quite darkly funny most of the time but often depressing too (especially for someone around the narrator's age when the body starts creaking), so mayquite darkly funny most of the time but often depressing too (especially for someone around the narrator's age when the body starts creaking), so may take a while to finish it, but I really like the voice...more
As with any first person narration, voice makes or breaks the reading experience and despite the cheesy blurb (and actual story which the blurb reflecAs with any first person narration, voice makes or breaks the reading experience and despite the cheesy blurb (and actual story which the blurb reflects accurately), I got hooked on this novel with the musings/experiences of the narrator who successfully (maybe - as he notes it - due mostly to lack of competition) covers Spanish hotels for a periodical; with his trademark anonymity (he always checks is under his closely guarded real name, so hotel management has no clue he is the fearsome reviewer who can make or break a reputation and he never reviews hotels without sleeping at least a night in), the narrator finally accepts to review a recently refurbished hotel next door to his apartment when the whole "wrong room" stuff happens and obsession ensues...
However after maybe 50-60 pages the book starts running out of steam as it goes nowhere and while the narrator musings are interesting for a while, they become boring at longer length; since the book is short I finished it (though nothing happens until the end) but the last part failed to engage me as noted
Overall, great start due to compelling voice, but then a lesson in how whatever is most important for one can be extremely boring for everyone else if continued at length...more
interesting setup and characters, so-so writing that hits narrative walls frequently ( a common thing for new writers doing several pov's and not beininteresting setup and characters, so-so writing that hits narrative walls frequently ( a common thing for new writers doing several pov's and not being able to transition well between)
plan to read sequel as writing tends to improve (especially the above issue), while setting and characters have lots of potential...more
A novel I picked up randomly in the bookstore to browse as the blurb seemed interesting and then I couldn't put down and had to read it until the endA novel I picked up randomly in the bookstore to browse as the blurb seemed interesting and then I couldn't put down and had to read it until the end late in the evenings at home.
While it belongs to the "long ago" secrets sub-genre and it splits the action between the present (Rome and the Ligurian coast 1953, where the main characters meet and then go on a movie promotional trip on a yacht, he being an English expatriate, writer, journalist, though with an Italian mother and a brigadier father, war veteran and damaged by said war and its aftermath, she being a Spanish woman, damaged by their earlier war and who found a refuge that is more like a cage with a rich American husband, but also the secondary characters, the talented but scarred and elusive director, the Italian beautiful and seemingly spoiled movie star, The American drunk and famous male lead, the photographer with a secret, the Contessa whose ancestor's tale from a journal dated around Lepanto's time - 1570's - inspired her to make the movie in cause, the rich American financing the movie, who obviously is the husband and not least the 1570's characters whose lives have an echo today) and the past (1937 Spain, the war at sea and its aftermath, Italy under Mussolini, the aftermath of Lepanto 1574 and Genoa of the time), the novel depends more on characters' interaction and on the descriptions of the wonderful scenery of the Ligurian coast than on twists which are generally predictable - for example this novel made me regret not doing the San Fruttuoso hike described so wonderfully here when I visited the Ligurian coast in the spring of 2015 (had limited time true, but still thought of it, though we finally did just the Santa Margherita - Portofino walking trip and took the boat back...)
Given the above, I have to say that the book worked really, really well for me as I enjoyed everything - the prose, the characters, the description - and the ending was excellent (though again I thought it would go that way despite the first pages which start the recollection of the main character a few years later)
Overall, a deeply personal book that worked superbly for me and the only thing I would add is to give it a try and see if it works for you too. ...more
while it is fairly long and being split into subject parts which sometimes bog down into detail so lacking narrative momentum, this book is superb aswhile it is fairly long and being split into subject parts which sometimes bog down into detail so lacking narrative momentum, this book is superb as a guide to understanding the crucial 1648-1815 period when our modern world came into being - there are tons of examples of where things stood in 1648 (from communications, to trade, to science...) and where in 1815 and how the gulf between such was arguably higher than between 1648 and the classical era of the Greeks and Romans
lots and lots of anecdotes enliven the narrative (there are newspapers excerpts, including some very funny marriage announcements from the 17th and 18th centuries, diaries, pamphlets, political works by famed kings like the Sun King or Frederick the Great etc) and while the political and scientific parts are fairly sketchy (these being the parts I've read a lot about), as mentioned I consider this just a guide to the era
lots of tidbits to put our modern era and its fears into perspective too (as a reasonable estimate, France lost some 15% of its population in the famines of the early 1690's - basically two consecutive poor harvests and two rough winters - the plague killed large fractions of the people wherever it popped up, small pox devastated everyone, commoners and nobility the same, while also as the period progresses, famines started being less prevalent - though still an issue up to the French Revolution, but much less devastating, plague essentially disappeared and smallpox was contained by vaccination, though the initial procedure was much riskier than the safe Jenner one discovered later...)
overall, excellent and highly, highly recommended...more