OK, let me start this review by saying that of course I adore big family-oriented sagas with many sins and oh-so many secrets. I'm always the first in line when any book resembling what is already mentioned comes out. So imagine my joy when picking up (thirty odd years later, mind you) the paperback edition of MISTRAL'S DAUGHTER by the lady of all lady writers, Judith Krantz. The Judith Krantz who has made PRINCESS DAISY such a fun and addictive read. Not to mention the classic of all classics, SCRUPLES. Two great books which deserved all of their mega-successes.
Well, dear readers, I guess the saying three's a crowd is true, for Krantz's third novel may have been another smash to many eyes, but not so much to yours truly. Don't get me wrong, all the melodrama is in there: the innocent yet bold heroine, the manipulative and abusive foe, the temperamental but loving hero, steamy steamy love scenes galore... well, you get my drift.
Despite those pluses, somehow Krantz failed to capture the essence of her first two novels. The desire, the need to tell a great story behind the glitz and glamour is there yet missing. It's as if a wall has been built up between Krantz's talent and deadline, and her need to stay on automatic pilot was her safest bet.
Indeed, in her third outing originality is out the door and replaced by a paint-by-the-numbers plot and tiresome descriptions of sceneries and cathedrals. Yes, Mistral is a painter and Krantz tries her best to be true to him, but the line between reality and fiction can only be saved by editing and, alas, in Mistral's Daughter, editing is in constant need.
That said, the novel is still better than many releases out there. Judith Krantz is at her best when she lets her imagination run wild, and there are parts in Mistral's that are pure Krantz. The bowl of fruit scene, for instance, where Maggie, dressed in nothing but painted fruits, struts her stuff (in pre-second World War II) for all the world to see. Krantz can easily make the unbelievable believable. Plus any scenes involving the character of evil Kate is pure delight. The last one in which she discovers she will no longer be needed is so perfectly told I was enthralled by Krantz's talent as a writer. If only these sparks of ingenuity could have been constant, MISTRAL'S DAUGHTER would have been another hit in my eyes as well.