Tries so hard to be unsentimental that it wraps back around the sentimentality scale again to maudlin. We are meant to think that the characters are oTries so hard to be unsentimental that it wraps back around the sentimentality scale again to maudlin. We are meant to think that the characters are ordinary with human flaws, but instead they are simply unlikable--I felt sad not for their deaths but that they had lived such hollow lives. And the omniscient narrator's voice--ye gods! At one point he describes the young couple French-kissing with the metaphor of a mother bird feeding its young a mouthful of worms. More interesting was the daughter Syl, but she doesn't show up till halfway through and of course the bulk of her story here is a cliched difficult relationship with her parents. I did find the descriptions of their bodies decaying fascinating, but I could have done without the bland narrative tacked onto the non-fiction....more
This is a novel in only the loosest sense of the word. More strictly, it is six short stories, five of which are split in two. There are minor connectThis is a novel in only the loosest sense of the word. More strictly, it is six short stories, five of which are split in two. There are minor connections between the stories: a mysterious birthmark shared by major characters, occasional references to details from other stories (a character from the mystery story ordering the Cloud Atlas Sextet music from the prior story), and the "nested" connection of the stories. One assumes that there is a thematic connection between them all as well, but if it is more profound than "Civilization rises and falls randomly" then it was beyond me.
The "nested dolls" nature of the stories (as blurbed by no less than Michael Chabon) is simply that in the second half of the book, the conclusion of each story references the character interacting with the next story's last half. To say I was underwhelmed by the narrative trick of splitting the stories in two would be an understatement. I trudged along through the first half, intent on giving Mitchell a chance to connect these stories in some interesting way. Call me demanding, but I was looking for epiphany, the tingling in the spine that some mystery of the universe has been unlocked.
What I got instead were three mildly interesting stories and three mildly annoying ones. I could pick some nits with the SF of the two "middlemost" stories, but they were affecting nonetheless. The mystery was rather bland, and the characters of Timothy Cavendish and Rufus Frobisher made me want to strangle them, no matter how clever their prose was (or perhaps because it was too clever by half). The journal that begins and ends the book was rather good.
The book ends with: "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"--a statement which seems aimed at making this multitude of words into a novel, but I think it comes as too little, too late....more
**spoiler alert** I wanted to like this book. Much of it I did like. Nearly all of the genre references are spot on. And it was a quick, smooth read,**spoiler alert** I wanted to like this book. Much of it I did like. Nearly all of the genre references are spot on. And it was a quick, smooth read, with witty and smart writing. Also, it was good Spanish practice since probably a tenth of the novel is en espanol.
But: About half of it turns out to be of the generational family saga ilk that seems so popular in the mainstream these days, and which I dislike. Except for one unfortunate chica, every girl or woman in the book is beautiful. And the primary motivation for every character appears to be sex. The POV bugged the hell out of me. Most of it is told by Yunior, who is a bit of a dick. Oscar's sister Lola gets some screen time of her own, with no explanation for the POV shift--though there is the suggestion that the text has been written for Lola's daughter at the end. And none of it is actually from Oscar's POV, though the book is ostensibly about him. There are several cliches, some of which Diaz lampshades, but still.
I guess I wanted a different book. I wanted a book told from Oscar's perspective. I would have preferred if Oscar had lived, since there was no real point or poignancy to his death other than the fulfilling of the title. The brief snippets of dialogue we get from Oscar give him an oddly stilted voice that would have been great to explore, especially if given a chance to grow and change over the course of the novel. Instead of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the book should have been titled A Brief History of the Fuku of the deLeon's (As Told to a Friend of the Family). Not quite as catchy, I know....more