I received a copy of this book for review from the author.
Official Summary from Goodreads
“PAL is a fast-paced yet poignant character-driven novel riding waves of romance, drama, and wit in a manner reminiscent of David Nicholls’s books (One Day)—and set in the exciting world of several vibrant Romanian artists and musicians.
Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, seems to find more joy in her feminist-inspired work and her piano playing than in the people who care about her. Ela, a piano teacher turned book reviewer, hopes to discover the key to happiness and a more meaningful life through studying the workings of the mind and crafting poems about emotions she trusts will lead her to a better place. Joining them in beauty and blindness is Pamfil, a violinist who dabbles as a singer and lives mostly for the moment and his monthly parties. As they follow their passions, they find themselves on treacherous journeys to love and happiness, and are slow to figure out how to best tackle their predicaments. Fortunately, their lovers and friends are there to help . . . but then a newcomer complicates things.” – From Goodreads
Before the author reached out to me, I had never heard of this book. As someone whose background is distinctly non-artistic, I was excited for the change of pace that this book would give me. Disappointingly, this was far from the escape from my daily life I had hoped it would be. Between clunky dialog, an overcrowded (and generally unpleasant) cast of characters, a boring plot, and poor writing, I really had to push myself to even finish this book.
Poets, Artists, Lovers reads a lot like a rough draft. It feels like it’s missing a lot of the fleshing out that often happens in later drafts. The writing itself was sub-par – there was misuse of words, plenty of run-on sentences, and a bounty of questionable grammar. One of my biggest qualms was the the fact that the book overused convoluted and over the top language where a more simplistic style was warranted. Additionally, a lot of time was spent focusing on the minute and unimportant details, such as what song was playing or where the cherries came from for a pie. This was seemingly at the cost of properly describing the scene and what characters were actually doing. There was barely any plot, and the addition of time jumps just muddied the waters.
One of the reasons I couldn’t get into this book was the awkward dialog. Characters would spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the most mundane, boring things. It felt like when you’re on a bad first date and you’ve run out of things to talk about, so you resort to talking about the weather or how nice the napkins at the table are. A lot of the conversations were just series of non sequiturs and did nothing to move the plot forward. There were times where characters would also have multi-page conversations about philosophy or the chemistry of the brain or the weight of other characters. These topics had little to no relevance to the plot or the development of the characters, but they still make up the vast majority of the book.
This was one of the most self-important books I’ve ever read. Between the constant philosophical conversations and the sweeping declarations about life characters would make, it’s clear that the book was trying to be quote worthy. Trying to muddle through what felt like regurgitations from an intro to philosophy textbook was exhausting. Every moment and conversation was trying to be profound, but it came off as preachy and reaching for a deeper meaning that did not exist most of the time.
The characters in this book range from one dimensional to problematic. This speaks to the overstuffed nature of the cast. The book kept introducing more and more characters without spending any time developing the already existing ones. For example, each character was artistic in their own way – but apart from mentioning their chosen art, those traits never really get used as a part of their character. They also tended to act inexplicably – I couldn’t suss out motivations for any of the main characters. Why were they upset in a particular scene? Why did two characters break up? The lack of character definition really prevented me from becoming invested in this book.
One thing I’m not a fan of is cheating. The way the characters handle cheating in this book was beyond bizarre to me. It was downplayed and treated like no big deal, which I really don’t understand. The relationships between characters in general were just odd and under-defined. I also detested Pamfil as a character. He, on multiple occasions, pursued (and in one case, kissed) 16 year old girls while he was well into his 20s. This was highly predatory behavior that was only ever addressed as Pamfil just being Pamfil. None of the other characters really made a lasting impression outside of Pamfil. Most of them weren’t fleshed out past their name and their chosen art. On that note – the fact that all of the characters were a form of artist had no actual impact on the story of the book, they could have been students, or lawyers or engineers and none of the plot would be impacted.
At its very core, the idea of a book about the intertwined lives of several artists is an interesting one, however, this book failed to deliver on that premise. 1/5.