Ambitious people problems
Korelitz, Jean Hanff- The Plot
Sathian, Sanjena- Gold Diggers
These two books don't have anything to do with each other, really, but both have people who are taking huge risks for success. Both have protagonists who feel that they aren't measuring up, and are dissatisfied with their lot, and both resort to theft to rectify that. I read these books a few months apart, but I was recently skimming over my reading log and my mind linked the two titles.
In The Plot, down-on-his-luck writer Jacob Finch Bonner listens to one of his students describe an amazing plot. After the student dies, the writer takes the plot for his own. (This isn't a spoiler, by the way; you know that going in.)
In Gold Diggers, Neil closely watches his neighbor Anita, with whom he used to play and now has a crush on, and is jealous of her success. She's winning pageants and going to private school. He gets a clue to the possible secret of her success- alchemy- and takes some of the potion for himself. (Also not a spoiler. I knew most of that from reading a review).
I don't have much sympathy for ambitious people who will do anything to win. Sometimes it's an interesting enough story, but it usually puts me off. Both of these books, however, have an interesting hook- in The Plot, someone begins to threaten the author, sending messages that he knows that the plot was stolen. There's a mystery element- Jacob was so sure that no one knew because the student was paranoid about the plot being stolen. So, the author is trying to figure out who is sending the messages, which are becoming more and more threatening.
And Gold Diggers has the fantasy element- how is the alchemy being done, are they going to be found out, etc? This book is also about the immigrant experience, and about the main character's interest in Indian immigrants in America.
I didn't like any of the characters in either book. There was one fairly sympathetic character in Gold Diggers, but I can only think of one and no one in The Plot. I didn't feel sorry for the writer when he was stuck or when someone was coming after him over the theft. It was interesting to see who knew and how- I liked the mystery in it, just none of the characters.
Both books let me down a bit, but in fairness, The Plot was really hyped when it came out and Gold Diggers was on a bunch of best books lists, so expectations were really high. Thinking back on them now, after thinking of them together, I think that I actually like these books together more than I did reading them individually.
The Plot is worth a read if you like books with suspense and amateur sleuths or literary mysteries. Gold Diggers has a coming-of-age element and is also about the experiences of second-generation families from India, which was interesting.
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