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2016 TBR Pile Challenge: The Little Book

Sometime last year, I started reading Selden Edwards’ The Lost Prince. A few pages in, it became clear to me that this was actually the second book in a series. It wasn’t the kind of book that worked as a standalone so I needed to read the first book.

The Little Book was the first book. As an impetus to actually get it read, I put it on my 2016 TBR Pile list.

Remember when I walked away from The Grapes of Wrath?

And then I had so much trouble with The Slap?

The Little Book was more of the same but I couldn’t walk away from it because I thought I had put The Lost Prince down as one of my alternates for the challenge. Turns out, I didn’t. The Little Book WAS one of the alternates and so I didn’t actually have to finish this book but I thought that I did and so I did. Even worse, really.

little book

The Little Book starts out so promising. Wheeler Burden’s mother tells readers that her son, a modern era rockstar, somehow went back in time to Vienna in 1897. His actions there changed the future of his entire family. This is that story.

Awesome, right?

The Little Book was all over the place. One chapter you’re in Vienna with Wheeler, the next you’re back in Wheeler’s childhood, or at his Boston boarding school in the middle of the 20th century. Then you’re reading about his father’s life during WWII. I don’t mind jumping around like that normally, but something about the way this was done rubbed me the wrong way.

There were also a number of scenes that made no sense to me – why were they included? Like when Wheeler wanders into a closed off area of a museum and runs into a mourning Empress Elisabeth starting at a portrait of her dead son. Or why Wheeler has a wooden Frisbee made at all. Literally the only reason is so that he and his dad can play with it in the park in 1897.

Oh yeah, he meets his dad, a fellow time traveller in Vienna.

I think the thing that most bothered me is when Wheeler makes the decision to sleep with his grandmother.

Yeah. That’s a thing that happens. His grandmother in 1897 who turns out not to actually be his grandmother by blood. But if you grew up knowing a person as your grandmother, she is your grandmother and you don’t sleep with her.

My quarrel isn’t with the writing of this book. Edwards has carefully crafted a novel – I think it says in the Afterword that it took him 30 years to piece it together. It’s impeccably researched as well – Vienna comes to life in all its intellectual glory. It reminded me a bit of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

But the narrative arc, the lack of any real plot (yeah there’s time travel but to what end? Everything is so accidental), and the seriously poor judgment of some of it’s characters…this one frustrated the hell out of me.