updated review (12/14/2014): fourth reread and i still love this book a lot. it's frankly embarrassing how badly i want a contemporary college-set adaupdated review (12/14/2014): fourth reread and i still love this book a lot. it's frankly embarrassing how badly i want a contemporary college-set adaptation. if you can't see charles musgrove as a well intentioned but very stupid fratboy you are WRONG
original review (2010): First Austen I've ever read, and definitely my favorite. The plot is not the usual boy-meets-girl, with the Heroine finding it necessary to hide her felings for her own sake. Anne certainly does keep her feelings hidden--but not for lack of trying. It's an older circle of people Austen focuses on here, giving long-suppressed feelings another go, which is a terribly intriguing premise for that time period. Of course, it's infused with Austen's characteristic wit and charm, and Anne manages to walk a fine line between irritatingly acquiescent and strong-willed with finesse. And who doesn't like the roguish, emotionally fumbling Wentworth?...more
Oof. What a book. I wavered between four and five stars on this one, ultimately deciding on four, because at times it could be deeply frustrating. I uOof. What a book. I wavered between four and five stars on this one, ultimately deciding on four, because at times it could be deeply frustrating. I understood logically why it was--we're reading solely from Lena's perspective, and she is a flawed, ambitious, jealous, conflicted, passionate character, who constantly feels inferior to (and also inspired by) her best friend Lila, and that is a perspective that can be exhausting to read as an audience. Sometimes I just wanted to hear Lila's thoughts; sometimes I wanted to reach in and shake Lena, or just have any impartial nonbiased input. But of course, the book isn't written to be an impartial, uncritical account. It's one woman recounting her complicated friendship with a complicated girl, simultaneously aware of and unaware of her own flaws and positions and biases. Sometimes you really have to step back after a description of events--particularly those extolling Lila's virtues or desirability or general perfection--and remember this is all coming from Lena's perspective. When she would rail for pages about her own ugliness, her acne, her weight, her plain clothes, it was sometimes difficult not to become irritated with her self-loathing.
Although at the same time, it was kind of refreshing. Every teen girl goes through periods of intense self-scrutiny, and boy, could I relate to having a friend you feel is just so much more brilliant/intelligent/sparkling/interesting than you are, that combination of envy at their talent, drive to surpass them, pride at being their close friend at all. It isn't something you see addressed in literature very often, even ~chick-lit~, in any sort of nuanced way. Ferrante (and the translator, of course) does it just beautifully. The prose is almost frantic, a barrage of commas and incomplete clauses that at first made my inner grammarian want to claw up the walls; but after a few chapters to adjust, I sank into the motion of the words. The simple language, the commas (and almost little else besides periods), the long, long sentences of clauses, the lengthy paragraphs, the sparse dialogue, all came together into an almost frantic pace. Everything was moving forward at once. Lena's narration was simple and frenetic; major events like (view spoiler)[Lena's sexual assault (hide spoiler)] and (view spoiler)[the gunfire on New Year's Eve (hide spoiler)] are written with the same momentum as Lena detailing her study habits, or how Lila moving forward in one area of her life makes her feel left behind and inadequate.
And of course, at the center of everything is Lila and Lena's relationship, how it grows and changes. In particular I was struck with how Ferrante makes it increasingly clear--right up until Lila says it--that despite a decade of viewing Lila as the superior in every way, in constantly trying to surpass her, that Lena has become the superior, the brilliant friend, in Lila's eyes. If you hadn't been paying attention to how the narrative continually questioned Lena's assertions, that might come as a shock, but to me it was a deeply satisfying revelation. Also, there were some serious lesbian undertones in this, (view spoiler)[up to and including Lena bathing Lila and thinking about how she wanted to kiss her, protect her from male defilement, (hide spoiler)] though I'm not surprised they weren't illuminated or acted on in any way, considering the characters are never older than 16, raised in a conservative, Catholic town. I'm eager to pick up the next two books, though, to see if anything comes of it. Not that it would be the whole crux on which I base future opinions of the trilogy, as much as I am 100% here for lady kissing, just that I hope it isn't a thread that gets dropped without any further development.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
quick listen! whole thing in under an hour. a really enjouable, well-written short story about faith and family and how they sometimes conflict, set iquick listen! whole thing in under an hour. a really enjouable, well-written short story about faith and family and how they sometimes conflict, set in 18th century poland. the viice actors were great (although sofia was really annoying, to be honest), particularly rivka and her daughters. there are a lot of characters in a very short span of time which was a little confusing, but it came together very quickly. if you've got an hour to kill, this is a good pick. there's about an hour of additonal klezmer music afterward, as well, if you're into that!...more
Debating four or five stars on this one. Definitely five for the first two stories--the first could stand on its own as a complete and frankly perfectDebating four or five stars on this one. Definitely five for the first two stories--the first could stand on its own as a complete and frankly perfect short--but the last two felt almost rushed. The first two stories are practically self-contained narratives; the second two don't really stand on their own. Which isn't really the point of segments in a novella, of course, but they just seemed, imo, to be less engaging on the whole than the first two pieces about Mayola and Levi. Truthfully, I was a little disappointed the story seemed to veer away from the springs in the third part. As other reviewers have said, it's really a stretch to call this specfic or SFF at all; but I was hoping the last two segments would really capitalize on the haunting magical realism set up in the first two. Regardless, it was wonderfully written, and the narrative tone was gorgeous, shifting from Mayola's clever homey narration to Anna's quick and efficient voice in the last section. Admittedly, there is a certain degree of discomfort in two white authors writing about POC characters and voices and experiences (and also, it has to be mentioned, using a real person with real living descendants in the way they used Johnny Weissmuller); but I think they did so carefully and thoughtfully, reflecting attitudes of the various time periods without venturing into caricature or playing the frequent and regrettable "white author becomes POC spokesperson to demonstrate how enlightened they are" card. It's a thin line and one white authors have to be especially careful of, which the writers here seemed to do very well. The characters, as briefly as they appear, are well-rounded and sympathetic, clever and interesting and flawed. I'd read a whole book about Mayola, tbqh. Her piece was by far my favorite in the whole novella (though the alligator chase scene comes in at a close second)....more
**spoiler alert** Hmm. Not sure whether I liked or disliked this book as a whole--there were parts of that were extremely enjoyable, but the vast majo**spoiler alert** Hmm. Not sure whether I liked or disliked this book as a whole--there were parts of that were extremely enjoyable, but the vast majority of it felt slow and pointless. The first half of the novel is Amy's fake diary vs. Nick's initial reactions to the kidnapping. Nick is an asshole. Amy is bland as three day old toast. Yes, this is supposed to be psychopath Amy's idea of a weak, lovable woman the press will adore--but she's not even that. She wasn't enjoyable to read in the least. Wandering around in the rain gazing longingly at the house, waiting for her husband to rescue~ her? Give me a break. If I hadn't read a spoiler that there was a significant twist in part two and the diary wasn't real, I would have put the book down. Diary Amy is obnoxious, and provides little relief from Nick "My wife is missing but mostly how much does MY life suck" Dunne. And that's before he figures out Amy is framing him. These characters are atrocious--not just bad characters you want to read about, but bad characters. The writing is solid, but even good writing won't keep me invested in people who I don't give a fuck about. Slogging through the first half of the book was a nightmare. Nick's plot was interesting and picked up significantly; but reading about it through his self-pitying eyes was grueling work. I dreaded coming to Diary Amy chapters like I dread hearing about how Bella Swan is a model heroine.
The twist was great, but couldn't carry the novel for me. Once it happened and Real Amy explained everything, the book just sort of puttered on for a while, Nick insisting he had to get Amy home and Amy doing nothing of interest or value. The end of the novel completely fell flat. The content was all right, but it read like a car suddenly sputtering to a stop on the freeway. Everything is moving forward, there are roughly 30 Chekhov's guns floating around, but instead of any of them firing, the book just ends. Seriously, Flynn spent the entire novel talking about Nick turning into his father, his father's rage against women, his father constantly showing up at the house (apparently looking for Amy?)--and all that comes of that entire novel-long plotline is that Mr. Dunne passes away and that's that? What? Andie, who repeatedly told Nick she had to see him everyday to the point of borderline obsession, who bit him, just magically gets over it and starts dating a new guy? Boney and Go's virulent insistence something be done about Amy the Psychopath is dropped with barely a "have a good life" from Boney. (Ps, what the FUCK kind of name is "Go?" That is some just-to-be-different bullshit.) It's like Flynn carried the novel up to its conclusion and then got bored, and just finished it as quickly as she could.
That being said, the latter half of the book, up until the end, was very readable (if not 100% enjoyable). I was constantly pushed forward to see where all the little pieces Flynn had set out were going to come together. They never did, unfortunately, which is really what made the ending so wildly unsatisfying. I initially wanted to give this book three stars because I tore through the latter half; but on reflection, slogging through half the book and then the atrocious finale really outweigh the maybe 35% of actual good novel....more
I said I'd give this 100 pages, but honestly, I just don't care enough. This book isn't poorly written (the actual prose is...fine; some heavy-handedI said I'd give this 100 pages, but honestly, I just don't care enough. This book isn't poorly written (the actual prose is...fine; some heavy-handed metaphors, but nothing terrible) so much as boring, and subject to pitfalls of its own making. Putting a novel about an ostensibly poignant and emotional coming of age story in the voice of its fourteen-year-old protagonist is always a risky maneuver; fourteen-year-olds are not exactly the greatest storytellers, realistically speaking, and to make them readable you often have to succumb to the tired trope of the too-intelligent, world-weary, dreamy protagonist who Just Wants To Be Loved. I won't give a summary of the book--I haven't finished it, for one, and don't intend to; and you can find plenty of summaries elsewhere--but after 75 pages if I find the protagonist mind-numbingly boring, the prose bland, and the entire conceit of the book saccharine and schmaltzy, well, I'm just not going to continue. June doesn't seem to be grieving so much as self-centered and whiny; her touching anecdotes about her uncle Finn are just sappy vignettes about how wonderful and perfect and flawless he was; her blind ignorance of anyone around her trying to reach out and befriend her doesn't come off as an ironic disparity between the narrative and its reality, so much as a teenager being an oblivious brat. I had quite enough of that when I was a teenager; I don't really want to relive it. Maybe it gets better later, but a book shouldn't take 100+ pages to become palatable, particularly when the book isn't even 400 pages total. ...more
The Jane Austen Book Club, or, a bunch of upper middle class white women are bland and insufferable, a novel. I can't believe I made it through this.The Jane Austen Book Club, or, a bunch of upper middle class white women are bland and insufferable, a novel. I can't believe I made it through this. I could only make myself skim the last 30 or so pages. It wasn't badly written, per se (though let's not get into the sexual assault and casual, repeated use of the word "retarded" by characters who are supposed to be fairly considerate and aware, including three who are directly related to someone with special needs, like, this book was written in 2004, are you fucking kidding me?), but it was deeply, deeply boring, in a way that has made me finally come to sympathize with people who think Jane Austen is boring. For the record, I'm a big Austen fan; I saw the movie of this first and thought, while it had some pitfalls and was a bit silly, it was just so charming. So of course I was eager to try out the book. But what a disappointment! The narrative meanders, floats idly from point to point with no discernible through line, moves erratically between characters' perspectives with little explanation, and frequently comes from the bizarre and unexplained third person plural of some nameless, faceless, unidentified narrator, who is evidently a part of the book club, but not so much a part that they actually exist. There's an impression that this is supposed to be an homage or tribute or something to Austen, but it just comes off as boring and pointless. Nothing happens, and when something does, it seems to happen in the same kind of lazy, affectless manner as the characters running to get coffee, or looking over their bills. A character falls from a rock climbing wall; half the cast panics to attend to her; there is zero urgency or sense of danger at all. A character's mother dies; we never find out how or why, any details about the funeral, the character's mourning, beyond seeing her a few weeks later at a benefit dinner being vaguely irritable and thinking of songs her mother liked. No one would accuse Jane Austen of writing novels where very much happened beyond the purview of country lives and arranging marriages, but at least she didn't write it so it was a chore to read. I kept going thinking something, anything, would tie these threads together, would force me to care about these characters, but nothing ever came. It just floated on down its own lazy river to an ending that came out of nowhere and was suddenly, thankfully, over.
So disappointing. I love Austen; the movie was so cute; the writing itself was--fine. I wanted to like this book so badly....more
Library loan ended, and I'm not attached enough to this anthology to renew again. Many of these stories are lovely and interesting; but many are alsoLibrary loan ended, and I'm not attached enough to this anthology to renew again. Many of these stories are lovely and interesting; but many are also tedious and frankly, a little pretentious--the sort of ponderous, nonlinear, dreamlike narration of Literature. The Little Mermaid story and Swan Sister at the seaside were gorgeous, heartbreaking narratives; I definitely recommend those if you pick it up. I will in all likelihood borrow it again later and read through some more of the stories, though. Anthologies as a rule tend not to hold my interest for the entire book--it takes a cohesive narrative for that....more