One of my friends recently recommended reading Danielle Steel's Matters of the Heart. She claimed that it was the best Steel book she had ever read. According to her it was a page turner, suspenseful, and a novel she couldn't stop reading even on her honeymoon this past June. With that kind of acclaim I had to give the book a shot.
Taking my friend's word, I began to read the book on an early flight out of Vancouver. I did manage to finish the book yesterday though I read the majority during my flights.
I must admit that at first I was a bit skeptical of this novel. I am an avid reader of Steel but I find her work repetitive. How many times does she have to reword the same sentence, allude to certain plot twists, or repeatedly mention a character's wealth? To me a Steel book has always been a source of cheap entertainment. Her work can be engaging, fun, and romantic... but it is not a ground shattering, award-winning piece of fiction by any means.
Matters of the Heart did live up to my friends praises. Steel expertly creates a love story between an isolated, but intelligent and well-balanced, woman and a sociopathic man. She illustrates the traumas of being in a physically and psychologically abusive relationship. Her descriptions are vivid, intense, and original. And, most importantly, she creates a fast paced and non-repetitive tale. This book manages to escape the downfall of many Steel novels, that being repetitive descriptions and dialogue.
Interestingly, the sociopathic man in Steel's work is portrayed as an acclaimed writer. Steel links the man's unbalanced behaviour to his writing by stating "it was why he wrote the books he did, all those dark characters lived in his head, and were different sides of him, the ones that didn't show" (Steel, p 275).
This reminded me of our previous discussion on how a library relates to one's personality.
Just how personal is a work of fiction?
Having written a little bit of fiction myself, I do believe that writing style and theme are more intricately connected to someone's personality than the books they store on a shelf. Writing comes from within a person and is a direct expression of their thoughts, censored or uncensored.
But even the notion that what someone writes reflects their own character is troublesome. Does that mean Steel is prone to affairs or Stephen King has murderous tendencies? The psychology behind writing is an interesting topic that I would like to explore.
Overall, Steel's novel is enthralling. Though a significantly darker tale, Steel maintains her tradition of captivating the audience and producing a quick read despite its many pages. I would recommend Matters of the Heart to those who are already familiar with Steel's work... and those, who like me, had become tired of her repetitive writing style.