Review of “Neighbors” by Danielle Steel

I’ve seen paperbacks by this author all my life, in airport book shops and bookstores. I never read one of her more than 100 books (I guessed at the total but they’re listed on the frontispiece), so I figured I might as well. If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know I don’t have very high standards. Still, for Danielle Steel to still be on the shelves, her books must be pretty popular. The back cover claims that she’s sold almost a billion copies of her novels. That’s quite a feat.

I’m not sure how to begin. I didn’t find a single cut-and-paste error or misspelled word. Commas weren’t randomly distributed and the grammar and punctuation were textbook correct. Either the author is extremely careful or she has an outstanding copy editor. For all I know, she may write on an old Remington typewriter, like I started out on as a child (from the photo on the back, she looks old enough).

This novel reads as if it were written by a third-grader, for a third-grade audience. Most of the sentences consisted of a main clause, followed by a “comma” and “and,” followed by an often-unrelated clause that had nothing to do with the original topic of the sentence. A few “buts” were thrown in, possibly as afterthoughts.

I have never read a book as repetitive as this one. Material from chapter one was still being repeated (for the tenth or twentieth time) in the last chapter; sometimes a detail about a character’s background or personality was repeated in the same paragraph! And I thought the Qur’an was repetitive (actually, it wins the prize…so far).

This is an outstanding example of why it is a really bad idea to use an omniscient narrator, especially with a lot of characters. The narrator was head-hopping (sharing the thoughts and motivations of different characters within a short span of words) so much I got dizzy, going so far as starting a sentence in one mind and ending it in another. And there were a lot of minds to invade, at least ten, probably a dozen if you count late-comers.

Because of the omniscient narrator, there was no surprise in what passed as a plot. The reader knows all about everyone, long before they can show their true colors. What a sham! I found myself wondering what meaningless scenes would fill the remainder of the book long before I reached the half-way point.

Needless to say, every one of the ensemble cast of characters was sorted out and either sent to Heaven or Hell by the end. If you like simple stories with no suspense and happy endings, this novel is for you. And there are so many others to enjoy, as listed in the frontispiece photo above. For me, I’d rather read a poorly written novel with some surprises and (hopefully) a plot rather than third-grade prose.

Have fun…

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