This is a book to be savored: for the history, for the writing, for the story, for the inspiration. Daniel James Brown is in full control of the storyThis is a book to be savored: for the history, for the writing, for the story, for the inspiration. Daniel James Brown is in full control of the story as he takes the reader into the past. Your heart will break for young Joe and the treatment he suffers from his stepmother, yet she will earn a small modicum of sympathy as well. You will cross your fingers and hope along with Joe that he makes the crew. And your heart rate will go up with the oar strokes in races that happened eighty years ago. We know the outcome! And we still care.
Focusing on Joe is the way the author draws the reader into the story, and he does a great job of helping you "know" Joe. And to a certain extent you get to know the central characters in the book -- Ulbrickson, Bolles, Pocock -- but not nearly well enough. If time travel ever proved possible, that might be on my list of places-to-go-and-people-to-meet, along with the rest of the crew. There are undoubtedly stories there as well.
A review I read said it was clear that the author was not an oarsman (while admitting that he got most of the terminology right). But I don't think that matters. The story finally transcends the fine art of rowing into the metaphor of the boat and the biggest meaning of all: the belief that Joe had to surrender himself to the boat and trust that the boys would match and support him when he and they went beyond endurance and pain and into unquestioned faith to become true champions. This stands in stark contrast to the illusion of superiority so carefully crafted by the propagandists of the Third Reich. As George Pocock says: "Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They're the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that's why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. Thats what he gets from rowing."...more
A tepid review, I'm afraid. I finally got interested in the book at Chapter 17. My goodness, I disliked the writing style: choppy, disjointed, ramblinA tepid review, I'm afraid. I finally got interested in the book at Chapter 17. My goodness, I disliked the writing style: choppy, disjointed, rambling, author-intrusive, poorly edited.... I could go on and on.
There is a story here -- and I can see it becoming a successful Tom-Hanks-backed-HBO-mini-series -- but it seems to have overwhelmed the writer. I can understand that, given the complexity of relationships. I live in the area, so the names, towns, and many of the events are familiar to me. I even know some of the folks in the book. Yet I had to force myself to keep going, and keep going, and not give up. It was a chore instead of a pleasure. Wow, do I feel old-and-clinging-to-higher-standards-of-writing. This won awards? Go figure. ...more
Okay. So it's not a "perfect" book, but it set out to do -- and, most importantly, succeeded in doing -- what I haven't experienced as a reader in a lOkay. So it's not a "perfect" book, but it set out to do -- and, most importantly, succeeded in doing -- what I haven't experienced as a reader in a long, long time: it reached out and grabbed me and pulled me right into the story. It was a supremely satisfying read.
But don't pick up this book expecting a traditional thriller or mystery or romance. This is a gothic novel. And it ticks off all the boxes:
I savored the overblown language, the fragmentary plot, the uncanny revelations, the unexpected humor. You might, too, if you approach this novel with what Coleridge termed a "willing suspension of disbelief."
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one of the best books I've read....more
I nearly gave up on this book but it got a lot better as it went on. The present day was all tell and not show, whReally 3.5 stars, but I rounded up.
I nearly gave up on this book but it got a lot better as it went on. The present day was all tell and not show, which got boring really fast. Once Sookie sought out the psychiatrist, I was more interested. I know several people a bit like Lenore (oh god, that's frightening -- you'd like to think they are few and far between) but the chats in the Waffle House gave me some insights and, like Sookie, I think I can deal with them better now.
I agree with several reviewers who said the past was better than the present. I was fascinated to learn so much about the WASPs....more
A disturbing book. I just read the last page and for some reason I feel like I need to take a shower. I'm sure this book will return as disturbing thoA disturbing book. I just read the last page and for some reason I feel like I need to take a shower. I'm sure this book will return as disturbing thoughts from time to time, much like We Need To Talk about Kevin. (Maybe one such disturbing book is enough in a lifetime.) This is an instant-reaction review. Maybe I'll revisit it after my book club discussion. I'm sure that will be an interesting evening....more
There are things I really, really liked about this book; and things I really, really disliked. My book club gave it one of our highest ratings this yeThere are things I really, really liked about this book; and things I really, really disliked. My book club gave it one of our highest ratings this year. But to my way of thinking, it attempted too much and the result was jumbled. I loved the flower messages between Grant and Victoria but hated the plot holes. ...more
I really give this 3.5 stars. (Some spoilers included.)
Geraldine Brooks is a gifted writer. She brings to life characters who are very different fromI really give this 3.5 stars. (Some spoilers included.)
Geraldine Brooks is a gifted writer. She brings to life characters who are very different from us by focusing on areas in which we can relate, especially dualities such as self-doubt/self-righteousness and following the rules/experimenting with desires. We learn a great deal about Bethia/Storm Eyes, and what we learn of Caleb is through her eyes. It's not a bad thing. I was just surprised, expecting the book to focus on Caleb.
Because it is a first-person narrative set in the 1660s, the language is both archaic and lyrical. I wished at times for a pronunciation guide and an explanatory reference as to why, for example, the native Wampanoags were referred to as "salvages" and not "savages." I wanted to know, even though it was clear that that was the term the people of the time used, why that term (was it the missionary belief that these people could be salvaged? was it a Massachusetts-colonists' accent and pronunciation that gave us "savages"?). This became a distraction to my reading, as did how to pronounce native names and terms. Still, I was drawn into the story and the characters. The island of Martha's Vineyard is clearly a place that both the character and the author love; it becomes another character in the book. Having spent part of 8 summers there, I was drawn back to places and memories, which was an added bonus for me. I was carried along by Brooks's writing skills -- and enjoying the ride.
I was mentally comparing Brooks's writing to Nathaneal Hawthorne's and was caught up in Brooks's ability to sustain her character while taking on issues such as racial inequality, feminism, prejudice, religious arrogance, fear-based hatred, etc. -- when I collided with what felt like a brick wall in the at the end of section two of the book. Since both Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk and Joel Iaccomis, actual historical figures, died young, the story had to be true to the facts. That made the end of the book seem rushed, disjointed, and, ultimately, a disappointment....more
The best thing about this book? It sent me to Google image searches of the places Ian and Mattie visited. The descriptions of the traveling to exoticThe best thing about this book? It sent me to Google image searches of the places Ian and Mattie visited. The descriptions of the traveling to exotic locales were by far the best part. The story itself was a bit sentimental, emotionally manipulative, and predictable, including the attempted objective observation of the syrupy-sweet ending. Might have been better to continue the Kate-directed arc by having a very young child observe that final scene, leaving the reader to wonder: Kate reincarnate?...more
Wish I could add half a star. I liked it but didn't really, really like it.
It felt as if Smolinski were trying to channel Evanovich into "The Bucket LWish I could add half a star. I liked it but didn't really, really like it.
It felt as if Smolinski were trying to channel Evanovich into "The Bucket List." The main character seemed a rip-off of Stephanie Plum, down to the Italian boyfriend and black girlfriend in tight clothes.
Some things were funny and clever; others did not work for me. I mean, really, you lose control of your car, your passenger dies, and your first thought is "Shit"? REALLY??? Like it's an annoyance that you killed someone? It ruins your day?
Lacked character development. I think you're supposed to root for Malcolm but he came across as a jerk with anger management issues. And if his girlfrLacked character development. I think you're supposed to root for Malcolm but he came across as a jerk with anger management issues. And if his girlfriend couldn't see that, she should have stayed with the other guy. Oh, right, he turned out to be a jerk too. And Malcolm's sister, the sheriff? At one point she was 15 inches shorter than Malcolm. Malcolm was never described as exceptionally tall. That would make her 5-foot max. Yet no one ever comments on her being short, and trust me, being short, they would. And the great surprise that supposedly makes Malcolm the angry problem child? He never knew about it until he was an adult, so how does that explain his behavior? Yet it somehow turns him into the most loving, accepting person. Sure. I never cared about any of these characters. ...more