I must admit I'm disappointed in the novel. Which is a shame, as Greer Gilman gave it praise and I absolutely adore her work. Delia Sherman, not so muI must admit I'm disappointed in the novel. Which is a shame, as Greer Gilman gave it praise and I absolutely adore her work. Delia Sherman, not so much.
Ah, the French Revolution--probably one of the most exciting periods in history and yet...somehow in the magical land that I forget the name of, it's a light sneeze. Originally I thought it was going to be about that, the Revolution, but no. It's some very odd combination of fairytale, which I think I would've enjoyed without the French part, and historical fiction, which was not interesting with aristocrats untouched (that's where the fairytale part comes in, I guess) in the country safe from the world at large.
I could not stand the main character. Just, ugh. If she was in love with the woman she was a maid too, I wish it would've just been shown as everything is pathetic innuendo. Really, I got the point that she'd do anything at all for Madame and hated the Duc, blahblah (where's my spoon for my eyes) blah. It's a sad thing when it takes nearly the entire novel to get to the more interesting parts in the last few chapters.
What utterly confused me as well was the use of thee and thou when the characters were actually speaking, but the main character's more modern voice in the first person narration and oh, right, all of the French dropped left and right. Perhaps it was done for feel or some sense of authenticity, but for me it was overkill. Particularly when it came to fashion. Christ on a cracker, use the term but show me what the heck it is. While I do love historical fashion and find it interesting, I'm not sitting there with my guide to 18th century French clothing at my side. Or a French dictionary.
Thus, it was okay. I could appreciate the idea behind it and I think it could've been a lovely read save for the fact that it wasn't for me. Maybe for someone else....more
Yet another travel book, but far more enjoyable than the last bit of historical fiction I read. It was a nice and easy read, which is typically what IYet another travel book, but far more enjoyable than the last bit of historical fiction I read. It was a nice and easy read, which is typically what I look for when on the road and a nice break from China Mieville's Embassytown (which is fantastic, but hurts the brains.) I don't know that I'd read it again, but I'd probably give Moran another go....more
I adored Mantel's style in A Place of Greater Safety, and I found myself just as enamored by her style in Wolf Hall. Again, it's one of those novels tI adored Mantel's style in A Place of Greater Safety, and I found myself just as enamored by her style in Wolf Hall. Again, it's one of those novels that might not be for everyone as it centers of Thomas Cromwell. A lot of fiction for the period focus on Henry or Anne or Katherine, which is perfectly fine, but that this was about the more political hand-holding, the power of the church vs. state and an excellent study of manipulation without being obvious made it a wonderful read.
It's a novel of great action, though if one's looking for sword fights and lists and whatever else, they should probably go elsewhere. Those things are touched on, but really the action is more like playing a game of chess. Figuring out the right move, etc.
Did I want to know more about Jane Seymour in this? Sure, but I didn't feel cheated by Mantel not following that direct path. Cromwell's relationships were fascinating.
The novel was okay. While I liked the idea behind it and the portrayal of the women, there was something missing for me. I would've found Penelope morThe novel was okay. While I liked the idea behind it and the portrayal of the women, there was something missing for me. I would've found Penelope more interesting than Helen. If equal time had been spent on each, that might've improved things for me. I did, though, like the descriptions of weaving, dying and all of that. Some of Corona's images concerning those things were really rather beautiful.
It was an easy read, which is what I was looking for, and didn't require me to think much, which I also wanted. So in that regard, it worked. A quick read, a little mindless, and a nice break from the other stuff I've been into lately....more
The first novel I read by Kate Morton was The Forgotten Garden and it completely swept me up. I am so very pleased thRe-read: 12 may 2012
24 march 2011
The first novel I read by Kate Morton was The Forgotten Garden and it completely swept me up. I am so very pleased that The House at Riverton did the same. Simply a marvelous, marvelous read.
What I think Morton does so wonderfully is show age with grace. What struck me particularly was a small section where Grace revisits the house that's no longer private but in the public domain of historical places. There's only one line, I think, about a teenage boy giving her an askance look and I found myself wondering: Gosh, how often have I do that or has that been done to my parents, grandparents, so on and so forth. How easy it is to forget there was (and is) a rich life that comes with age.
At the back of my copy is a small interview with Morton and she was asked what inspired her (along with how the story came about, etc.) I think I laughed because she mentioned the BBC's Upstairs Downstairs. I have no doubt that started my own interest in the lives of those above and below the stairs and the politics of running houses. Just fascinating stuff. And how amusing that I wasn't the only one who found herself drawn to researching those particular times and lives.
The story of Grace, Hannah, and Emmeline is powerful. The idea of such structured lives, of being so bound by duty above all else--I'm really not sure how to put it. Morton does address the oddities of generations. When the older Grace of the story's beginning speaks with a younger woman who's asking her about life in service, the young woman is shocked when Grace states she enjoyed her life as a maid. The young woman can't imagine it, what it would've been like, what loyalty to an aristocratic family meant. I have to admit, I'm baffled as well. I simply can't picture it save through characters such as Grace and my own historical fancies.
Still enjoyable, but not nearly on the same level that struck me in 2011.
---- I think what I liked best about the entire novel wareread 4 february 2014
Still enjoyable, but not nearly on the same level that struck me in 2011.
---- I think what I liked best about the entire novel was Brooks's use of language. Rather like Greer Gilman's use of period language in her novellas. It didn't detract for me, but I get a bit geeky over words, so it certainly fit the bill for that. The topic of the plague is an interesting one and the questions she poses through Anna and other characters felt very real to me. Whatever idea of god or nature, one would, I'd think, still ask why. Why this person and not that person. The grief, which I can only imagine, through the novel is tension of its own along with the various plots worked throughout. I didn't read it as a pro-feminist sort of novel, but as one that addresses how human we remain in the face of disaster and how that disaster breaks some down into their weakest parts while causing others to find they're made of stronger stuff. That the narrator happened to be female, for me, was just happenstance. Brooks could've told the story from a man's perspective if she'd wanted to, I'd imagine. Regardless, it was an enjoyable read and if there were any holes or lapses they were small and I missed them....more
I'm rather torn as to what I thought of the novel. The research certainly shows and Brennert's descriptions are really lovely. I didn't have an issueI'm rather torn as to what I thought of the novel. The research certainly shows and Brennert's descriptions are really lovely. I didn't have an issue with the characters, but I think, over all, this would sit more at two and one half rather than three for me.
As I said, I did like Rachel. I found Catherine endearing. I was happy about Kenji, Ruth, and others. But it felt like there should've been more. That great gaps of time were leapt when things like driving, while perhaps not particularly important, would've been interesting to know. How would people with such hand deformities drive in the 1930s or 40s? So on, so forth. I realize that Moloka'i was a very isolated place and given to a very profound sense of segregation, but the small details that would've made the story totally come alive for me just weren't there. I'm not sure if it's because Brennert was trying to capture so much in such a particular timeline that parts that might've been there were parred down or cut completely. Or if he simply didn't write them.
It's not a terrible novel by any means. It might not be one that I wouldn't read again, though. I truly wanted to like it more than I did. Parts of it made me think of Memoirs of a Geisha and others The Poisonwood Bible, but without catching me up completely, not like it should've, or I wanted it to, I guess.
But, for all of that, it was a nice easy read and topically interesting....more
I don't know if I would call Tipping the Velvet formulaic. Every story has a formula of some sort. Here, to me, the formula was girl meets girl ratherI don't know if I would call Tipping the Velvet formulaic. Every story has a formula of some sort. Here, to me, the formula was girl meets girl rather than the traditional boy meets girl, but honestly, so what? What Waters does, and I think rather beautifully, is show the various concepts of love. When it's idealized, when it's confusing, tragic and all else. That hardly seems more universal than anything else. Gender doesn't much matter, but that could simply be me.
Unlike the other novels that I've read by Water, this is certainly grittier. Harsher. Not that the others weren't in their own fashion, but so much struck me as edged. There's far more cruelty than kindness and often when kindness does come about, it's with a high price. It's a really interesting look at the life of working people rather than the upper class which struck me more in Affinity or the lower classes like in Fingersmith (though that mixed them together as well, so perhaps that's not completely accurate.) While Nancy might climb the ladder and fall from it in terms of comfort and lodging and such, she never truly leaves her middle class self behind. It changes, but if it didn't change she'd be a very stagnant character and maybe that provides a contrast to Kitty and Diana who have no desire change, but Flo is active toward it.
I have something of a crush on Michel Faber's novel, The Crimson Petal and the White. I can't recall now how I stumbled across it. Perhaps simply by bI have something of a crush on Michel Faber's novel, The Crimson Petal and the White. I can't recall now how I stumbled across it. Perhaps simply by browsing shelves or reading a review somewhere. I know I was told years back that there was to be a second novel. And while I'm sad The Apple isn't a novel, it really is a fun read and revisit to the characters of the novel.
Faber continues to show himself as an able wordsmith. His stories are lush. The topics interesting. I have to admit that my favorite story was probably the title one concerning Sugar at Christmas. There was just something sweet and sad about it along with the showing of Sugar's temper, which she controls so well (from what I remember) in the novel. But as I said, all of the stories are wonderful to read. ...more
This is the first novel I've read by Sarah Waters, though I caught some of the film version of Tipping the Velvet years ago. I've grown more particulaThis is the first novel I've read by Sarah Waters, though I caught some of the film version of Tipping the Velvet years ago. I've grown more particular in what I read and why I read it than when I was younger. While the key is still the story, as it should be, I end up looking for elegance of language, vivid descriptions, so on and so forth.
I've been fascinated by Victorian culture for what feels like ages now. In part, I'd supposed, because they were so contradictory. Though, really, as people we no doubt are regardless of the era we happen to live in. Some novels that I've read based in the period I've enjoyed a great deal. Others not so much. I'm truly pleased that Fingersmith will no doubt be a novel that I'll read again. Which is always, to me, the sign of a really well done book.
Waters creates an interesting mirror between Susan and Maud. I think, for me, they reflect the other's flaws. Susan has little patience, Maud could wait forever for a thing to be done and on. Their relationship is both intense and distant at the same time, as it probably would be given their differing status and backgrounds. I hesitate to say more than that because I don't wish to spoil the read for someone else.
While the story is in first person, from both Susan's view and Maud's, the other characters shine brilliantly through. None of them, high or low class are really very pleasant, save perhaps for Dainty and in truth, I didn't find her redeeming until the end. But Gentleman and Mrs. Sucksby--goodness, so incredibly crafted. Even though I grew to dislike them both, for different reasons, I wanted to know more about them. Maud's uncle was rather distressing as well. Perhaps obscene, but in the way that something can be even as it's urbane.
Really, just an enjoyable book and that she used canting slang only made it better....more
I adore reading Penman and found her work through her novels on Wales. Devil's Brood really is a marvelous read concerning Henry and Eleanor. The struI adore reading Penman and found her work through her novels on Wales. Devil's Brood really is a marvelous read concerning Henry and Eleanor. The struggle of family and the struggle of power mirror each other. I'm constantly amazed by Penman's dedication to research and this certainly doesn't fall short in that arena....more
For fantastic images of art, Byatt's novel is marvelous. So many descriptions of colors, of the shapes that span through Arts and Crafts and Art NouveFor fantastic images of art, Byatt's novel is marvelous. So many descriptions of colors, of the shapes that span through Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, and amazing detail about pottery. The language for all of the artwork was simply splendid. So easy to imagine, to see. It was, for me, probably the best part of the entire read along with the process of writing itself shown through Olive.
Spanning from the late Victorian age to the end of World War I, there's a great sweep of characters and events. From the political, like the suffragette movement, to the personal bonds and severings of family. It's all very nicely intertwined. I don't know if it helps or not to have any understanding of the era written about. It might, but I think Byatt explains the time rather well. But, being familiar to a degree with the time, I can't really say if it would've been hurtful or annoying to not know. Then, it's a long novel, so perhaps not.
But for all of that, and history aside, I did have a few issues.
There is a great deal of telling in conversations. I don't have a huge problem with this when it's used to move the plot along because a bit has been explained, so why should the reader (or author) have to deal with the same content all over again. I don't even mind when it's used in small doses to skip across what might be a dull and weighty scene that doesn't hold anything important. In The Children's Book, though, it's almost common place. I can understand if this was a style choice, but for me it made things tedious. I wanted to hear more of the dialogue. A great deal was emotional, but barely shown. Maybe it was used to capture the time more realistically somehow, but it didn't work particularly well for me.
Second, there are so many characters. I kept getting confused about who the story was about. I know it was about several families tied together, but goodness. At first I thought it would be mostly about Olive and in her point of view. But it shifted about a great deal. I liked Phillip and Tom's views. Dorothy drove me a bit nuts as did Elise, and oddly for nearly the same reasons. Olive's self-centered rambles were interesting and particularly enjoyable were the stories included written by her. Julian and Charles (Karl and wow did that, Charles/Karl, made me batty as well) were really enjoyable for the most part. I guess my problem is that because there were so many characters--did the vicar's lover need a section?--it felt like so much was left out of character development. You're with them for a thirty year span and while things change, they don't change at the same time.
There were parts I wanted to skip over, like with the youngest Wellwood daughter...Hedda? and her protesting. If I had any sort of emotional connection to the character, I would've liked the section a good deal more. That's the one that's coming to mind, but I'm sure there were others.
So, there were certainly parts I did like. But, in the end, I think I expected more....more