Saturday, August 5, 2017

BOOKSHELF: R. WARE'S "THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10"


Dear readers! After a 2 year hiatus, I've decided to return to this blog and will try to slip back into things as best I can. Without further ado, this summer's reading list takes off with my late introduction to Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10, a novel some critics have posited as conceptually similar to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train. While I see the desire to lump Ware's novel with the these bestsellers, it falls short of the others in its narrative structure, uninspired reveal, and surprisingly lacking vernacular. To my great annoyance, it's written in first person, which I've found to be the weakest perspective to read & write from because of how unpolished it often sounds.

Our heroine, Laura "Lo" Blacklock, is a boozy, anxiety ridden, commitment phobic journalist for a travel magazine in London, who fills in for her boss on an exclusive luxury cruise through the Norwegian fjords. Right off, we are made to question her as a reliable narrator, for her intoxicated memories and emotional distress, massaged by a home robbery right before the cruise, bring on a wave of insomnia, further muddying the waters of her authenticity. Once on board, she borrows some mascara from, you guessed it, the woman in cabin 10, and the mascara serves as our proof that the mystery woman is not a figment of Lo's imagination. Convincing others on board, however, is a different matter. Lo does find a possible confidant in her ex, Ben, who is also on board for his work, but he remains both a confidante and a suspect well into the last chapters. Lo is adamant that she heard the woman thrown overboard into the frigid waters, but when she rings the alarm, all the physical proof of the woman's existence is gone, her cabin empty, scrubbed clean with no signs of occupancy. When we do find out who she was, her purpose, and perhaps untimely demise, it doesn't seem all that exhilarating. Ware spends so much time on structuring Lo's character, she foregoes the very ones who would have made this into a heart-pounding page turner. The mouthwatering opulence of the luxury cruise, its moneyed passengers with their quirks and decadent frivolities, the icy, foreboding setting of the fjords, are all robbed of their full Hitchcockian potential, especially by Ware's modest, almost infuriatingly barren lexicon.

What I did find incredibly fresh, was Ware's use of foreshadowing in the form of newspaper clippings, forum chats, and email exchanges at the end of every 'part' into which the chapters are divided. Reading an article about a missing journalist from a Friday paper when she is still very much with us in the story on a Tuesday, creates that splash of eeriness and dread I wish was sustained throughout the novel. Overall, The Woman in Cabin 10 is a decent throwaway read, the kind of book you take with you on a trip to keep you occupied, but it won't linger in your memory for long.


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