Jodi Picoult’s THE TENTH CIRCLE narrated by Carol Monda

Hmmm. I feel a bit mixed about this one.

The positives for me were the link to Dante (one of my favorite authors) and how Jodi Picoult’s wonderful imagination created a Tenth Circle of Hell for the self-deceptive, for the people who lied to themselves, who pretended that everything was just fine when it was not, thereby avoiding asking themselves tough questions, and stifling their spiritual growth.

I was also grateful that we were spared yet another series of courtroom scenes with their clunky dialogue and predictable tag-lines (“he moved towards the jury”) which have ruined the endings of too many of Jodi Picoult’s novels (including VANISHING ACTS and PERFECT MATCH.)

So that was on the plus side. The minus side was (again) the pacing. As in VANISHING ACTS, the major crisis of the novel (Trixie’s rape) is presented way too early, squandering the tension of the novel. And, as many readers have remarked, the novel ends too abruptly, making the ending hard to believe.

I read somewhere in an interview with Jodi Picoult, that it takes her NINE MONTHS to write her novels. Wow! I thought at the time. That is truly amazing.

But as the novels have gone on, as their formulas have become clichés, as their pacing has becoming more and more problematic, I think that Ms. Picoult’s many problems with her novels is that she simply doesn’t spend enough time editing them.

If she writes her novels in 9 months, she must write wonderful first drafts, way above the quality of most writers in terms of fluency and content. And presumably it is these first drafts (with a little tweaking) that she puts out there for her readers to buy.

But at a certain point, authors have to put on their editor’s hats:

  • They have to build the narrative arc.
  • They have to build tension.
  • They have to make the beginning provocative, by cutting up the story up into pieces and feeding it to the reader bit by bit in tantalizing morsels.

People love Jodi Picoult novels because she writes about cops, firemen, teachers, lawyers and others who knit our modern American small towns together. Readers see themselves, their lives, their emotions reflected in a Jodi Picoult novel.

But her lack of editing destroys the pacing. There is little tension in Ms. Picoult’s most recent novels, THE TENTH CIRCLE and VANISHING ACTS, because she does her big reveal (Trixie’s rape,  Delia’s kidnapping by her father) way too early, just as you would if you were writing that first draft. This lack of tension is why so many readers find these novels boring. Which is a great pity. Three stars. #jodipicoult #thetenthcircle