A review of A Love Noire by Erica Simone Turnipseed.
The title and the description on the inside cover made me raise my eyebrow a little bit. But I could not help but to be interested! The author is a scholar, and the character seemed to be living the life of my personal alter-ego -- a Ph.D student at NYU studying comparative literature. I mean, sounds good right? Well, it's okay. The book and the story have promise, but this may also be the story of an author who just tried too hard.
First hint that she tried too hard -- the character's name is Noire Demain, which is literally translated as "Black Tomorrow." For a self-described bohemian woman who shuns the black elite (Noire, not me), I thought the name was a little pushy. Too convenient. Cheesy, even. Second hint? The prose. Meaningless poetic sketches and clouds of incense and sexual haze. (That was my attempt to imitate the prose, but take a read and see for yourself.) I can only take so much of words that sound pretty but mean very little.
Third hint of good intentions gone awry? Forced conflict. Noire is in love with a man named Innocent from Cote d'Ivoire, Africa. (Again with the names! Innocent?) Innocent is supposedly the opposite of Noire -- rich and sophisticated, and a member of the black bourgousie. She's too artsy for him and he's too "mainstream" for her. But the only reason that I know that she and Innocent had conflict in their relationship is because the author says so. And that wasn't enough! The author never shows the conflict, using scenes and actions and dialogue. Noire and Innocent argue incessantly about differences, but there are curiously few scenes in which these "differences" are made clear to the reader. Noire's problem is apparently that she's too intense and passionate, and Innocent isn't -- I think because he's rich and hangs with other rich people. Huh? As a reader, I know I'm just supposed to accept that, but I just couldn't. I was always thinking, "What was the big deal?" I never understood what happens that makes them argue. Instead, I just got to read a lot of sex scenes.
Lastly, Noire was too confused to be likable -- for me. I can't figure out why in the world she thinks that an artistic and passionate nature are the antithesis of wealth and professional achievement. In fact, everyone in the story seems to fall for that tired stereotype. But even rich people can be passionate and eccentric. In fact, I think that the richer they are, the more eccentric they can be -- without risking being put into a straight jacket. Maybe all the missing pages ended up on the editor's floor. But in the end, I think that A Love Noire is a good story that nevertheless fell short.