If I Could Tell You by Elizabeth Wilhide | Rating: ★★★☆☆
As a note, a printed galley of this novel was sent to me by the
publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my
opinions in any way.
Elizabeth Wilhide's novel If I Could Tell You is full of hits and misses for me and while I did enjoy myself a lot with this one, I also felt immensely underwhelmed by other traits. In many ways it's a highly compelling read with stylish prose and a solid plot. It has its moments of intrigue. In other ways, it is highly unobtainable in the sense that as a reader you may have difficulty connecting to the characters. Wilhide is very intentional in the way the story ties up and this is a plus, but there are many other qualities that put me off and caused my to walk away a time or two.
I think my problem with the novel was more-or-less in the characters and the way their characteristics were tipped at us. Something felt off about it and I couldn't really get past that from the get-go. I had a fun time with the plot whilst ignoring its flaws but at the same time you can't help but to get frustrated because it lands in a way that's neither here nor there.
You spend all that time getting to know the story without coming away with much. And at the end of the day it's mostly a quick read that warrants use during a book hangover, for example. It can be fun and captivating only to leave you feeling as though there could have been more to it. I don't personally like that in my historical fiction--but that's okay. Because despite my problems with it, again, I didn't hate it.
There were a lot of things to write home about. Her descriptions felt full of life and energy that made up for the lack of interest in characters. Historical fiction relies heavily on accurate portrayal and I thought Wilhide did quite well with it all. She definitely has a way with words when it comes painting the world as it was. Not only was the setting, the timeline, etc, vivid enough to draw you in for the duration of If I Could Tell You there were a lot of good things to be found in the general humour and style of it all. Where it failed in compelling characters or fascinating plot it made up for in other many other columns.
Ultimately it's got a bit of coming-of-age quality to it that adds a bit more to the leading character but it still isn't enough for me to say, "Oh. Wowza! Great characters!" and capture me in its plot. If I Could Tell You is perhaps a case of me just wanting a novel to be something more than it is--it fell short for my personal taste but that doesn't mean much at the end of the day. Because while I didn't feel necessarily attached to the central plots or characters, the writing was still good enough to keep me reading.