The Truth About You by Melissa Hill

At the hotel in Rome where we’ve been staying for weeks now, there are the usual common seating areas. Here one can find a few books on the coffee table, kindly left behind by previous guests so that other guests may enjoy them. This is only the second hotel where I’ve come across this; a spontaneous initiative where guests can drop off books they’ve read and pick up something else. But then I don’t travel often. The first hotel I came across this was the one we stayed in Phuket I think a few years ago. An entire bookshelf dedicated to this exchange thing, of books in various languages, mostly European.

Anyway, I got to enjoy two books this way here. The first I got my hands on was this The Truth About You. With its girly cover and title, it was easy to guess it was chick lit. For women who perhaps enjoy gossip articles to keep up-to-date about favourite celebrities, and who enjoy movies and tv and fashion. Stereotyping here, even though I a grown man pushing 40, enjoyed it.

A light pleasant read even though it was almost 400 pages long. I felt fascinated but a little detached, in the sense that I could not root for any of the characters. Which is okay since I’m not the targeted demography for this. I turned page after page from beginning to end, and I discovered no point from where I wanted to dive in. It was like watching a television show to while away the time. Observing, quietly content with what’s on for now. Perhaps an episode of a mid-season tv series I stumbled upon. I don’t know its history, and I probably won’t make a point to catch future episodes, but it’s interesting and enjoyable for now.

I imagine a lot of sweat goes into creating a novel, never mind whether it’s what snooty people consider high-brow or not. Like this one; there are so many characters to this. Three main ones and an endless stream of supporting ones. And the story is so layered , so much drama going on, and weaving in and out one another. When I think about it: how do you even begin to construct a story like this? So much hard work and talent needs to go into creating a novel. And then there’s the question of individualizing each of the many characters, crafting each of them a personality and purpose through action and dialogue. Movement and how they view things. Just a thought.

Another thing I find interesting is that it’s set in Ireland. I don’t know why that’s interesting. I have never been to the UK and I’m guessing in that part of the world, London/England are more heard about. Interesting perhaps because another recent novel I was reading halfway was by an Irish author (until I misplaced the book somewhere, distressing me as I loved that book) Harmattan by Gaye Shortland.

Then there was that Irish couple last week we crossed paths with. A middle aged couple with grown kids back home in Cork. They were staying in the same hotel here in Rome. They were so friendly and polite, and happily and enthusiastically relating the sights here they were enjoying. We ran into each other in a restaurant near the hotel, and they invited us to sit at their table so we can chat the entire meal. That was nice. We never did that before, making friends with other travellers to that extent.

Now, in the travel section of the clouds in my head, where the shores and mountains, the people and rain, the music and dance and long long walks of New Zealand already reside, Ireland unexpectedly glides in and parks itself there. I want to drop by Dublin and Cork for a week or two of sightseeing the next time I’m in Europe. Dubious when that is going to happen, but oh well good things start with a dream.


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