Book Review

The Yellow House by Sarah M Broom

boooorrrrriiiiinnnggg

Reading this book took me almost 12 months.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I struggle to give up on books.

Even when reading a book that makes me feel, like, so bad that all positive examples of literature (the thing that I believe is the most important thing in the world) should never have existed, I will continue reading a book.

I have finished reading books that I have liked reading even less than I like talking to people I’m not being directly remunerated to engage with.

So, as someone who persists with reading books as a self-destructive act, my failure to abandon the yellow house speaks not to the book’s heartbreaking grip upon my conscience, but instead speaks to the completely misplaced yet compelling presentation, blurb and reputation of what is without a doubt one of the most boring books I’ve ever read in my life.

This book is not a novel, nor is it the close emotional depiction of lives damaged by hurricane Katrina, nor is it the in-depth biography of a house that it also promises to be. It is also not the biography of a plot of land, nor a biography of a family, nor an autobiography, nor a history of New Orleans using one particular family as microcosm, nor is it a detailed narrative about the ins and outs of running an NGO that works with people in Burundi.

It’s a book that endeavours, pretends, claims and gestures towards all of these things, yet never quite manages to decide which one it actually wants to be.

If you’ve ever read a ghost written book, it has that same feel to it: someone writing down the unfiltered and context and content weathered anecdotes spewed out by someone who is dangerously used to never being interrupted.

I kept picking it back up, I kept starting a chapter and each one tends to place Broom or Broom’s family in a new setting or situation, but there was just insufficient content about the things in her life that were interesting (running an NGO, going from lower middle class roots to media prominence, working at the New Orleans mayoral office during the post Katrina rebuild, being the youngest child of 12, her elder brother’s drug addiction and totally forgiven intrafamilial theft etc) and far too much about things that weren’t interesting (school uniforms, trying to seem more middle class than they were, descriptions of minor house repairs etc).

This is a book that fails to express how interesting Broom’s life has been. There is no sense of perspective… because Broom’s family and her family home are interesting to her, she writes as if they are fundamentally interesting.

Isn’t it, yknow, just pretty passé to really like your family?

Why would anyone want to read about that?

The blanket forgiveness from the family offered to her brother for his near-constant theft to support his drug habit is treated as a given, rather than interrogated and explored as the incredibly generous, kind and exceptionally optimistic act that it was.

A person is not obliged to love people just because you’re related to them, and behaving as if that’s the case is something that allows for – and fosters – neglect.

This book is episodic, but every episode is less fun to see than the synopsis is to read.

The prose has the powerless vacuity of Roger Moore’s ghostwritten memoir.

This is a boring book that somehow manages to take genuinely exciting, unique and important experiences and insights and water them down amongst an incredibly old-school book of cheap, uninteresting, familial affection.

It reads like a celebrity memoir, but it isn’t written by a celebrity.

Don’t believe the hype.

Incredibly American. And I mean that in the sneeriest way possible.

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