The Horse Dancer

by Jojo Moyes
2009 Penguin Books

First sentence: The six forty-seven to Liverpool Street was heaving.
Number of books I have reviewed so far for this site that were about horses and the women who love them: 3
Of those, number that were not shitty: 0
New Shitty Books rule: Horses guarantee shittiness.

Other reviews of this book: Rhapsody in Books, Equestrian Ink, Riding the Unicorn

Remember a few weeks ago when I said I could identify a shitty book not just in three pages, but in three clauses? Jojo Moyes has raised the bar. By which I mean lowered the bar. By which I mean she buried it. In the Earth’s mantle, which is over 900°C and 136 gigapascals. So the bar is probably made of some new tungsten-carbonfiber-nanotube-Batman-jism-hyperfuture alloy thing invented by Raytheon. It has to be that fancy. And deadly. That’s how shitty this book is.

The six forty-seven…

Those are the first three words of this book (not counting the 15 page prologue which I ignored). I’m convinced writers are so desperate to pad their page count they will write numbers as words just for that tiny little extra bump. Here’s what would have been better:

The 6:47…

Doesn’t that look nicer? It’s tidy. And also, that’s how train times are displayed. No train station I know writes their numbers out as words. Here’s the rest of the sentence:

The six forty-seven to Liverpool Street was heaving.

How does a train heave? I looked up the definition of heave, and I ran out of attention span by the fourth definition, but I think she means the train was swelling or bulging maybe? But that’s impossible, because trains are made of metal! (I checked.) Unless it’s a hyperfuture Batman-jism Raytheon nanotube train. Maybe British trains heave more than American trains? Do the British make their trains out of a super-stretchy hyperfuture latex-nanotube-Harry Potter-jism-alloy? Is that how they heave so much?

Maybe heave is just a universal verb or something in British English, like the words “go” and “get”. For example, perhaps I might say, “I heaved my waffles this morning before heaving to work, at which point I heaved my boss in the balls and spine, heaving him to the hospital, where doctors performed emergency heaving surgery but he died. The CEO of the company heaved him too so instead of being heaved he commended me with the Silver Cross Medal of Heaving. My mom heaved all over the place.”

Reading Jojo Moyes makes me think a lot about heaving, as you can see. Speaking of Jojo Moyes, we should heave back to the book review.

The main character in this book is really stressed out. Presumably a horse is going to save her or something but I didn’t get that far before I heaved this book into the furnace. She’s a lawyer working on child custody cases in divorces. That sounds stressful!

They say to “write what you know” but what if all you know is a boring, anxiety-ridden, heaving existence of trains and lists and pantsuits and binge-watching Netflix? If that’s the case, at least give the book a better title, like “The Pantsuit Anxiety” or “To Heave a Train” or “The Six Forty-Seven”. Or, even less than that at least, don’t write a shitty book at all. Just fix your life. I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU, JOJO.

(I’m just pretending to be worried. I actually don’t care about Jojo at all.)

The sad thing is that Jojo Moyes writes at least well enough to potentially complete an inexpensive two-year master’s program in creative writing. It’s just that it’s clear she doesn’t have a lot to say. Or perhaps she does but she’s being held captive by the Haqqani Network (who are the parent company to Penguin Books, I checked), and they are forcing her against her will to publish book after book to fund their mafia-style reign of terror over Afghanistan, and in silent protest she only writes shitty books. Once she is liberated by Navy Seals, the President will give her a Silver Cross Medal of Heaving.