I have been reading ‘The Town In Bloom’ by Dodie Smith, a book I picked up on a second-hand book market stall sometime ago. I now understand why its previous owner wanted rid of it… Shockingly, for anyone who knows me in person, I’m at a loss for words. This book was simply so generally tedious and mind-numbingly boring that I can’t think what to say about it it.
‘The Town in Bloom’ was one of those talented and rare pieces of ‘literature’ (if it qualifies as such) that made me detest every single character in it. I detested the main character ‘Mouse’, and her simpering diary entries were even more irritating. Sadly, her friends weren’t any better. ‘Zelle’ reacted far too well when she returned home to find Mouse and her friends shortly after they had broken into her home, and the idea of the four of them then becoming friends seems utterly ludicrous. Then there was Molly- never have I wanted to punch a literary character so much. I literally wished to hit her every time Smith churned out another line of badly-written dialogue for her to drawl. I was also a tad bemused that neither Mouse, Zelle or Lilian seemed concerned when she announced she was engaged to a man she met ‘less than three weeks ago’. I felt that, in comparison to her older friends, Smith at first tried to make Mouse seem far too sweet and innocent. However, her later affair with the smarmy Mr Crossway was just plain creepy! I detested ‘Mr C’ and thought he came across slightly predatory towards his young staff. I think I was probably the only reader to have sympathy for the long-suffering first Mrs Crossway.
I also disliked the way the book was written- Smith’s use of quaint language infuriated me and made the novel seem even more ‘simpering’. The narrative was incredibly bland, making me think this book was probably the 60’s equivalent of ‘chic-lit’. It was not that badly written and was hardly littered with mistakes, but it WAS blandly written. In fact, it was so bland that I honestly can’t think of anything else to say with regards to language.
The actual storyline of the novel was yet another aspect of it that was a let-down- the idea of a girl trying to make it in showbusiness is hardly a new or original idea and the storyline soon wore thin, becoming both predictable and melodramatic. The book has not aged well, as many of the issues discussed now seem far too ’60’s’ to hold any relevance in modern society. Events such as Mouse and friends breaking into Zelle’s house were utterly pointless and often had ridiculous build-ups. It was obvious that Mouse would find some way of performing on the stage, however briefly, and the trip to Suffolk was boring and unnecessary. The various characters’ affairs were vaguely shocking at first, but I soon grew tired of hearing about them and no longer regarded each affair as a revelation. After one of the shortest reviews I’ve ever written I have just one bit of advice for anyone reading this: if you’re considering reading the book, just don’t.