousins and the castle - which made me cry like a baby - was not the main body of the story at all. It was, for lack of a better word, filler. Now, that's going a bit far, I suppose, it was included for a reason, but the vast majority of the story is the other bit. To avoid a spoiler, I'll call it the writer's story. So we have the castle story and the writer's story.

My problem with this book? The castle story, the small part, was so much more interesting than the writer's story. I couldn't care less about that part of the story, I was only interested in the castle story. And that was a problem because I thought that was the book I was buying. I didn't realise that the story within the story was the one described in the blurb.

Have you ever been duped into buying a book thinking it was about one thing and discovering that it was actually about something completely different? Were you disappointed? Annoyed? Pleasantly surprised?

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