Last year, I wrote a post about the worst book I had ever read (Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey). Well… this year, I have read an even worse book: Danielle Steel’s Sisters (2007).
First of all, Danielle Steel is one of America’s highest-selling authors. Do high sales equal good writing? Absolutely not. I knew this going in, but I had never read a book by Steel before, and I figured I might as well give it a shot. After all, “Everybody reads Danielle Steel.”
Sisters is about, obviously, four sisters who move into an apartment together after a tragedy and a death in the family. Each sister is young, rich, and successful, and she is unfailingly optimistic, even in the book’s darkest moments (which aren’t really that dark). In other words, the characters are Mary Sues: perfect, idealized characters who are impossible to relate to because they’re so darn flawless. Supposedly, the rich, famous characters are one of the hallmarks of Danielle Steel’s writing, but it just doesn’t work for me as a reader.
The writing wasn’t good. At all. When the author established a fact about a character (Chris was caring), she repeated it. Not just once. But over and over and over again. Cliches abounded (Annie fell flat on her face, the ravages of time, eyes the size of saucers, etc.). Adolescent melodrama from characters who are not adolescents (she hated the world). A happy ending that felt contrived… it goes on.
The book had a lot of room for real drama and real conflict, but it never happened. The characters moved blithely along after their tragedy, and toward the end of the story, when bad things happened again, I didn’t really care because there didn’t seem to be much effect on the characters. They moved along just as happily as they did before.
I don’t think I’ll read a Danielle Steel novel again, but if I get that desperate for something to read, I might try one of her older novels just to see if the writing style is any different or better. Overall, I had the disheartening thought that if this author is a bestseller and has sold more than 570 million copies with such awful writing… makes me wonder if the “intelligent” readers are really that few and far between. (But then again, I suppose you really can’t expect most mainstream Americans to read Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Pynchon.)
However, the funniest part of the book was the description of a reality TV show that one of the sisters worked on. The show “catered to the lowest common denominator,” and that left me thinking, “Hm… maybe… like a Danielle Steel novel?”