You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz | Review

Posted June 14, 2014 by Tara in Review /// 2 Comments

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz | ReviewYou Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Series: standalone
Published by Grand Central Publishing on 2014-03-18
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Literary, Psychological, Suspense
Pages: 448
Format: hardcover
Reading Challenges: 2014 100 Book Challenge
Source: Review copy from publisher
Goodreads

Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself. Devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice, her days are full of familiar things: she lives in the very New York apartment in which she was raised, and sends Henry to the school she herself once attended. Dismayed by the ways in which women delude themselves, Grace is also the author of a book You Should Have Known, in which she cautions women to really hear what men are trying to tell them. But weeks before the book is published a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only an ongoing chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

This book blurbs itself as the next Gone Girl, but as we have all learned by now, comparisons to bestsellers are rarely good for the present story. And I think the comparison does the novel a great disservice. See, I went into it expecting Gone Girl’s twists and turns and vile characters. What I got was 500 pages of thinking about things. 

I’m sure there are people out there who want to read such novels. People who love novels where they climb inside a single character’s head and listen to her every thought. People who want to experience the character’s past and her slow revelation that her life is not what she thought it was. Okay, great. But that’s not Gone Girl. I don’t want to hate on this book for being what it is, but it wasn’t what I expected. I picked this up at the beginning of my summer vacation expecting a thriller, and was on edge the entire time because I thought something craze-balls was going to happen. It never did.

Setting my own misguided expectations aside, I didn’t fall in love with the book as it is because I just didn’t care for the protagonist, psychologist Grace Reinhart. I certainly understand the concept of an unlikeable protagonists (I did love Gone Girl, after all), but I couldn’t tell if Grace was supposed to be unlikeable or not. She is completely oblivious to everything going on around her. She is completely capable of connecting the dots presented to her, but she buries her head in the sand. For a woman who thinks she’s smart enough to write a book about women who don’t notice the warning signs, I find this ridiculous. I know that’s the whole point of the novel, but Grace’s hypocrisy went beyond subtle and believable to “I blame you for your own ignorance.” 

The other (and final) criticism I have is that there were parts of the story that were just tedious, even for a non-thriller. Grace spends so much time thinking about every single detail of her life. The Christmas gift she gave the doorman. The old decor in the apartment. Things that were completely irrelevant to the plot. And with the pages and pages and pages of all the little details about her life with Jonathan, it was about 10% too much constant contemplation. I got so bored reading about Grace’s boring, perfect, privileged life and how entirely humble her little family was. Grace may feel humble and middle class in Manhattan, but she comes across as entirely wealthy and snobby to someone living a real middle class existence.

FINAL GRADE: D

If this had been labeled as contemporary fiction or women’s literature, I think the book would be representing itself better to potential readers. And it would actually be good! Korelitz is clearly a talented writer. There is a good story here if you like slow and in-depth development of characters. But it is not a Gone Girl-esque thriller. I would not have chosen to read a work of contemporary fiction at this point in my semester, and I was sorely disappointed that I was mislead. This is not the author’s fault (in fact, I may be quite at fault, here!), but it doesn’t change my personal rating of my experience reading the novel.

Tara

Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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2 responses to “You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz | Review

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  2. The blurb makes this sound so good… but this sounds A LOT like how I felt about Admission. A character who is too smart to be as dumb as she is, way too much introspection (to the point of tedium), but a kernel of a good idea and an interesting premise. I think I will be skipping her writing in the future… just not for me.

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