Plot holes or an Improbable Plot: One book I loved anyway, one I did not


Earlier this week, I reviewed The Jane Austen Society, a new novel that I enjoyed, but found troubling for its lack of attention to historical facts and speech and manners of the time of the story’s setting. Today I’m looking back at two other books that had such problems–one I still liked very much, the other I did not but did manage to finish.

First The One I Loved Anyway



Here is a slightly edited version of my review–I read the book when it came out.

This book is BEAUTIFULLY written, the characters are REAL and VIVID as is the life they lead. The emotions conveyed are real, too–at least to me. I understand them. I was a bit dumbfounded that the author has a Scot question just how a man can fight in a kilt! What else have they EVER fought in?? That was the only silly thing.

The problem I had with the book was how a young MARRIED woman on the tiny Isle of Skye manages to avoid gossip in her small town when she’s receiving letters from an American MAN in 1912. And that the author manages to almost not mention that she is actually married to a living man for quite some time into the story. But that she blatantly goes off to cheat on her husband while he’s in the trenches of World War I doesn’t stir up gossip on the Island of Skye is downright amazing.

I CAN accept a woman in 1912 questioning if motherhood is the only path or that women were specially made to be mothers, but that letter seemed written to pass the political correctness test–as did the mention of someone referring to a man as a “pansy.”

In spite of this, the prose is lovely, the characters are real and the scenes are all well developed. I enjoyed it a lot.





There was just oh so much wrong with this book. You could even start with the title! Here’s an edited version of my review that points out all that was wrong with this mess of a book. Where was the editor?

This book told thru letters and diaries and was favorably compared to the Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Club: A Novel –which still baffles me. I imagine the fact that both are set in World War II and both are in the United Kingdom (or at least WERE in the United Kingdom before the Nazi’s invaded in the case of the excellent Gurnsey book) and that both employ an epistolary narrative must have been enough for the intern charged with writing the blurb on the back of the book. I expected to love this book. I did like certain moments of it, but found it just too much of an improbable mess of storylines to be lovable.

The Story:

The beginning of the book is all about the trauma of the choir being disbanded by the vicar due to a lack of men left on the home front to sing. This is promptly forgotten except for occasional mentions of the choir here and there until the last chapter. I never really understood how they were supposed to be this uplifting thing, let alone the focus of the story.  Sadly, this is where most reviewers must have stopped reading.

The characters are mostly stereotypes. The matron with the double-barrelled name and the son in the RAF. The Brigadier’s down-trodden wife, who is magically pregnant right as their 20-year-old only son is killed. Their gorgeous debutante-aged daughter, their younger daughter, and a still younger Jewish refugee foster-daughter round out the family.

Everyone from his silly wife to the villagers is of course afraid of him. He carries a crop. Of course he does. Apparently, though, the author has never heard that a “horse whip” (as she calls it) of the kind stereotypical British Brigadiers go around thwacking against a thigh or a lover’s bottom is known as a  “crop.”  Surprisingly he doesn’t have a Labrador. Must have scared the poor thing off. Anyway, this man is silenced by a lady who previously would have cowered in a dark doorway to let him pass. Such is the magic imparted by a good cuppa and an air raid or two.

Then there’s the amazingly modern P.C. elements. The first patient treated from the Dunkirk evacuation is, wait for it…. openly gay (at least he is open about it with the helpful nurse) and, at a time when men went to prison for being gay,  he trusts a total stranger to return his male lover’s ring–and she does it. I’m fully aware that not everyone thought this should be illegal  (nor should it be)–it is just so typical of the immature storylines here. Then the silly young man outs a spy to her! He’s working FOR the spy’s headquarters. You’d think the Brigadier would be right there to beat him with his crop or blast him with his Purdys but no! Plus a spy, working for the same outfit, tells female his lover his secrets! Good grief.

Then there’s the flouncing out being done to epic levels by the double-barrelled matron’s RAF pilot-officer son when he, too, is done wrong! Epic. But wait! There’s more! He gets to flounce in a letter to the maid he’s just used to get over the debutante who did him wrong. Are you following all of this? But, its about the choir, Silly! Remember the choir? I don’t.


The Good:

Not much. I suppose I liked a few of the people. Mrs. Tilling and her lodger, Colonel Mallard (spellings may be off since I listened to the book). Baby Rose seemed sweet. Sylvie, the little refugee girl. Tom, the London boy out hop-picking and maybe someone else. I’m too exhausted trying to keep them all straight. Baby Lawrence was obviously crying because he couldn’t cope with it all–and him part of the most ridiculous storyline of them all. Poor lad. Not even a Labrador to snuggle.

The Bad:

The story is such a mess of intrigue, plotting, and boredom that I had trouble keeping everyone straight. The whole thing makes Downton Abbey’s Bates mess seem trifling. Someone–the younger daughter? The refugee girl? Says, just before the retreat to Dunkirk occurs, something like “at least we have got all routes covered” [“we” is the nearly doomed British Army].  Very prescient. Very wrong, too.  Lots of stuff like that. “It’s officially now ‘The Battle of Britain’,” is actually said out loud. Yes. That kind of thing. Praise for Churchill, but no memory of all the upper-class twits who were British Fascists and appeasers and loathed him and were still leery of him in 1940.


2 stars

Do you have any books like this? Plot holes, historical errors, etc, but you still liked them? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

10 thoughts on “Plot holes or an Improbable Plot: One book I loved anyway, one I did not

  1. I will say it again — some big publisher is really missing out not hiring you as a technical/historical editor for their historical fiction books. Seriously! That is, if they even care enough about accuracy in what they publish …
    The gay thing reminds me of Thomas in DA — especially the movie — being so “out and proud.” Really? In what, 1920s England?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah on Thomas–I nearly turned it off the first night lol. I’m glad I didn’t though. The aristocracy was the one place he could get away with it though–think of that Duke! In 1920’s was far more believeable than in 1912 when it started. Still, he ended up changing quite a lot as he grew up. And, Master George loved him! [And he protected Sybie from that horrid Nanny]


  2. I also loved Letters from Skye (don’t know why I’ve never read any Brockmole since, to be honest). I had wanted to read the other book because, well, I have a very musical family, I adore historical fiction, and this is an era that always seems to inspire good stories. But… if the choir is so sidelined and the characters are so predictable… I guess I’m not missing anything. Thanks for this – I really enjoyed reading your analysis (and you made me laugh, too)!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir was one I was initially interested in but I disliked the patronising attitude of the Guernsey … so when it started being compared with that, I lost interest. Now I’m glad of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I mostly enjoyed Chilbury except for the improbable baby plot…ridiculous! And It’s so obvious when a contemporary agenda infuses the story.
    You probably didn’t read The Spies of Shilling Lane by the same author…..improbable storylines from beginning to end….it reads like a sitcom! Definitely not one I recommend!

    Liked by 1 person

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