The Woman in the Pyjamas, by Sarah Pond

The Woman in the Pyjamas by Sarah Pond

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Despite the premise and the very positive review that put this novel on my reading list, sadly, large parts were a chore to read.

The story starts with 40-year-old Daisy in an early-onset midlife crisis: Divorced and a single parent to her daughter Jess, she is unhappy with her life. So she starts doing teenager-style “challenges”, e. g. asking for a Pizza at Thorntons (which non-UK readers might not know is a confectionary store…).

During her self-discovery mission, Daisy first meets and dates Ryan. When they break things off, Daisy is disillusioned and looks for solace with her friends – especially her new friend Kate… The plot is paper-thin and there’s nothing original in it.

Sadly, the writing is graceless, grating and annoying – the language is wooden, stiff, and lifeless. Full of “X said”, “Y replied”, “Z looked” and so on. Repetitive sentence constructions, dialogues repeated in indirect speech, excessive use of passive constructions – there’s a lot wrong with the writing:

»Daisy danced with Kate and Eve, and a couple of Kate’s friends. They all seemed like a friendly bunch. Before this evening, Eve had explained to Kate why she wanted to get Daisy out of the house, and said that she wasn’t looking to meet someone, just relax a bit. ‘Daisy’s just lacking a bit of confidence. Her fifteen year marriage ended two years ago, and she hasn’t dated at all. She doesn’t think she’s attractive, and she’s worried about being rejected. She’s also worried about giving men the wrong idea if she asks them out. I just want to get her mixing with people and having a good time, so she can relax a bit.’
Kate said that she may be able to help. She had been there herself, and knew how it felt.

Pond also loves to use the same expressions over and over: “to let one’s hair down”, “what are you like”, “Only if you’re having one.” – everyone speaks similarly in this novel and everyone drinks. Especially Daisy—before a date, during the date, after the date. Wine plays such a prominent role in Daisy’s life, I was worried she might meet the love of her life at an AA meeting.

The dialogues themselves seem contrived, artificial and very, very old-fashioned:

»Daisy grimaced. ‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I could think about dipping my toe in the water.’
‘It’s more than your toe that needs dipping!’
‘Eve! What are you like? Anyway, it’s so many years since I went on a date, I wouldn’t know what to do. When I was dating, it was a case of waiting for the guy to ask out the girl.’

Remember, this book was published in 2018 and most likely takes place in the present. Daisy is 40 and thus pretty much exactly my age. At that time, it was by no means unusual for everyone to ask everyone out.

Throughout the entire narration, Daisy seems a lot older than she is supposed to be:

»Daisy wondered whether the pang she felt was one of jealousy. She told herself it was a touch of indigestion.«

We’re also constantly told (in addition to being shown) how everyone feels:

»As hungry as Kate was, she was trying to eat slowly to savour the wonderful flavours of the lasagne. ‘It has such a rich, full flavour.’«

Yes, we get it. This could have been formulated so much nicer and more concisely, like this:

»“This lasagne is delicious, so full of rich, full flavour,” Kate said, taking small bites to enjoy every mouthful.«

At times, Pond just writes weirdly:

»Ryan was watching Daisy. He said, ‘Thank you for coming out tonight. I’m really pleased you changed your mind.’«

I’ve read and heard “Thank you for coming over”, “Thank you for joining me”, “going out with me”, etc. – you get the gist. But “coming out”? Also: He was “watching her”? How about this instead?

»As Ryan gazed into Daisy’s eyes, he whispered, “I’m ever so grateful that you agreed to join me this evening. You’ve made me the happiest man alive by changing your mind.”«

Also, Pond cannot decide how to tell her story: An omniscient narrator? First-person narrative? She goes with the worst possible mix: Whenever a character is in dialogue, we also get thrown into their head and get their verbatim thoughts:

»Hi, I just…’ Cheryl came bursting through the door, and her face flushed crimson as she realised how bad her timing was. Daisy and Ryan. Wow.«

And every single character does that… So annoying.

The story is also way too long: The flashbacks to Daisy’s ex-husband, Stephen, are completely useless in terms of the story. Just like her short-term love-interest, Ryan – this entire story part, the office stuff – it’s just so trite, boring and meaningless, it should have been entirely cut out.

Despite all this criticism, a decent love story about how Daisy met Kate lurks beneath it, desperately struggling to get told. That garners this novel a well-meaning two out of five stars.

P.S.: From the author’s notes at the end: »Thank you for reading my book. I really hope you enjoyed it. If you did, I would appreciate you leaving me a review. If you didn’t, please can you never mention it again. Thanks.«

No, just because you don’t want to hear anything negative, I won’t spare you a review, Sarah Pond.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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