Book Review | My Heresy by Maryam Schonbeck

This is probably the most poorly written novel I’ve ever read, but I must admit that it was incredibly enjoyable to read. If the purpose of this book is to make you think, then My Heresy was ultimately successful – though not in the way the author intended. She does bravely attempt to tell the story of a consensual incestuous relationship between an adult woman and her adult brother. I’m sure many people would be quite put off by this topic, but I am just fine with any adult having consensual sex with another adult – without exception.

So, no, I was not plagued with moral questions throughout the book, nor was I clutching my pearls in disbelief . . . but I was left wondering a few things. Like, why didn’t the author take a few more ESL classes before writing this opus? Or at least hire an editor? Should I feel bad about the utter joy I experienced while reading this awkward, often hilariously bad prose?

If I were speaking to a person and they had a less-than-firm grasp of the nuances of the English language, I certainly wouldn’t laugh in their face. But when you write and publish a book? Well, by the sheer nature of publication you are inviting review of your words – especially when you provide a review copy to someone like me. So, strap in. Here we go. I’m about to make another author enemy.

Almost every sentence in this book is impressively bad and/or misguided. The author uses the word ‘haunches’ numerous times in ‘sexy’ situations. I don’t have an example flagged, but they go something like this, “As he kissed me, I felt his hands rubbing their way down my back, making their way to my haunches.” Yes, technically, according to the internet, ‘haunches’ can apply to either human or animal, but I have certainly never heard it used in relation to human sexy times.

Boy does this author love commas and strangely constructed run on sentences!

“Of course, Judge Allard, himself, was also, in some measure, protective over me.”

* * *

“His amazement turned into amusement when I, subsequently, with unquestionable elegance, lifted my skirt and vigorously pulled on the waist of my pantyhose, jumping up and down, kicking in the air. I’d bet he’d never seen that before.”

* * *

“Although we seemed to have discussed every subject under the sun, over lunch, the conversation had deliberately not included Robert’s mysterious morning in Nice, nor the conversation we had left unfinished, two nights earlier, on my terrace.”

So much of the story was just lists of things that happened, or lists of people and what they were up to.

“Tonight, there was Diana, my Australian friend, and her South Africa boyfriend, David, who didn’t speak a word of French. Emily and Claire spoke English fluently. Emily was half English, and Claire had gone to university in England. Sabrina, however, always appeared to be undergoing torture every time she spoke English. Her heartbreaking effort left her no mental force, whatsoever, to concentrate on coming anywhere close to pronouncing the words as English speaking people did – which was why those who weren’t habituated to her accent, usually had no clue what she was talking about.”

* * *

“I needed the paper on which he appointed me as his lawyer in the pending criminal case in which he was involved, in order to obtain a permit from the instruction judge to visit him in prison and to consult the case in court, at the instruction hall.”

There were also plenty of instances of her contradicting herself within a single paragraph, like the time she tells us how showers never take her long, except that sometimes they take longer – on account of being too replenishing to rush!

“Showering and changing never took me long. I was very fast in deciding what to wear, and I never wore makeup. I hated it. The few times I’d tried it, it had made me feel like someone had spread food all over my face and I kept wanting to wipe it off. My showers, however, sometimes took longer. Standing under warm water was too replenishing to rush.”

She also liked to repeat the same thing over and over again within a single paragraph.

“I hadn’t felt so happy in three years. It was the first time in three long years, that the joy of seeing my brother again hadn’t been overcast by the fact that it would all come to an end too soon, and he would leave again. For the first time in years, our time was not restricted.”

And then there were the numerous instances of her not quite grasping the meaning of a word. The most widely used example was “perceive/d,” which she thought meant the same thing as “saw.”

“I turned my attention back to the street, and searched for Robert. I perceived him speaking to someone. Then he stopped. They all ceased talking. It was very strange.”

* * *

“I stayed glued to the mattress, too embarrassed to get up. I was not ashamed of him perceiving me half naked, but uneasy about how it had happened.”

* * *

“They stood on the top of the wide steps for a while, talking, before walking in my direction. It was Robert, Judge Stephane Allard and Olivier Basset. They perceived me halfway through the square.”

I flagged more sentences in this book than I have in any other book, because virtually every sentence was perplexing. I’ll leave you with a few choice bits.

“I deliberately kept my mind filled with Robert and unceasingly sensed that profound chagrin inside me. It was a paradox, but I felt better that way.”

* * *

“On seconds thoughts, I decided I would.”

* * *

“Complications,” he answered, laughing. “You can ask himself, for more details.”

* * *

“Good idea. You can watch while I decorate the Christmas trees. Exceptionally, you’re even allowed to give me your opinion as I decorate.”

* * *

“Robert was leaning against my bedroom door with one shoulder, his arms crossed, glaring at me. His traits were hard.”

* * *

“He was in my kitchen, grilling a couple of steaks. . . “I hope you’re hungry enough for a big loaf of steak,” he commented without turning to me.”

* * *

“No matter how many times I breathed in her smell until it impregnated my entire body, it never sufficed.”

Overall, this was an incredibly enjoyable book to read, but for all the wrong reasons. I would highly recommend it to fans of The Room.

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