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…it needed to be told in half the time. One problem is that the author follows too many characters who she tries to flesh out.
Therein lies the second problem. While I love narrative nonfiction, with this book I think she used too many fictional techniques in trying to bring the characters to life. I thought over and over that there was no way the author could know X. She’s in a person’s head describing thoughts and feelings she couldn’t know. She’s in a closed room, describing actions nobody saw. For example (this isn’t direct from the book, but it is representative of a scene in the book): Dr so-and-so stood in his empty office. He was grumbling as he dug through his messy desk drawer looking for an X-ray. Once again, he wished he were more organized and felt like a failure in the organization department. He ran his hand through his black hair, slicked back with hair pomade, scowled at the greas on the palm of his hand, wiped it off on his brown tie, and said, “Now where did I put that x-ray?” and continued to dig.
While I understand the author used original source material, examples like the above run rampant throughout the book. Are we to believe that material exists from the 1920s where we know what the doctor, alone in his office, was doing, thinking, feeling, wearing? I think not. She does this with about every single character--and like I said, there are a ton of people in the book.
Also, many repetitive gruesome descriptions of what happened to “the girls.” Had I been reading, I would have skimmed. Just a ton of repetition in general.
The author (English) narrates her own book and did a very nice job. It’s usually a disaster when novelists read their own fiction, but it seems nonfiction writers are much better at reading their memoir or nonfiction.
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