Review: I, Walter by Mike Hartner

Title: I, Walter
Author: Mike Hartner
Genre: Adult Historical
How To Purchase:

My Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I, Walter is an excellent example of a book that has been well-researched, thoroughly plotted, and has voice yet doesn’t strike my fancy. To use a refrain I’ve used before, it was not written for me.

The book chronicles the life of a young boy who comes from a poverty-striken background, but through hard work and a humble demeanor, rises through the ranks of 1500’s England to nobility. Walter is writing his story at the end of his life, while his wife supportively looks over his shoulder and tempers his sometimes-too-hard-on-himself ruminations with her own perspective.

One of the reasons that this book caught my eyes was its strong voice in the opening chapter. I liked Walter and wanted to hear about his life. The voice continues throughout, as Walter examines his life. Both the good and bad aspects are examined, the things he worked hard for, and the mistakes that he made.

My biggest frustration with this book is its format is what I call “the Forrest Gump phenomenon,” a term I just coined but something I’ve seen in other books. For those who aren’t familiar with Forrest Gump (Lord, help me, I’m not that old, am I?), it was a 90’s movie that followed the life of a mentally handicapped man in the 60’s and 70’s as he overcomes obstacles and makes an impression on important historical events. Perpetually optimistic (blech), Forrest Gump nestled himself into the hearts of many movie-goers and won all kinds of awards.

Walter, while not mentally handicapped, is perpetually optimistic and leads a charmed life. The deviation from Forrest Gump is that everything turns up roses for Walter. He meets and falls in love with his future wife in only a few days, and nothing stands in the way of their marriage. Money seems to flow from everywhere into his pockets. His rise through the ranks of sailors in the British navy is quick and painless. Everybody loves him; he’s humble and kind.

Like I said, this isn’t for me. I like flawed protagonists, people making lesser-of-two-evils choices. I’d also call Walter “lawful good,” although that’s not precisely right. But he reminds me too much of Superman and his attitude, which has always grated on me.

If you’re tired of dark books and want something light with a fairy tale ending, this is the book for you. I enjoy dark books more often than not, so I found myself skimming, wishing more would happen to Walter, that his struggles would be deeper, harsher, grittier. I caught a few typos and copy editing issues, but overall, it didn’t detract from the book. A lot of good reviews have been posted on Goodreads and Amazon, so I realize I’m just an old grump. Check it out if this is the kind of thing you like.

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