Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dirty Work by Julia Bell

This is another book told through two different narrators and this time it wasn't as bad as the last time (see Dream Factory). The narrators, Oksana and Hope, come from two different backgrounds and their stories don't overlap as much as before. This novel tells the story of two young girls who end up working in a brothel. Oksana is on her way to London, already a part of the brothel business and, in attempts to escape, brings Hope into her troubled life. Hope, who tries to help Oksana, ends up being kidnapped and an unwilling participant in the situation. Lucky for her, her father is a businessman and she knows people will actually come to look for her. Oksana, on the other hand, is poor and more or less meaningless to the people around her. Most of the story is told by Oksana and most of the novel is focused on how she got sucked into that world. The gist of her story is that she was drawn into the illusion of a wealthy man who promised her a job but ended up tricking her. She's admitted defeat but Hope won't give up without a fight.

The novel wasn't as powerful as it could have been. In fact, I almost felt as though it's just a watered down version of a more compellig story. Part of the reason I picked up the book in the first place is I read a book (Vanish by Tess Gerritsen) that has a brothel being a part of a bigger story. Even though that's an adult novel, the approach got to me emotionally involved. It made me angry and sad and I really felt for the characters. I could feel their pain. Yes, at times it was explicit but it did the story justice. I didn't walk away for this story as emotionally invested as the previous one. The harsh reality of the story wasn't that bad. Aside from being kidnapped and forced to live in a small room, nothing terrible happened to Hope. She got off easy, which irritated me just a little bit. And what Oksana was forced to endure was overlooked except for one scene that was somewhat vague. The recommendation from Kevin Brooks on the front claims this book is "Shocking and blunt" but I didn't feel that way. I'm not saying I wanted to read the dirty details (I don't mean to be morbid), but there needed to be more pain to have the emotional impact I think the book wants to accomplish. At the same time, I felt as though there was too much on Oksana's past and, in a way, it slowed the story.

In my opinion this novel wasn't as strong as it could have been. Maybe I'm a little jaded and morbid from a different novel with a similar subject, but this novel didn't affect me as much as I was before. The characters were captivating (Oksana more so than Hope because she received more face time) and you did feel for them. The book itself was good but I wouldn't call it the best.

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