4 out of 4 stars
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Would you be willing to do something illegal and disreputable to achieve your goal, especially if you thought your dream would be crushed otherwise? That is the question that Ellen Pall leaves in her readers’ minds after reading Must Read Well.
Elizabeth Miller (Beth) was experiencing a horrible winter. To begin with, she planned to write her dissertation for her Ph.D. about three female novelists from the middle of the twentieth century who had an impact on the beliefs of women who had read their novels. These authors had advanced feminists’ issues in their own ways. Two of the women were happy to meet with her and provide personal information for her research. However, Anne Weil had rejected her request and had been impossible to meet, making it almost certain that Beth would be incapable of finishing her dissertation. Adding to Beth’s woes, her boyfriend just informed her that he was in love with another woman, and she was forced to move out of her home.
While seeking an inexpensive place to live, she found an ad for someone to read to an elderly, almost-blind female in her home. A private room and bath would be available for the reader. Beth was able to discern by certain clues that Anne Weil was the person placing the ad. Ecstatic, she applied for the job but, instead of giving her full name, said her name was Beth Miller. Additionally, she provided incorrect personal information, believing that Anne would not hire her if she recognized her true identity. She obtained the position and found out her job entailed reading some of Anne’s private journals to her. She was notified that she would be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement. This meant she would be incapable legally of using anything in her dissertation that she read while at Anne’s home. What is in Anne’s journals that she is so determined to keep a secret? How far outside of the law is Beth willing to go to further her career?
Must Read Well by Ellen Pall is a 293-page story of betrayal, guilt, romance, and loss. This enthralling mystery flows seamlessly from one chapter to the next until the unexpected end of the novel. The author has skillfully woven Beth and Anne’s emotions into the book. I felt like crying during the sad parts but could also easily sense the other emotions, such as guilt and fear. The sole thing I couldn’t sense (as much as I thought I would) was Beth’s sadness at her breakup with her boyfriend. However, this was a minor point.
The author is masterful in developing believable and memorable characters; they feel like they could easily be people from our own lives. The story is narrated from the first-person point of view, from Beth’s viewpoint, with the private journals written from Anne’s perspective. Therefore, the reader is allowed access to both of the leading characters’ thoughts and feelings, although Anne’s current thoughts are not always obvious. I appreciate how the central figures are slowly developed as the story progresses, giving the readers tidbits of the beliefs and personalities of the main players until their identities are fully disclosed.
I only found one minor error in the entire book, causing me to believe it was professionally edited. Therefore, as there was nothing to dislike, I enthusiastically award Must Read Well four out of four stars. I believe women who appreciate character-driven mysteries with romance would enjoy the novel the most. Occasional profanities are encountered in the novel. Subsequently, if the reader prefers avoiding books with profanities, they might want to look elsewhere.
Must Read Well
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