Does The Beautiful Bureaucrat Live Up To the Hype?

August 13, 2015 Uncategorized 20

Does The Beautiful Bureaucrat Live Up To the Hype?Title: The Beautiful Bureaucrat
Author: Helen Phillips
Source: NetGalley
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Summary: The world building was beautiful, but the plot would have held up better as a short story.

‘In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as “The Database.” After a long period of joblessness, she’s not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings. The office’s scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality. The drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.’ (Source)

I hate to be a downer, but the short answer to the question of whether this lived up to the hype is no, not for me. I read lots of rave reviews and was tantalized by the comparison to Murakami, but ended up falling out of love with this book halfway through. The author does create a world that reminded me of 1Q84. It’s almost the real world, but slantwise. Just a little off. Just close enough to believable to draw me into its surreal beauty. The writing was enjoyably unique.

After the delightful set up, the book dragged for me. It took Josephine a long time to figure out the purpose of her job even after it became obvious to me. A lot of the weirdness never connected to the story. The word play wasn’t always clever or meaningful enough to seem more than a distraction. At the very end, there was a fun, clever explanation for everything, but it wasn’t enough to justify the build up. Even though this novel was less than 200 pages, I thought it was too long. It would have made a wonderful short story, but the filler in the middle dragged it down.


20 Responses to “Does The Beautiful Bureaucrat Live Up To the Hype?”

    • DoingDewey

      It makes me really happy when a negative-ish review makes someone else interested in a book. I like how we all like different things and even a ‘bad’ review can help someone find something. And I do recommend it based on 1Q84! A lot of other people loved the plot and the feel of the book did remind me a lot of Murakami.

    • DoingDewey

      I’m always happy to see less glowing reviews of books it seems like everyone loves for that very reason! It does help manage expectations 🙂

  1. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I was wondering when I’d finally see someone not love this one! I did love it, but it’s so weird that I figured it wouldn’t be for everyone. I also loved 1Q84, but didn’t really see that comparison as I was reading TBB..but now that you mention it, I can kind of see it.

    I didn’t guess the overall ending, so that was exciting for me. But, I did guess a small part of it.
    Sarah’s Book Shelves recently posted…Read One, Skip One: Days of Awe and Kitchens of the Great MidwestMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I didn’t guess everything about the ending either, but the final reveal and aftermath felt incredibly rushed to me. I wish we’d spent more time on that and less time on just figuring out Josephine’s job, which for some reason just seemed like the obvious answer to me. It’s true that the weirdness didn’t work for me. Sometimes it does, but not in this case!

  2. Lauren

    I felt pretty much like you did, but I also completely understood why and how it did live up to the hype for other readers. As I was reading, I was thinking that parts of it were for me and other parts were not, but X was going to LOVE it. That’s not often the case with books that get high praise and then miss the mark with me. Many times I end up not understanding the hype at all. Here, I totally got it, and loved that Phillips wrote out of the box, but I knew early on it wasn’t in my wheelhouse, but firmly in that of others I know.
    Lauren recently posted…STRICTLY POSITIVE, PART DEUXMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      This was one where I didn’t even get it. I did love the writing at times, but there were also times I thought it was too strange or strange in pointless ways. I also found the plot very disappointing – too slow in the middle and not surprising enough at the end. I completely missed the tension some people felt while reading. I understand that we all don’t have the same tastes and don’t think people who liked it are wrong or anything silly like that, but I didn’t have the feeling you describe of seeing bits that I knew other people would love even though it wasn’t my thing. I know what you mean though 🙂
      DoingDewey recently posted…Blog Inc ReviewMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I really love magical realism, but I do like for it to feel like an integral part of the story. Here, I sometimes felt as though the other was being weird for shock value or just for the sake of being weird and I didn’t like that myself!

  3. tanya (52 books or bust)

    Thank you for your review. I really wanted to read this book, but then all the rave reviews made me more than a little skeptical. I know I’ll read it either way (i have it on hold at the library) but it’s good to hear some differing opinions on it.
    tanya (52 books or bust) recently posted…Outline by Rachel CuskMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I always feel the same way about less rave reviews of a book that seems to get nothing else. It helps to balance out the hype 🙂

  4. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    Hmm. That’s too bad. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews floating around the Internet, especially in the blogging world, but I guess not every book is for every person, right?