I finally got around to reading this book. I, of course, first heard about it because of the movie (which I haven’t seen.) I’ve been meaning to read iI finally got around to reading this book. I, of course, first heard about it because of the movie (which I haven’t seen.) I’ve been meaning to read it ever since, and finally picked up a used copy at a second hand store this summer. And it finally made it to the top of my “to-read” list, so here we are.
First of all, I can see why so many people loved the book - it’s atmospheric and moody, and there are several love stories unfolding. But for me, it didn’t really hit home. Maybe my heartstrings are broken, but the love stories weren’t all that compelling. The only one that seemed real was the one between Kip and Hana - I was definitely rooting for their relationship to survive. The romance between the English patient and Katherine never came across as truly romantic. It could be partially because of the way it was related (through flashbacks) and maybe because the relationship itself just didn’t seem healthy. But either way, I was not engaged with that particular love story.
I did really enjoy how the book unfolds - slowly spiraling in on the events of the past that will reveal the identity of the English patient, all the while the four main characters do a similar dance around their various relationships. The style of the writing makes the book seem to be almost dream-like in quality. The mystery of the English patient’s identity was handled well - though I did figure it out before the big reveal.
The four main characters were each quite interesting in their own right. In fact, I was most drawn to the character of Kip, the Sikh who is a sapper (bomb defuser/engineer) in the British Army. Each of the other characters is physically or emotionally damaged: Hana is shell-shocked, Caravaggio has lost both thumbs, and the English patient is horribly burned and disfigured. Yet Kip seems to be quite whole in all regards. He is also the only non-white (though, curiously - and probably significantly - the English patient’s skin is nearly black due to the burn treatments he got in the desert.) As the book progresses, we learn more and more of each character’s back-story, and see how each one came to be at this particular place and time. All of the stories are interesting, and draw the reader along.
One of the biggest flaws, however, was the way the book ended. Kip’s reaction to the US dropping nuclear bombs on Japan seemed to be way out of character and a huge overreaction. Don’t get me wrong, I could see how someone like him could be that outraged, but we never saw any hint of such feelings in him at all. His reaction seemed to come out of the blue. Clearly, the author needed a reason to end Kip’s relationship with Hana, and to end the book as a whole, but this just didn’t ring true to me.
Overall, the book was pretty good. The characters and their stories were interesting, the slow unfolding of the past worked well, and the mesmerizing prose set the appropriate moody, dreamy ambience. It just didn’t have much of an emotional impact on me, personally, though I could see where others might be swept away by the romance. I’m glad I read it, if for no other reason than to know what people are talking about when it’s mentioned....more
This is the third book in the Farlander/Heart of the World series. (The previous two are Farlander and Stands a Shadow.) This is not the end of the seThis is the third book in the Farlander/Heart of the World series. (The previous two are Farlander and Stands a Shadow.) This is not the end of the series, FYI; I'm guessing there will be at least one more, but the author's website has no information on what's next.
The series is set in a different world than ours, but one that has many similarities, both social and geographical. The main character is Ash, a member of the Roshun (ninja-like assassins), who is dying. In the first book he takes on an apprentice, Nico, who dies at the end. Ash avenges his death, which has major political repercussions. The fallout from the vendetta makes up book two. In this third book, Ash is trying to make it to the hidden "Islands in the Sky" where it is rumored they have the ability to bring the dead back to life. He is bringing Nico's ashes in hopes of doing this.
The backdrop to the series is the "heart of the world" - a very Mediterranean-like area, dominated by the Empire of Mann (that is much like the Roman Empire at its worst.) The Empire has managed to conquer most of the countries around the sea, with only the peninsula of Khos managing to remain free - though they have been under siege for years. We follow many characters throughout the books, from all areas - the Empire, Khos, the Free Ports, etc. The author manages to keep the narrative flowing, despite the many viewpoints. It's actually quite interesting to be in the minds of so many disparate characters, and not just be following Ash all the time.
Technologically, it's a little bit steampunk, with airships and the like, but no computers. There is a kind of magic that is introduced in this book, whereby "Dreamers" can manipulate things in the real world, such as creating storms or throwing large stones. This magic is based on manipulating the "bindee" which is described as the binary code(!!) underlying everything. Some people, called rooks, can manipulate the area of the bindee that is used for long-distance communication (think hackers with the internet), which makes sense to me. But having binary code underlying objects in the real world makes me think of The Matrix movies, and hints that this world is an artificial construct inside a computer, which I don't think is the author's intent. This discrepancy is one of the books few weaknesses.
The other weakness for me is lack of a character with whom I can really identify. The other main character in this book, Shard, is a young female Dreamer/rook, who seems tailor-made for me to identify with, but even here I just don't quite connect. Ash, as the main character, is sympathetic and someone the reader can admire and root for, but I don't really connect with him, either. There are many other lesser characters, as well, who are all well fleshed-out, but there is no one to personally connect with.
However, the strength of this book (and the series) is the world-building. The author makes this world feel 100% believable. The best comparison I can make is with the Game of Thrones series, where the socio-political constructs immerse the reader in a world that seems fully real. Buchannon also does a great job with action/battle scenes. I raced through the last half of this book, pulled along by the action.
Overall, this may be the strongest book in the series, and it introduces some major new plot twists, while moving the main story toward what looks to be the inevitable showdown between the Empire and the nation of Khos.
One other caveat - this series is not for the faint of heart. It is dark, grim, and gritty. There isn't much levity at all, except maybe a little gallows humor in some characters. There are many evil, sadistic characters, and with the overall backdrop being a war of conquest, there really isn't any let up in the bad things that happen. If you're looking for a light, escapist fantasy, this ain't it! But if you enjoy complex world-building, with lots of political intrigue and action, this is your series.
A quaint little cozy mystery, from a bygone era. Only a little bit of sexism, though, but it was still not a great book. The identity of the murdererA quaint little cozy mystery, from a bygone era. Only a little bit of sexism, though, but it was still not a great book. The identity of the murderer was pretty obvious, and the characters are mostly unlikable. At least it was a quick read....more
Wonderful, wonderful book! The physical book itself is absolutely beautiful, with a slightly see-through dust jacket that allows the design underneathWonderful, wonderful book! The physical book itself is absolutely beautiful, with a slightly see-through dust jacket that allows the design underneath to show through. And the illustrations are fabulous! Of course, the storytelling is first-rate, given who the author is. It's a fun, slightly updated retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, but with a much more feminist bent. Loads of fun!...more
As a native Montanan, I know all about the white crosses that are placed by the side of the road to mark traffic fatalities. So I was intrigued by a bAs a native Montanan, I know all about the white crosses that are placed by the side of the road to mark traffic fatalities. So I was intrigued by a book that uses these crosses and the fatalities thereof as the main plot device. I wish I could say that the book was as good as the premise, but it was not. The ending was horrible, and did not fit with the rest of the book. It ruined the entire book for me.
The story takes place in a fictional eastern Montana town, and is set in 1957. Sheriff Jack Nevelsen receives a call about a fatal wreck just outside of town. When he discovers that those who died were the high school principal and a girl, June, who just graduated, he decides that he has to cover up the true story of them running off together. He convinces the principal’s son to say that it was he and June who were eloping, and his dad was merely driving her out of town to a rendezvous point. Jack also spreads the story himself, by telling it to some of the local gossips. His motivation for doing so is to preserve the morality of the town - to protect its citizens from the uncertainty and fear that would arise if they felt that high school girls were not safe from older predators. He is trying to keep his town “safe” in its innocence. The rest of the book is the playing out of this rumor, and how Jack fears its unraveling.
Most of the book is spent inside of Jack’s head, as he ponders what he’s done - which is against his usual truthful nature. We learn of his past, growing up in town, and we see his insecurities and how they influence his actions. We also see his growing attraction for the principal’s widow, despite his own marriage. We also get a good feel for the town and its residents. And while I got a little tired of Jack’s endless worrying and indecision, the author does a very good job of describing life in small-town Montana. The characters are diverse and interesting, and fit the locale well, and the descriptions of the weather and scenery capture eastern Montana well.
The big crisis of the book appears near the end, when Jack must decide if he will act on his attraction to the widow. And this is where the book falls apart, big time. For the entirety of the book, we see Jack’s thoughts and his divided loyalties. He is at heart a moral man, but he has to lie to keep the true story of the crash from the town, and this seems to open him to the temptation of the widow. The logical ending of the book would be for him to make one of two choices: to uphold his morality and not commit adultery, or to continue his slide into untruthfulness and to go to bed with the widow. As a reader, I could see this decision looming, and I would have been fine with either choice - Jack could go either way. The problem is that Jack gets shot and killed before he can finally decide. And then the book ends! It was a pointless murder, to boot (the killer thought he was shooting someone else.) This ending was a total cop-out!! The entire book is about morality and life’s choices, and the end is simply nothing. No final choice, no completion of Jack’s initial lie, in either direction. Does he turn around and act morally? Or does he continue his downward fall into immorality? We never know. Perhaps that was the author’s intent, but I felt betrayed by the cheap melodramatic ending, one that didn’t complete the main arc of the entire novel. It was a pointless ending to an otherwise good book. And I consider it a fatal flaw (pardon the pun) to the book, overall. The author sets up the whole book to lead us to this final choice, and then he cops out and doesn’t give us that choice. If we had seen Jack take that final step, I would have given the book 3.5 stars. As it is, I have to give it a single star. Maybe 1.5, since the first part of the book was well done. But I cannot recommend this book to anyone. There are better books about life in Montana - ones that are capable of bringing the reader to an ending that fits the rest of the book. (Ivan Doig and Wallace Stegner are two authors that spring immediately to mind.) Don’t waste your time on this book, unless you like getting cheated out of a proper ending....more
Most people are familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, yet, according to the afterward of this edition, this book waMost people are familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, yet, according to the afterward of this edition, this book was his personal favorite. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite of his. While I enjoyed the tale, overall, it was just a bit too old-fashioned and stereotypically swashbuckling for my taste.
The book is a coming of age story of Alleyne Edricson, a young man who was raised in a monastery, and who leaves at age 20 to “see the world” before he makes a decision to commit to a religious life or not. He meets a bowman, fresh from the wars in France, who befriends him. After Alleyne is rejected by his brother, he decides to follow the bowman back to France in service to Sir Nigel Loring, a brave and chivalrous knight. Many thrilling adventures ensue, and the book ends on a predictably happy ending.
The setting of the book is the year 1366, during The Hundred Years War, in France and Spain. Medieval life is presented rather benignly, without much mention of the hardships of life for the peasants. Only in France do we see the privation endured by those not of noble birth. England is depicted as a bastion of freedom and justice. The battles are portrayed without much gory detail, and are always shown to be opportunities for the ideals of chivalry and bravery, instead of the butchery that they were.
Doyle is clearly enamored by the ‘nobility’ of chivalrous life. Over and over we are treated to Sir Nigel pontificating on opportunities to defend the honor of his wife against a noble opponent. In fact, I found Sir Nigel to be not a little unlike Don Quixote in his outlook. The only difference here is that Sir Nigel faces real opponents, not windmills.
The dialog is stilted, and quite flowery. I kept having flashbacks to Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood movie! The story here is just as unrealistic. Not only is Alleyne handsome, he is said to be extremely talented in art, writing, and music. He never flinches from his duty, and basically has no flaws. Sir Nigel is also perfect, and the brave English soldiers are unwavering in their devotion to Sir Nigel and England.
The other thing that bothered me was Doyle’s continual denigration of monks and religion: real men go out and fight noble battles - they don’t stay home behind walls praying and leeching off of society, as monks do. While I am no fan of the church of that era, this simplistic view of what men should aspire to be is more than a little over the top.
I must call out the illustrations of this particular edition, done by the famous N. C. Wyeth. They are rich and beautiful, and are a wonderful addition to the narrative. Simply gorgeous!
Overall, this book is a typical swashbuckler, a la The Three Musketeers or Ivanhoe. Not very realistic, but especially for younger readers it’s probably quite the thrilling tale.
This is the first book in Bujold’s wildly popular Miles Vorkosigan series. In fact, it’s technically the 0th book in the series, because this is pre-MThis is the first book in Bujold’s wildly popular Miles Vorkosigan series. In fact, it’s technically the 0th book in the series, because this is pre-Miles; it tells the story of how his parents met, and introduces us to pivotal characters and events that influence the entire series. It really should be read before any other books in the series.
We meet his mother, Cordelia Naismith, an officer in the Beta Colony Expeditionary Force. She is leading a scientific mission to an inhabited planet. While she and another crew member are away from their base camp, the camp is attacked by forces unknown. As Cordelia rushes back to aid her crew, she is attacked and knocked unconscious. When she awakens, a gruff officer from Barrayar (a military caste planet) is her captor. But he is wounded, and also seems to be a victim of the attack. Nevertheless, they do not trust each other, at first, but as they make their way to what he says is a cache of supplies, they begin to find admiration for each other, despite their differences. (Beta Colony is very “free” sexually, and has no rigid societal rules, while Barrayar is ruled by an emperor and the military ruling class of Vor families.) We discover that her captor is Lord Aral Vorkosigan, of one of the more prominent families on Barrayar.
After several harrowing close calls, Aral manages to return to his ship, with Cordelia as a prisoner. We discover that Barrayar is attempting military expansion in the area. Events ensue such that Cordelia manages to escape and eventually return to Beta Colony.
Months later, the war progresses, and once again Cordelia ends up a prisoner on Aral’s ship. Critical events transpire on this ship, this time, and Aral and Cordelia realize they are in love. (At last!) The book ends on a hopeful note for all concerned.
The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and the blossoming romance is handled with a minimum of “cute.” (It is nice to have a mature romantic relationship, and not moody, emo teen romance!) We learn much about both Cordelia and Aral - their backgrounds, planets, and especially their shared sense of honor. All of this sets up the appearance of Miles in later books. But, even as a stand-alone novel, this is a good space opera, with a nice little romance thrown in for good measure. A most enjoyable read!...more
This is a wonderful addition to the series! It was a real page-turner, keeping me engaged from the suspenseful opening scene through to the denouementThis is a wonderful addition to the series! It was a real page-turner, keeping me engaged from the suspenseful opening scene through to the denouement and ending. It is something of a departure from the rest of the series, however, as only the very beginning and ending are told from Mary’s viewpoint. Most of the rest of the book is a look at the early life of Mrs. Hudson, the Holmes’ inestimable housekeeper, which may not be to everyone’s liking. As I enjoy historical fiction, this was no hindrance to my enjoyment of the book.
The book opens with a rather horrific encounter between Mary and a stranger who appears unannounced at her door, while she is home alone. All we know is that afterward, Mary is gone and there is blood all over the floor. The link between the intruder and Mrs. Hudson sets us off on a journey through Mrs. Hudson’s childhood in Australia, and early adulthood in England. We find out that the meek and mild Mrs. Hudson has a rather sordid past, though this is presented without condemnation. I found this part of the book to be fascinating, and I was drawn fully into the story. It’s almost a novel in and of itself. The events of her life lead us to see how she became Sherlock’s housekeeper, but along the way we are treated to a wild ride in the seamy underground of grifters and conmen.
The mystery surrounding Mary Russell’s disappearance is wrapped up quickly at the end, thanks to Sherlock’s brilliance, of course. I have a few quibbles with the story (see the spoiler section, below) but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
I loved how Mrs. Hudson and Sherlock Holmes meet for the first time. It was a treat to see the young Sherlock, before he became a legend, at the beginning of his career and at the early development of his talents.
I didn’t love the conditions Sherlock placed on Mrs. Hudson for her return to England. I thought that forcing her to leave her child was cruel, and their agreement seemed to put Mrs. Hudson in thrall to Sherlock. It’s as if Sherlock is her parole officer. I don’t like this change in their relationship. While I have no problem with her shady past (it’s kind of thrilling to know she led such a double life) I really don’t care for how I see her now, in relation to Sherlock. I used to think of her as something of a mother hen to Sherlock - that he was dependent upon her. But this new view of their relationship definitely puts him in control over her. It is a somewhat benevolent control, to be sure, but it is control, nevertheless, and it’s not to my liking at all.
I also HATED the fact that Mrs. Hudson leaves the Holmes’ employ at the end!! You can’t have Sherlock without Mrs. Hudson!! I hope that in subsequent books she will be able to come back home where she belongs....more
This is the third book in the very loose “Bridge” trilogy. (The first two are Virtual Light and Idoru.) Despite the connection among these bo3.5 stars
This is the third book in the very loose “Bridge” trilogy. (The first two are Virtual Light and Idoru.) Despite the connection among these books, it’s not really necessary to read the first two before reading this one. While I have read the first two, it’s been decades since reading them, and I don’t remember many details, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. That being said, reading this one has made me want to reread those two, and maybe I’ll find more links among them than I remember.
On to this book: Like all of Gibson’s books, ideas and their implications for society are at the fore. His world building shines again, with a not-too-distant future full of tech that is just barely beyond today’s science. (Note: this book is copyrighted 1999.) The main characters are Colin Laney, a man whose consciousness has been altered by an experimental drug; Rydell, an ex-cop; and Chevette, Rydell’s ex-girlfriend. Colin’s new abilities to “see” data has him convinced that a major “node” is coming, which will end the world as we know it. Because Laney is sick and dying, he hires Rydell to be his “boots on the ground” in San Francisco, where the node is centered. It is there that Rydell runs into Chevette again, and all of them have roles to play in the Big Event.
Gibson is a master at creating his vision of the future, and totally immersing the reader. His descriptions are evocative and make the world come to life. The first part of the book, where we meet each character, is chock full of little vignettes that help draw the reader deeper into the world he’s created.
Once he’s set up the characters and the situation, then the action starts. And it goes at a break-neck pace from there on out. The ending is a little abrupt, however, and if you’re not paying attention, you won’t understand what just happened, and how it really does change everything.
Anyone who enjoys future tech and/or thrillers will find this book quite satisfying. It’s believable, the characters are interesting, the future world is fascinating, and the story is compelling....more
I am a huge fan of China Mieville’s work. I got hooked with Perido Street Station, and I think I’ve read everything that he’s written since. His booksI am a huge fan of China Mieville’s work. I got hooked with Perido Street Station, and I think I’ve read everything that he’s written since. His books are always chock full of weirdly imaginative stuff, and they often veer off into unexpected places. This book is quite a bit simpler than most of his other books, and on the surface it’s not that weird. But just under the surface is a simmering stew of darkness and strangeness. I found it disturbing to read, and put it down several times, because it was just…uncomfortable for me to read it. Let me see if I can explain.
The book is set in a town in an unnamed country and unspecified time. They seem to have some modern conveniences such as electricity, but in other regards the place seems Medieval. The book is narrated by a man who is recalling events from his childhood, beginning with him seeing his father kill his mother. But the narrative does not flow linearly, nor is the narration always first person. Sometimes it switches to second person and then into third person - often doing so on the same page. As a reader, this is quite unsettling (which, I’m sure, is Mieville’s goal.) Another unsettling thing is the town and society. It seems normal, most of the time, but their are oddities that skew it just a bit off center, again making the reader uncomfortable. The final bit of off-putting storytelling is the plot point of the murder. It’s given to us up-front, but then we go back in time before the murder and see the boy’s life leading up to it. The murder hangs over the narrative like a dark shadow, and the father’s behavior is just creepy enough to see how the murder could happen. But we also get hints that maybe the boy is making things up, maybe it was his mother who killed his father, maybe the boy is crazy. So the reader is carried along a dark and twisting path, never quite feeling secure.
All of this adds up to a strange story, but one that is masterfully told. Mieville’s experimentation with varying points of view fits this tale perfectly. Fans of Mieville will not be disappointed, though newcomers to his work might just be confused and wonder what all the fuss is about. Personally, this is not my favorite of his, but I can appreciate his skill to create such a story....more
Fascinating retelling of the story of King David from the Old Testament. The author brings the grit and earthiness of that era to life, and gives us aFascinating retelling of the story of King David from the Old Testament. The author brings the grit and earthiness of that era to life, and gives us a back-story to David's life and the events we know of from the Bible. Brooks focuses more on David's secular life, and not as much on his spiritual life and relationship with God. He is portrayed as something of a crazy mystic, in that regard. But in all other respects, I enjoyed the book....more
A fun little space opera, with a very interesting female protagonist. Cherryh does a good job with fleshing her out, and in developing the culture onA fun little space opera, with a very interesting female protagonist. Cherryh does a good job with fleshing her out, and in developing the culture on the space station and the ship. I really enjoyed it - up until the end. What the heck was that ending??!?...more
No wonder this book won the Pulitzer Prize, and was nominated for so many other awards, and is found on so many “best of” lists. This is an amazing boNo wonder this book won the Pulitzer Prize, and was nominated for so many other awards, and is found on so many “best of” lists. This is an amazing book, on multiple levels. It brings the horrors of WWII down to a personal level, but is never overwhelming or overly dark/depressing. In the end, it speaks of the strength of the human spirit, even in the face of evil.
But don’t let the lofty themes scare you – this is also a wonderful story of two young people, a French blind girl and a German electronics whiz, and how they grew up before and during the war, and how their stories eventually come together. Doerr does a wonderful job of capturing life for each of these characters, enveloping the reader with delicious prose that captures the feel of their very different lives. Marie-Laure lives with her widowed father in Paris. He is the locksmith and key master for the National History Museum, and Marie-Laure grows up surrounded by scientists and collectors. Werner is an orphan boy, who lives with his sister in an orphanage, and who loves to design and build things – especially radios. He is discovered by the Nazis and sent to a training school (boot camp) for young Nazis. The book weaves together the two stories of the children as they grow and as their world changes around them.
The narrative is told in multiple time periods, as well as the two main story arcs. The book starts with the bombing of the town of Saint Malo, with Marie-Laure alone in her great-uncles house. As we skip between storylines and time periods, we follow the two protagonists’ stories and are led to them finally intersecting. What happens after they meet is probably not what most readers would want or expect, but it rings very true.
The title of the book is from a radio lecture that Werner overheard as a young boy, about the spectrum of light. The small part of the spectrum that is visible to the human eye is infinitesimally small, compared to the rest. So much so, that – mathematically speaking – all of the light spectrum is invisible to humans. How this relates to the book is up to the reader’s interpretation. While the obvious hook is Marie-Laure’s blindness, I think it refers to all of the goodness (the “light” in a dark world) that is happening, even in the midst of WWII. Both Marie-Laure and Werner are often struck by some bit of natural beauty, or the kindness of a stranger, and I think it is this that helps them survive.
Another theme addressed is the age-old question of “What makes a good person do bad things?” This question is often raised when discussion Nazi Germany, and Werner’s story depicts this brilliantly. There are many scenes showing how he is gradually sucked into the Nazi war machine – even when his friend in school stands up and refuses to participate. I really came to understand how easy it can be for good people to be corrupted – or at least to be trapped so much as to go along, even when they know it’s wrong.
I also have to mention the prose – it’s fabulous. Doerr’s descriptions are nearly poetic in their imagery, yet it all flows effortlessly. It’s a page-turner, but with certain pages that will cause the reader to pause and savor the words on the page.
This is a book that will stick with me for some time to come – the mark of a book that is not merely entertaining, but that speaks to the human condition. It is truly worthy of the Pulitzer Prize, and is a book that everyone should read. ...more
Not CJ's best book, by any means. It wasn't terrible, but it was pretty ordinary, which for CJ is kind of shocking. Granted, this was fairly early inNot CJ's best book, by any means. It wasn't terrible, but it was pretty ordinary, which for CJ is kind of shocking. Granted, this was fairly early in her career, so I'll make allowances, but for fans of hers, be warned: this doesn't meet her usual writing standards.
A rusalka is a ghost, from Slavic/Russian folklore, of a woman who died violently in the water - accidental drowning, suicide or murder. This spirit haunts the woods near where she died, drawing energy by killing unsuspecting people who happen by. This book is a very long fairy tale about one such spirit.
The book is set in what would appear to be Medieval Russia. It begins in a small village, where we see a young ne'er-do-well, Pyeter, get in a fight with the husband of a woman he's seduced. The man dies during the fight (without being touched by Pyeter) and the village authorities are called out. Pyeter was wounded in the fight, and hides in the stable of the local inn. He is discovered there by Sasha, the young stable boy, who has a bad habit of wishing things about people and having those wishes come true. For whatever reason, Sasha decides to help Pyeter, and they end up running away together. They eventually stumble across the home of an old man, who saves Pyeter's life by healing him with magic. The old man, Uulamets, is a wizard, you see. He tricks the young men into helping him resurrect his dead daughter, Eveshka, who is a rusalka.
The first part of the story moves along rather well, though the character development of the two young men is fairly sketchy, especially that of Sasha. Once they join forces with Uulmamets and begin trying to rescue Eveshka, the rest of the book is mostly arguments. Pyeter & Sasha argue. Sasha and Uulamets argue. Eveshka and Uulamets argue. All four of them argue. This goes on and on and on, for the rest of the book. There are encounters with other magical creatures from Slavic/Russian folklore, but these don't overshadow the incessant bickering among the characters. Even the final battle seemed to be just a blip between arguments.
The magic in this world is never fully defined - it seems to be along the lines of simply wishing and believing things, though Uulamets uses potions and spells, as well. People seem to be born with the ability to use magic, and those that are recognized as such can be taught by wizards. But clearly, wizards and magic are not thought of in a positive light by the mundanes, since Sasha was so ostracized and criticized for his 'wishing' abilities. Otherwise, one would think he would have been sent to a wizard as an apprentice.
Another nit to pick: CJ massively overuses the phrase "with which" and its similar cousins. Every other page, and sometimes twice on the same page, we get something along the lines of:
She wanted them safe. Which notion far from reassured him.
...Upon which thought...
...After which decision...
Used sparingly, there is nothing wrong with these phrases. But they are used dozens of times in this book - and often enough that they are jarring interruptions to the flow of the story.
Between the unending arguments and the awkward phrasing, this book needed the hand of a very good editor. Sadly, it didn't benefit from such. As the first in a trilogy, it doesn't spur me to want to read the rest of the books, though I may give them a try - someday....more
I must admit that I felt a great deal of trepidation before I finally decided to read Go Set A Watchman. I had heard the leaked reviews that Atticus FI must admit that I felt a great deal of trepidation before I finally decided to read Go Set A Watchman. I had heard the leaked reviews that Atticus Finch (the beloved icon of reason and justice in To Kill A Mockingbird) was a racist supporter of segregation in this book. This was hard for me to accept, as much as I admire that character, and as much as I love that book – I’ve read it 30-40 times in my lifetime, and each time I appreciate it more, and get something new out of it. So, it was with trembling fingers that I finally picked it up to read. But it was very much worth it!
First, one must keep in mind that this book isn’t a true sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird – it was submitted to the publisher, who requested that Ms. Lee rewrite it to focus on the character of Scout as a young girl. However, for a fan of Mockingbird, it’s hard to not read it as a sequel – most of the same characters are present (with the notable exception of Boo Radley.) And Scout is very much the same, even though this story takes place about 20 years after the events in Mockingbird. Scout is in her mid-twenties, but is still the impetuous, independent person we saw in Mockingbird. In this new book, she is coming home (from NYC) for a visit with her family and her beau. It is very much a coming-of-age story – even though Scout is an adult – as she is forced to confront some things in her family and in her own life that will truly set her on her feet as her own person.
The first part of the novel feels much the same as Mockingbird – Scout fights with her Aunt Alexandra (that pillar of imperial southern women) just as she did as a child, and her memories of youthful escapades could easily fit into the pages of Mockingbird. Things take a decided turn toward new territory when Scout surreptitiously attends a meeting of the ‘town council’ which Atticus chairs, only to find it is a meeting about how to deal with the ‘black problem’ – complete with a racist speaker who calls Negroes sub-human. Scout is beyond stunned, as she remembers the time that Atticus defended a Negro against a rape charge, and won on appeal (another difference from Mockingbird) and she remembers that he always treated Negroes with respect, when most other people didn’t. And not only is Atticus there, but so is her boyfriend, whom she had been thinking of marrying.
Angry, shocked and confused, she goes to her Uncle Jack (Atticus’ brother) to tell him what she saw. Here she doesn’t find the comfort that she thought she would, and she leaves as angry as she arrived. She finally confronts Atticus, with accusations of racism and bigotry, and he doesn’t defend himself. This is probably the hardest part for a Mockingbird lover to read – Atticus speaks about the “black problem” and the “meddling” of the NAACP, and he constantly refers to the Negro community as “children” who need the guidance of white people. His only response to Scout’s accusations is “I love you.”
Still not knowing what to think, she returns to Uncle Jack, where he confronts her with the revelation that she must be her own conscience (the “watchman” of the title) and not rely on Atticus to be her moral compass. She must fully grow up and become her own person.
Overall, the book was not quite as good as Mockingbird (but what is?), though I still think it has merit on its own. The point of the book – to learn to be your own person – is relevant to everyone, and the issue of racism and bigotry is, sadly, still one we must confront. I think it serves as a great adjunct to its ‘big brother’ and I enjoyed my visit back to Maycomb, Alabama. And, speaking as a true fan of Mockingbird, I’m glad I read it and I don’t feel as if it has spoiled the image of the Atticus I know and love. ...more