I was never assigned The Diary of A Young Girl in school - I either picked it up myself or a teacher suggested it to me, right around fifth grade. And...moreI was never assigned The Diary of A Young Girl in school - I either picked it up myself or a teacher suggested it to me, right around fifth grade. And my fascination with Anne and her circumstances, with the differences between her tiny world and the world-changing events surrounding her story, and with the lessons we can take away from her words, has stuck with me ever since.
Perhaps it's because I read her diary outside of an academic setting, but I've never thought about it as a literary classic. I've always thought of it as non-fiction, as fact, so it never occurred to me to consider the writing, the tone, the level of story telling. Which I suppose is why Francine Prose is an award winner writer, a literary critic, and an English professor, and I am not.
I've never seen either the play or the movie based on the diary, and I can't say the story of adapting and creating them has made me any more interested. The poor characterization and over dramatization sound uninteresting - and the choice of tone sounds unsettling. The story of Anne Frank, and the larger story of the Holocaust, the story that she has come to represent for so many people, is not a comedy.
I particularly enjoyed Prose's look at the different messages people take away from their encounters with the diary. Is Anne a symbol of hope, as her famous quote about believing in the good in people would have us think? Or is she a reminder of the horrors that human beings can perpetuate, as she herself pointed out? Can she be both? Does minimizing her to one or the other - to any single message at all - diminish her, ignore her humanity, allow us to ignore the terrible times she lived through?
I don't know. But it's worth thinking about. (less)
I thought this was fun if uninspired - rather than throwing more creative or dramatic problems between Darcy and Elizabeth as most retellings or updat...moreI thought this was fun if uninspired - rather than throwing more creative or dramatic problems between Darcy and Elizabeth as most retellings or updates do, this one actually did a way with a problem - she never hears him insult her at the dance. And then the author plays with what could have gone differently with that one little change. Interesting.
And then there were some very old plot decisions, and some wildly out of character moves. I loved the beginning of this book, but mostly just tolerated the ending. (less)
An interesting and melodramatic look at Evelyn Nesbit and the super creepy guys who loved her.
My largest take away from this book is that Evelyn Nesbi...moreAn interesting and melodramatic look at Evelyn Nesbit and the super creepy guys who loved her.
My largest take away from this book is that Evelyn Nesbit really needed a hug and a friend to sit her down, hand her a glass of wine, and listen to her. Because for a girl as famous as Evelyn was, she had no freedom, no power, and, surprisingly, no money. So maybe that list should be expanded to include a good manager.
I enjoyed this book, and I think I need to reread Ragtime now, since I don't remember the storyline that included Evelyn from that book. I also think I will enjoy rereading Ragtime more than I enjoyed reading this one.
I wish this book had more to say on the sexualization of teenage girls, and how that normalizes predators and their behavior. I wish it had more to say on child stars and the problems with stage parents. I wish there had been any information, really, on Evelyn's life post-"Trial of the Century".
Lack of depth aside, the ending was very quick. After so much focus on Evelyn's terrible childhood, a long, detailed retelling of both Stanford White and Harry Thaw raping Evelyn (though that word is never used, and at least Evelyn's own words were used as part of the descriptions), and plenty of details about the decor and food at various hidaways in New York City, there was an abrupt lack of information about anyone post-trial. There was a page or two summary about Evelyn's much less guilded life, a reference to Harry's eventual release and a quote from "later in life", and... yeah, that was about it.
Not a bad read, but not a particularly great one either.(less)
I will likely have more thoughts on this one later, but for now: I like the way it could start a fascinating conversation (or just personal considerat...moreI will likely have more thoughts on this one later, but for now: I like the way it could start a fascinating conversation (or just personal consideration) of what our priorities are, and how different we all see various attributes.
Also - a YA novel without a love triangle!! That is how this book should have been advertised! "Interesting enough to keep you up late without having to resort to love triangles!" (less)
"Hey," I said, to a very sweet and somewhat shy woman I work with. "I just read this great book, and someone else has to read it too, so I can talk to...more"Hey," I said, to a very sweet and somewhat shy woman I work with. "I just read this great book, and someone else has to read it too, so I can talk to them about it."
"Okay!" She exclaims, enthusiastically. She had recently lent me the first in the The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax series, about a sweet older lady who becomes a spy. We were book friends now! "What's it about?"
"Whaling and cannibalism!"
Because, really, how else do you sell this book? "It's about New England whaling culture! It's about always bringing navigational instruments with you when setting out in rowboats in the middle of the Pacific! It's about how believing those nasty stories you've heard about various Pacific islands can get you into real trouble! It's about not angering creatures that are bigger than the vessel you're traversing an ocean in! There's some mentions of homemade ... toys ... that sailor's wives had around the house!"
Yeah. I know. Whaling and cannibalism.
If the cannibalism doesn't sell you on it, and the "true story about cannibalism!" doesn't sell you on it, than all I have to fall back on is that it's by the excellent Nathaniel Philbrick, who consistently brings lots of dead Americans of varying degrees of notoriety/notability back to life in the pages of his books.
He's super good at this, you guys. And if you're not into true stories about cannibalism or whaling or unpublished memoirs being discovered in attics (spoiler alert!), than I'm not sure we should hang out anymore.(less)
I am so disappointed in this book. I went looking for it (and it was later given to me as a gift) in part because Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton...moreI am so disappointed in this book. I went looking for it (and it was later given to me as a gift) in part because Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, cited it as an inspiration. Now, I love Downton Abbey because of the well-spun insights into characters whose lives are only 100 years removed from mine, but seem so dramatically different, and was excited to see if I could find hints of Cora or Mary or Bates in any of the real people MacColl highlighted.
This book contains lots of information about people of that era (real, in this case), but thrown together in such a maddening way as to negate any benefit from the stories it tries to tell. No sense of continuity, no story telling ability, and whoever formatted this book should be put out of their misery because there is clearly something very wrong in their life that they are taking out on the readers.
Two page long mini-info-dumps appear every 20 pages, often just when you turn the page, mid-sentence, so you must choose whether to turn ahead to finish the thought (paragraph?) and hope you remember to turn back, or read the new section and then turn back to figure out where you were previously, which I know is my favorite way to try to track 87 or so characters, half of whom share names.
And if you would like to try to track the progress of any girl (or girls) in particular, you will need to take notes. The book moves chronologically. Unless there's a theme the authors want to focus on, in which case: screw timelines! Sisters, cousins, in-laws - just list them off, of course people reading this book in the 21st century will know who they are and will remember these people when they are suddenly referenced again, out of the blue, four chapters later. In a caption of a fuzzy picture. In a two page mini-section that has nothing to do with the sentence you were just reading.
Also, there might or might not have been half a dozen young girls named Consuelo running around. Or they might all have been the same young woman. I just remember that name and then some divorced woman who caused a scandal when she married a man half her age. And that might have been Consuelo, I honestly don't remember.
My take away from this book: just watch Downton Abbey instead. And if you don't buy all your dresses from Worth, no one will speak to you.(less)
Eh. There wasn't much to this book, so there won't be much to this review.
Basically: modern day woman buys old book, finds what might be a letter from...moreEh. There wasn't much to this book, so there won't be much to this review.
Basically: modern day woman buys old book, finds what might be a letter from Jane Austen referencing a lost manuscript, engages in lots of awkward exposition with various other characters, goes searching for said manuscript, meets fine-looking gentleman, finds manuscript, reads manuscript, small drama to justify modern-day framework, neatly wrapped-up bad-rom-com ending.
The only reason this book got more than one star out of me is that the "missing manuscript" was halfway decent. No Jane, mind you, but since the modern day framework sets up the manuscript as an early try, before any of her actual published works, the less polished and over dramatic storyline almost works.
Instead of reading a poor imitation of Jane Austen, see, you're just reading Jane Austen before she was the real Jane Austen.
Except for the return to the modern day framework, which ruins the illusion and reminds you that you really are just reading a poor imitation of Jane Austen.(less)
A beautifully written novel - completely absorbing and engagingly dreamlike. Morgenstern did a wonderful job balancing multiple timelines and POVs - I...moreA beautifully written novel - completely absorbing and engagingly dreamlike. Morgenstern did a wonderful job balancing multiple timelines and POVs - I had no strong favorite, so I was immersed enough in each story to avoid skimming, but I was also happy to move on to the next section when it was time.
More than anything, I remember the atmosphere of the book, not the characters or their stories. I loved reading it, and my copy is currently in it's fifth set of hands, but I can't say I see this being a favorite or something I will reread. So four stars it is.(less)