Will and his mother live Inside, shut away from the myriad hazards that could end a boy's life Outside. Their lives are calm, stable,Maybe 3.5 stars.
Will and his mother live Inside, shut away from the myriad hazards that could end a boy's life Outside. Their lives are calm, stable, utterly predictable until the day that, responding to a curious sound, Will opens their front door, walks Outside and meets other–Will. This strange boy (actually named Marcus) hits Will with a rock from a sling–shot and claims "Nothing can really hurt you, Will." The adventure begins. It's a common story told from a fresh angle; the coming–of–age tale wrapped in one family's specific, tragic dysfunction. Still, the ageless story of the young pushing away from the safe, loving arms of those who long to protect but stifle in the process.
There's something vaguely Shakespearean in the way Christie exaggerates this universal, mundane journey through the tortured lens of Diane's (Will's mother) breakdown and psychosis. The narrative structure, vacillating between forward–moving plot with Will as protagonist and backward–looking introspective with Diane as focal–point, seems appropriate given Diane's fictive life as art–film director. Christie's characters and their unique story magnify the subtle yet insidious deception that too often roots in the heart of family life where love and fear mingle.
I chose this novel for a book club and found it thoroughly entertaining. It's a first novel for Michael Christie, and his inexperience creeps out at moments; overall, I think a solid freshman effort. The plot and characters are engaging if not always entirely credible or true to characterization. Flaws in grammatical structure and syntax at times went beyond vexing my latent English–teacher actually to interfere with the storyline. Too many "he"s without clear antecedents become problematic when the protagonist of the story and his trusty side–kick are both male. Still, I'd say overall well worth reading. Looking forward to an interesting discussion!
This was a fun, funny read; I finished it in three sittings, I think. Easy, page–turning entertainment; but Hornby offers, too, good stuff for thinkinThis was a fun, funny read; I finished it in three sittings, I think. Easy, page–turning entertainment; but Hornby offers, too, good stuff for thinking and discussion. The setting doesn't overwhelm the characters or situation, but I was aware throughout of that 60s London vibe, and the characters were splendid. I liked them, most of them. Those I didn't actually like interested me and/or made me laugh. Minor characters lived on the page with real dimension: Edith, Marjorie, George and Marie could fuel their own minor sitcoms. Then there's Vernon Whitfield. Vernon Whitfield and the BBC debacle of 1965. Brilliant.
Mostly, I appreciated the layered texture of the plot, commenting on television and its development as Hornby's characters work together to push television into new territory. As they struggle with the bigotry of Vernon Whitfield and his BBC lot, they run up against their own prejudices and limitations. Some advance beyond while others, sadly, shrink. Sophie is a genuine "funny girl," approaching life and career with pragmatism and good humor and a tinge of wistfulness. She weathers the transformation from Barbara to Sophie back to Barbara from Blackpool with characteristic aplomb, and that underscore of irony sets the tone for the novel as each of Hornby's characters face a similar metamorphosis with greater and lesser degrees of success. Sophie is the star; her ability to "play herself" leads to stardom and sets the path of self–discovery in a general way for the others. Bill, Tony, and Dennis each become more themselves through Barbara (and Jim), and Clive's anti–climatic ending seems the result of his own miscalculation more than anything. Sophie muses in the final chapters that he "never quite added up" then adds that "the trouble was... he'd got all his sums wrong" (432).
While it may make no great commentary on human nature or history, Hornby's Funny Girl seems to me a novel about characters and relationships in a memorable setting: a great story! Perhaps because I side with the Dennis Maxwell–Bishops over against the Vernon Whitfields of the world, I'd rather spend a half hour with Sophie Straw than Edith Whatever–her–name–is–now any night. I appreciate, too, that Hornby brings his characters full circle to the "brighter, sharper, funnier, younger" world they'd hoped to create to find themselves old hat and out of pace with a faster, younger crowd (typified by Diane from Crush magazine) and their narrow interest in "the brightness and the youth" (392). I sense here that underscore of irony again and the solid edge of realness. There is a slim margin of gravitas running along that edge of irony and realism, and it resonates with the intent of Bill and Tony to "say things about the world they live in" (392). To write real comedy about real people in the real world. In the real world, that fast–moving current of people and ideas, they changed something; and it changed them, too. ...more
I read this today in a day, on the first day of the new year. Hoping to turn over a new reading leaf. It was a marvelous reading day: holiday, cold anI read this today in a day, on the first day of the new year. Hoping to turn over a new reading leaf. It was a marvelous reading day: holiday, cold and rainy. Perfect for slouching on the sofa in fuzzy socks and a sweater with a good book.
This one was entertaining. More a series of interconnected short stories than a true novel. The chapters move forward in time from mid–eighteenth century to the present, telling stories of the generations who have lived in Blackwell, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains. The reader meets first the founding families, Hallie Brady in particular, as they establish the first homesteads at the foot of Hightop Mountain, and ends with Hallie's distant descendants as they close the first door of the village each night on the modern world and continue to tend her garden where the soil and all that grows from it is blood red.
Hoffman weaves subtle magic into each chapter, her narrative calling card. It makes for good reading. A pleasant way to bring in the new year!...more
This is a beautifully written and compelling story set against the backdrop of World War II which is like a reader'Maybe close to 5 stars. 4.5 stars?
This is a beautifully written and compelling story set against the backdrop of World War II which is like a reader's beacon to me. I love these kind of stories; although, love seems a strange word to describe the experience. War stories seem always to carry a gravitas, a majesty: an innate ethical and moral significance. Even the intimate tales of the individual struggling to survive possess by their nature an epic grandeur when told in the context of a town, a country, a people at war. These stories represent, I think, the essence of the Romantic in literature: stories that stir deep emotional response to characters in situations of duress both physical and spiritual. Brilliant.
Anthony Doerr's novel is top–notch, but I hate the ending. I can't complain that it's not well–written; although, there is a nagging thought in my head that some things about Werner's fate feel forced and contrived in a way that the rest of the story never feels. Certainly, it seemed to me that several chapters wandered a bit searching for a way back to the narrative thread after his departure. I've written something like this somewhere before, so forgive me if I repeat myself (if anyone notices or cares), but I just don't accept the absolute necessity to sacrifice a character on the altar of realism in this manner. Werner's fate seems dream–like and insubstantial and seems to turn on the "reality of war." It's a messy business, yes; but at some point we might be within reason to consider such endings a tad bit cliché, yes? I'm just wondering if really good storytelling could search out a more substantial fate than death, perhaps particularly against the backdrop of war. The heroic fight to return from the precipice of spiritual darkness or a turning away from self–loathing back to life; perhaps the opposite as a character plunges into the abyss or the slow and pain–staking return from it?
Ah, well, I'm glad Marie–Laure got her doctorate. Paris is a cool town. I may just be turning into a "happy endings" kind of reader. Who knows?
I listened to this on the drive home from Plano last night. It was entertaining and kept me awake, and there were nice moments in the language besidesI listened to this on the drive home from Plano last night. It was entertaining and kept me awake, and there were nice moments in the language besides. I thought the plot rather promising in the beginning, but Fabrissa's story didn't engage as Freddy's did perhaps because I've been rather in a "Downton moment" for awhile now and more interested in that era. Still, it served it's purpose. ...more
This book turned out to be quite different than I'd hoped––more a broad, shallow pool than a deep, wide river. Clearly, I expected the latter. HosseinThis book turned out to be quite different than I'd hoped––more a broad, shallow pool than a deep, wide river. Clearly, I expected the latter. Hosseini's third novel sketches sweeping portraits of many characters––offers entire life stories per chapter––rather than follows any specific character(s) closely throughout its narrative development. Some sketches engage more than others. The effect, for me, strikes less like a novel than as a collection of short stories linked loosely by time and place and, in most cases, a disappearing family connection. The closing chapters, Markos Varvaris's story and Pari's reunion with her brother, Abdullah, after a separation of fifty–eight years, seem to achieve the most texture and richness. Where the author touches this chord of lost familial connection, he succeeded in drawing me in. Overall, however, I would not say that And the Mountains Echoedechoes with the force of Hosseini's earlier offerings....more
I really liked this a lot; although, I was surprised to realize at the book store, when I bought my copy, that it is not YA. PerhapsProbably ****1/2.
I really liked this a lot; although, I was surprised to realize at the book store, when I bought my copy, that it is not YA. Perhaps it was the trailer for the movie that came out last fall with a very young cast that gave the impression of a young adult book. In any case, The Perks of Being a Wallflower strikes me as decidedly adult in content and theme. Well-written. I enjoyed the epistolary format; of course, I'd like to have known the identity of "the friend."...more
4.2.13––I confess I'm not loving this novel, although I thought the premiss fascinating initially. The writing seems rather poor, and I begin to feel4.2.13––I confess I'm not loving this novel, although I thought the premiss fascinating initially. The writing seems rather poor, and I begin to feel sheepish that I suggested it to my book club. Melanie's romantic memories cloy, and Wanderer's inability to see the fundamental ethical flaw in her own existential crisis... well, let's just say I'm beginning to lose patience.
4.10.13––I've picked this up again after a week's hiatus grading research papers. I find myself more deeply engaged by both characters and situation probably because Meyer, wisely, keeps her hero and heroine at arms' length. I appreciate the tension and the plot development, although Ian's character puzzles me. He's not entirely believable. Another thought––with two hundred pages to go and the Seeker hovering, quite literally, over our heads, a confrontation looms. I can't see this ending well, but I fear Meyer might try to pull a rabbit out of her narrative hat. This seems a strange position for a reader. If the writer does her job well, the reader comes to care for the characters, even to desire a happy ending. I don't see how this is possible in the world that Meyer has written. Not without the Deus ex Machina event to end all others. I'm really not sure how much I trust my author in this scenario. Yet another thought occurs as I write the first... If this is The Host, #1, Melanie and The Wanderer clearly don't save Earth and humanity as we know it.
4.11.13––I finished this yesterday, the last two hundred pages in one final sitting. The conclusion read fast and furiously, and I was entertained although mildly disappointed by the happy resolution. This despite my premonition. I didn't necessarily want Wanderer to die, but the ending made a mosh pit of too many ethical quandaries. Melanie's summary that "we're human, and we don't always do the right thing" seems to me like putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound to the heart. To further complicate things, Meyer has a tendency to wax melodramatic when building to an emotional climax. Wanderer's sacrificial musings dragged tediously, and while I found Doc's parting words to her sincerely touching, his tears struck me as over-the-top and dubious for a character who endured Walter's agony without shedding a tear. Ian. Ah, Ian, I wanted to believe in you, but Meyer never really brought you fully to life. Ian, you lovable, cardboard cut-out hunk. It's a shame. What an irony that Jared seemed the only credible character in the bunch, the only human whose internal character remained consistent throughout the story. Ironic because an angry, venomous Jared––Jared breaking Wanderer's heart––was the only consistently "real" human character in the story.
I liked Wanderer. Ultimately. I found her complex and layered and willing to ask difficult questions, but there's that ethical bind inherent in her character that I don't think Meyer ever successfully solved––Wanderer is by definition a parasite. The souls can't live outside of their own planet except by inhabiting a host, and this requires the domination of another sentient species. Ethical bind! What I don't buy into is the idea that the souls, Wanderer in particular, never considered the implications of taking over another species. Their means are stealth rather than force, but the result is the same. Wanderer even mentions some catastrophe on another planet where the Seekers mismanaged a take-over and an entire forest of flowers chose annihilation rather than occupation. She considered it a waste and a tragedy but never considered the motivation behind their choice? Wanderer is able to conclude after Walter's death that he was a good man with "no hate in his heart" and, wishing him farewell, declares that the souls had no right to take his world from him. If she's able to reach this conclusion at all, she must always have been capable of the line of reasoning. If we're to believe that the souls considered humans naturally too vicious, what about the other species they took? Same argument for the bears? The bats? The flowers? The dolphins?
Still, I liked Wanderer, and I liked her because I believed in her love for Jamie and even for Melanie. This seemed one of the more successful aspects of the story line, Wanderer's growing admiration for humans and for the complex affections and bonds within human communities. What seemed less successful was Meyer's rendering of the ties that bound the humans to Wanderer. Jamie's affection seemed legitimate, the genuine and uncomplicated love of a child, but I never bought into Melanie's love for Wanderer. This is a shame, too, because I don't think Meyer needed to do much, to add much, to make me believe. While I hated the final scene with Jared in the tunnel when Wanderer asks him to lie, it was enough to convince me that Jared would want to save her. I wished for something more dignified for Wanderer, something more telling of Jared's respect or admiration which I think would have been truthful and better than a lie about his loving her. At least Meyer somehow communicated Jared's gratitude so that I wasn't surprised to imagine him, later, holding a knife to Doc's neck. There are missing pieces with Ian and Melanie. What draws Ian to an alien? Why didn't he have someone before he came to the caves? Why was he alone? What's his story? Who is he? With Melanie, I'd need even less. Some acknowledgement that she'd learned something from Wanderer, that she'd gained something from her, not just the grudging acknowledgment that Wanderer could do things for the humans that she could not.
The bigger hang-up for me lives in a persistent thought (almost like a voice that has taken up residence in my brain...terrible thought...) that in the hands of a better writer this story could have been really great. Meyer has a gift for uncovering great story ideas although not, in equal measure, the talent for really pulling the narrative juice out of them. This sounds harsh, but it seems truthful to me. The Host bears all the markers of great science fiction ala LeGuin––I mean her notion that science fiction isn't about exotic settings or alien species, time or space travel at all, but about exploring human nature in the context of those extreme places and situations. Science fiction holds such potential to test the limits of human nature and its fidelity to the moral/ethical core of humanity. What might happen if, the author ponders, an alien race invaded earth and occupied not only the planet but our bodies leaving a small band of outlaws in "the last human outpost on planet earth" struggling against the odds for survival? Then, to make things interesting, let's say the author dropped one of those alien invaders right in the middle of that outpost, alone and defenseless, just to see what might happen. Who then would become the monster? The humans just "fighting back" or the lone alien, severed from the invading majority, at the mercy of that beleaguered remnant? Who would emerge as compassionate, angry, bitter, peaceful? What relationships would form? What alliances, what conflicts? What themes of human experience would emerge? Meyer's attempt to flesh this out soars in at select moments, like Wanderer's grieving for the murdered souls as a human comes to sit beside her in the darkness and silence, and falls flat in too many others, like Ian declaring his love to Wanderer then bringing Jared to "overwhelm her" with a kiss in a dark hallway. A noble sacrifice to bring Melanie back, yes? Reads like Meyer neck-deep in that old, insipid, young adult melodrama.
Seems I keep coming back to Ian and wondering why, oh why, Meyer can't write convincing romance. Why she can't rise above her Twilight days and give herself over to serious, adult science fiction. The concept of The Host is genius, but the execution is mediocre, at points ridiculous. Not laugh out loud ridiculous like Twilight, and there is higher caliber writing here in greater quantity than in that whole series. Funny thing is I'm being so much harder on this book than I ever was on Bella and her brood of vampires, probably because I see so much more potential here. Oh well. In the end, I suppose, it is what it is. A parting shot, petty though it may be––I hate the new body. Pet's body. Meyer took Wanderer from a tall, strong female form and made her into a doll. This is hideous. ...more
Clever. Although this reader seems not so clever since I realized only on page 291 of 301 pages what McEwan was "up to" in the words of several otherClever. Although this reader seems not so clever since I realized only on page 291 of 301 pages what McEwan was "up to" in the words of several other GR reviews. To use Serena's word, the author's "trick" explains, too, the nagging voice in my head throughout that the narrative voice didn't quite ring true as authentically feminine. I just don't think that women, most of us, that is, describe our sexual encounters in that kind of language. Unless you're Samantha in Sex in the City, sex still is the last taboo especially for a woman in 1972, working in a man's world, who after all describes the uninhibited lifestyle of her hippie sister as sordid and unappealing. Serena may enjoy all the benefits of the sexual revolution, but she does so privately and behind closed doors and all the while nursing a rather contradictory and old-fashioned snobbery against her sister's modern iconoclasm.
Serena is, perhaps to overstate the case a bit, a conformist of the highest order, capitulating first to her mother's visions of grandeur, despite her own dreams of cozy, collegiate mediocrity, then Tony Canning's dying dream's of expiation to the service. She is a creature molded by the hands who feed her. Literally. Once out of the cradle of bishop and madre, she moves on to Canning's cottage and tutelage, then to the dreary hallways of MI5. The meager subsistence of civil service leaves her vulnerable to the next molding, person-making force. (It seems fitting that the next "creator" will be an actual inventor of sorts. A writer.) Add to her conformist nature the driving hunger for love or a lover; perhaps this is no addition but the motivating and root cause of the conforming nature.
Enter T. H. Haley. Not surprising that the two activities the young lovers indulge in ad nauseam: food and sex. Littering the pages between restaurant and sexual encounters are the pages of Haley's fiction. His short stories and a novella, From the Somerset Levels, affectionately known simply as The Levels. These were some of my favorite passages; although, I'm not sure that I agree with Serena's assessment of Haley's prose as genius. Then again, I'm not in love with him. I'm also not wholesale opposed to the kind of authorial "tricks" she claims to despise. Perhaps by the novel's ending she has come to a more generous view, since such a trick has offered her reprieve. A remote but not impossible chance for happiness.
I read much in other reviews of the "unreliable narrator" and how McEwan is apt to write novels featuring such points of view. I'm not sure that I'm in a position to agree or disagree with this notion. This is my fourth McEwan novel, but I've never really considered the narrators as unreliable before. Briony in Atonement seems the most likely candidate for unreliability, but I feel prepared to forgive her almost anything given the beauty of her story. That novel remains one of my all-time favorites. I don't remember all these years later the name of the narrator or how reliable I found his story in Enduring Love. I do remember that I thought the story fascinating and that if McEwan hadn't included case studies in the back of the book, I might almost have wondered if the madman's condition weren't something real and diagnosable. Are these musings in retrospect enough to make a case for unreliable narrative? Aren't they merely the invention of good fiction? Who was it that called good writing the art of the well-written lie? Something along those lines...
A final word. Several months ago now, the same book club read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a gritty, psychological thriller that I found more grit than thrill. Seems to me that Sweet Toothplays much the same game but plays it better, cleaner, and with a decidedly more literary bent. Others, others in my book group, may object here and say that the two books are worlds and genres apart. Perhaps. It's the "trick" and Haley's story, "Pawnography," in particular, that draws them together for me. There's a thrill in the trick, a sort of psychological tension that seems a genuine parallel but without Flynn's descent into the grim, seediness of a world without beauty, without even the hint of possible redemption however remote. ...more
I've finally finished this lengthy read. Hoffman tells the tragedy of Masada, King Herod's mountain fortress and the refuge of 900 Jewish rebels and tI've finally finished this lengthy read. Hoffman tells the tragedy of Masada, King Herod's mountain fortress and the refuge of 900 Jewish rebels and their families who fled the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, through four female narrators. What an experience! The place, Masada, and the struggle of its inhabitants to survive, their faith intact, came to vivid life through these pages, but it was not always an easy read. There were sittings when I read no more than 20 or 30 pages. That's unusual for me. I struggled through the first narrator, and there's irony in that since Yael came to be a favorite.
I got bogged down in the affair with the assassin, the repetition of the lion motif, and the cutting of her own flesh. Yael's character is fearless; she breaks rules and stares down wild beasts, quite literally. She is a creature of silence, of the desert. A living flame tree. She is a creature born of grief, and I could understand her expressing grief and suffering in an unorthodox way, but I wish that Hoffman had made the link to pagan rites more clear. She mentions laws that forbade the Jewish people to harm themselves, but she never explains the reasons for these laws. She doesn't ground Yael's defiance in her own culture and time period, so in the absence of explanation, the cutting seemed too much like a modern teen or woman taking a razor to her own arm or leg in secret. Many readers might have no problem with this, might even argue that it's exactly the same. It seemed to me not the same and a creepy anachronism. The pagan practice, creepy enough, would have been committed ceremonially and often as part of public acts of celebration, grief, etc. The Jews were therefore not permitted to do as the pagans did. Same issue with the practice of tattooing the skin. Yael, therefore, marks herself in secret, and Shirah gives thanks that her tattoos can be concealed from the general public.
I liked the contradiction of Yael, that she is fearless in breaking the law to express her grief in a pagan manner. Jerusalem has fallen, the Temple has been destroyed, and she knows she is unlikely ever to return. She knows, too, that silence is her greatest protection and means of survival. Her father allows her to follow after him like a dog, so she will follow to survive. She will also mourn as she chooses, but she will not advertise. This is her strength. I don't think Hoffman does enough to make this clear. There is beautiful symmetry in the final passage when Yael cuts her own arm publicly before the Roman general and legion, declaring herself to be Shirah. She tells us that she changed her name and her fate that day. She will not harm herself in secret ever again, but she must leave behind her heritage to do so. We lose some of this connection I think because the opening narrative is weaker than it might have been. Perhaps, though, Hoffman was still writing her way into the story. It gets so much stronger when we get to Masada itself.
Another irony: Yael's voice seemed the only truly distinctive voice of the four. Still, the narrative voice irked me throughout her tale––sentences like The white of the desert is what I see and this is what I long for drove me to distraction. Other readers may not (probably don't) even notice. I spend too much time and effort instructing students to recognize and avoid tortured syntax like this. I find that I can't read over these same constructions in fiction without cringing. My guess is that Hoffman did it intentionally to give Yael's voice a simple, uneducated, perhaps even hardened edge. I liked the intent, just not the execution. The other voices were easier to read, but not wholly distinctive. During Revka's story, I often forgot altogether that the older woman, no longer Yael, was speaking. Aziza's story remained separate in my mind because she addressed her sister throughout then, at times, her brother. I suppose this is distinctive in its way. Shirah's voice did not sound unique, but she held place as the last narrator, and her story varied so much from the others that her tale was not so difficult to separate from those of the others. In this way, Hoffman seemed to depend on the content of the narrative rather than some narrative technique to differentiate the latter three narrators. I don't want to declare this as either strength or weakness; it seemed to work. I will say that the task of differentiating four female voices must be problematic and no very simple thing.
Overall, I give The Dovekeepers four out of five stars––it was an absorbing read. For many days. I lived at Masada with these women, and I wept beside the Man from the Valley as he shaved his head to signal the end. Not as he embraced Aziza for the last time, but as he committed his sons to Yael's care. As he breathed Zara's breath into her hand so that Revka might carry it with her out of that fortress of death and destruction. So, too, that when he met Mal'ach Ha-Mavet at last, they would met as equals and that dread spirit would not triumph over him. This novel shows powerful writing. I often write so much of what I don't like and too little of what I admire. That's strange to me, but it is what it is. I do admire Hoffman's writing. I admire her vision and the manner in which she has woven the lives of her characters together like the prayer shawls of the men and women inside the fortress. Perhaps more like the assassin's cloak that allows Yael to enter the legion's encampment, invisible, to bait them with poisoned honey before the Jewish warriors' assault or to stand without fear before the chained lion and set him free. There is beautiful craft in the layering of character and incident that brings these narrative strands together. The truest mark of such craft will always be its invisibility. Its evidence rests in plain sight, yet the reader enjoys the story without tripping over a single raised seam or tear in the fabric. I can't imagine the research that must go into such an undertaking, the years of reading, of travel apparently (Hoffman writes in the acknowledgments that she and her husband traveled through the desert to Masada, found both beauty and grief there), that must undergird such a novel. I think this novel represents many years of her life. I think I will remember it for many years of mine. ...more
2.5.13: Thursday Next lives in an interesting world––a pseudo reality cobbled together of references to various literary genres. Makes sense as she's2.5.13: Thursday Next lives in an interesting world––a pseudo reality cobbled together of references to various literary genres. Makes sense as she's a "literatec"––that is, she investigates literary crimes. She lives in London circa 1985 or not quite. It's Fforde's London circa 1985 re-imagined as a sort of literary patchwork quilt. There are references to steampunk, paranormal, and dystopian fiction, not to mention the novel's central focus as a mystery/thriller. Still, as Miss Next pursues her villain, Acheron Hades (Yes, there are multiple allusions to mythology as well as other greats of the western canon), it seems Fforde might be writing a bit of science fiction, too.
I wonder as I wander further into this literary landscape if Fforde means a bit of gentle (or not so gentle) parody of any or all of these genres. Thursday Next polices a world in which children trade Henry Fielding cards instead of baseball cards and where dilapidated machines on street corners quote Shakespearean soliloquies for the price of a few coins. The theft of a rare copy of Martin Chuzzlewit rates, apparently, as the crime of the century, yet Thursday regards her work for SO-27 as a literatec a dead-end job. So. What gives, Mr. Fforde?
Update 2.7.13: Since writing the above, I'm beginning to feel frustrated with Fforde's shifting narrative tone. His voice alternates between serious, adult treatment of topics like Thursday's lingering grief for her brother Anton and anger over Landen's betrayal of Anton's memory and an almost cartoonish depiction of Hades, the villain, waxing philosophical about evil and the criminal element of society. Thursday's goofy Uncle Mycroft, the reclusive but brilliant inventor, is another example. Fforde portrays him as possessing talent and ability to boggle the imagination, yet he seems to possess the maturity level of the average second grader. Juxtapose this with serious near-death scenarios like Thursday's shoot-out with Felix7, the man who shot Jim Crometty in the face six times, or close encounter with a vampire cum janitor. I'm just not sure what you're playing at here, dear Mr. Author, and I'm not sure I like it all that much.
2.13.13: En balance a fun read. The final chapters (perhaps the final third of the book) seemed to take a more serious turn and to settle into a more consistent narrative tone. This was perhaps necessary as Detective Next took on the villain in earnest. I did not care much for the comic relief of Mycroft's punctuation excreting worms, a throw-in that seemed rather juvenile and made the text difficult to read. I'm also confused about the plot twist of Thursday's marriage to Landen. I actually thought she would marry Bowden Cable. He did declare early on that they would marry, and I rather hoped he was making a statement based on foreknowledge rather than predicting something he hoped might happen. He seemed rather careful on their first meeting to make the point that they'd never met before so that I thought he might be holding something back, something like his knowing a great deal more about time travel and chrono-tampering than he let on. Alas. I don't think I'll be reading more of the series to find out.
Farewell Ms. Next (or Mrs. Park-Laine) and company. I wish you well....more
i found this book wonderfully engaging- shades of jonathan safran foer although, i think, more readable. death as a narrator is an inventive touch, ani found this book wonderfully engaging- shades of jonathan safran foer although, i think, more readable. death as a narrator is an inventive touch, and i found myself strangely drawn to zusak's depiction of death as an empathetic character, capable of entering into human suffering. the final parade scene in which liesel sees max again and stops him in the middle of the march, quoting his own words back to him, will remain in memory as one of the most genuinely moving and beautiful scenes of my reading history. ...more
so i really did enjoy the first 400 pages of this book. the last 100 were devastating. such a bleak ending, and it seems to me unnecessarily so. storiso i really did enjoy the first 400 pages of this book. the last 100 were devastating. such a bleak ending, and it seems to me unnecessarily so. stories like this tend to devastate me, and i'm beginning to perceive a pattern. boy meets girl, and they fall desperately in love; then something tragic occurs to separate them, and, since in this case neither believes in anything meaningful following this life, that's it. end of story. reader left utterly bereft and grieving.
what i can't quite reconcile with the story's ending is the commentary (ok, it's a cover blurb, but still...) that describes this novel as a "soaring celebration of the victory of love over time." i'm wondering if i read the same novel as whoever wrote that because i find nothing of victory in the ending. clare is left behind to wait again and this time close to 50 years to see henry for the last time, all the while hearing alba's time-traveling stories of her father. what gets me about this is that henry writes a beautiful letter to clare, to be read of course in the event of his death, extolling her to live her life, to love and laugh and not to throw life away as he watched his father do after his mother's death. then, in what strikes me as a supreme act of selfishness, he tells her she'll see him again, and i must reflect on the very great likelihood that henry, knowing clare so well, knew exactly what the end would be once she had read that promise. i wonder a bit if niffenegger wasn't trying to write a treatise on the selfishness rather than the transcendence of love. seems to me she got that one pitch perfect.
so sad to think of the young clare meeting henry, learning to love him, to wait for him, and to espouse the same careful nonbelief that she observes in him when ultimately the faith she sheds to be with him would have saved her from the bleak waste her life becomes after him. i suppose another reader might read that final scene as proof that their love endures time, but it seems to me that niffenegger doesn't paint much optimism into the chapters following henry's death. clare mourns as any woman who truly loved would mourn, but that final scene, clare's description of the monotony of each day waiting because she must, because she has always waited, disturbs my mind and heart with something like bitterness against henry. we get nothing of her life in the near 50 years since he died, and if she lived it "shining" as he recommended, niffenegger pointedly doesn't show it to us. instead we move almost directly from that last, crushing scene with gomez to clare seated with her cup of tea and waiting for henry. the postscript of odysseus's reunion with penelope really doesn't help the case in my mind because clare and henry are reunited in the end. it's just another of his temporary displacements; he will return to his grave while she will be left, again, to wait. this time for her own death and without the hope of anything more or to any meeting again after this life. clare comments that she has no choice, and while i agree i want to add that henry gave her no choice.
perhaps the bleakness of the ending matches the novel's beginning and its central concern with how a character moving backward and forward through time manages to reconcile what he must know of the future with the past as well as the present. henry and clare wrestle continually with the interdependence of determinism and free will. still, i can't shake the thought that ultimately henry uses clare's devotion to bind her to his memory in a manner that exploits determinism and undermines her ability, her right, to choose her own life. that clare seems fully aware of this reality doesn't diminish its tragedy. i can't tell, in the end, what i really think of their story. i wept for the utter sadness of their lives, both his displaced and hers waiting, always waiting, for him. i don't know if i'm getting too old for such stories, if i'm turning into one of those readers who demand a happy ending to everything. i suspect not. i suspect, rather, that this one was just a bit too much....more
this book tempts me to go back through my reviews of other books and reconsider all "5-star" ratings. there is an elegance, a majesty really, in orrinthis book tempts me to go back through my reviews of other books and reconsider all "5-star" ratings. there is an elegance, a majesty really, in orringer's writing that i fear words can't express. ironic, yes, given that words are her stock and trade, but this is my point really. orringer doesn't use language like a tool. she wields it like a magic wand. what a marvel, and one that manifests the genius of the truly great writer– that she weaves through language a magic that others, mere mortals, must envy. orringer has enchanted me, completely, and with a story epic in its tragedy as in its beauty.
delightful! so much so that i wonder if i would have given it 5 stars had i not read it immediately after the invisible bridge, a book whose perfect ldelightful! so much so that i wonder if i would have given it 5 stars had i not read it immediately after the invisible bridge, a book whose perfect language and artistry still haunts my mind. ...more
took me weeks to read 60 pages– stopping and starting, one brief spurt at a time separated by days or even a week in between. last night i read 60 pagtook me weeks to read 60 pages– stopping and starting, one brief spurt at a time separated by days or even a week in between. last night i read 60 pages more in one sitting. it's not that i find the book difficult to read; rather, reading it is like swimming underwater. seems easy right up to the moment i'm sure i will run out of air. then i push myself to gain just a bit more distance before i burst through the surface, gasping for breath. i simply can't go further. so... i put it down on my bedside table where it lies for days, shaming me. ruthless. i seem to need days to replenish for the next underwater push.
6.17.12 (p 68)- started over today with a new reading strategy. 23 pages a day. that's it. just 23, and i'm out. i can finish it in 2 weeks. brilliant.
6.22.12 (p 216)– so far so good. strange story, but i actually think i might finish it after all!
6.24.12 (finished)– finally! favorite part probably stephen hawking's letter, the real one, in which he tells oskar he wishes he were a poet. i wonder if stephen hawking has read this book or knows he's a character (of sorts) in it. i wonder if he wrote the letter for the book. i wonder if stephen hawking is even still alive. hmm......more
Puzzling. Read in about six hours. There are books read with such speed because it is simply impossible to put them down. Austenland is not one of thoPuzzling. Read in about six hours. There are books read with such speed because it is simply impossible to put them down. Austenland is not one of those. Perhaps I'll reread these comments someday and wonder what deeper thoughts I pondered as I wrote. To my future self I write, frankly, "move on, dear reader, move on."...more
i saw a print of the sargent portrait in a restaurant recently and recalled this book. i have a vague memory of sitting in my mother's living room reai saw a print of the sargent portrait in a restaurant recently and recalled this book. i have a vague memory of sitting in my mother's living room reading it– curious reminiscence. i recall little more than the basic plot, but i retain the impression that it was rather an entertaining read. ...more