Interesting...a little long, and it sometimes felt like it was above my head. Much of the time, though, I really enjoyed it. I did love the way the au...moreInteresting...a little long, and it sometimes felt like it was above my head. Much of the time, though, I really enjoyed it. I did love the way the author played with the ambiguity of the story by using multiple unreliable narrators. The writing was pretty good, although I sometimes felt like the dialogue/lecturing got out of hand. It helped that I read it for my book club, because that's what kept me going during the draggy parts; however, it really picked up in the middle and then I couldn't put it down, long as it was. Overall, intelligent and clever.(less)
I couldn't decide whether I liked this or not. Sometimes it seemed a little pretentious, and I felt like Krauss was imitating her boyfriend, Jonathan...moreI couldn't decide whether I liked this or not. Sometimes it seemed a little pretentious, and I felt like Krauss was imitating her boyfriend, Jonathan Safran Foer. It's definitely a style which demands a lot of originality and creativity, and I enjoyed Foer's books, but after a while the genre gets old for me -- too many unlikely coincidences, even though I'm sure that I should be appreciating this style in a lofty way rather than being so plebeian as to criticize its unbelievability as if I were holding it to the expectations of a regular novel. Whatever. I felt it deserved a 3 for its originality and decent writing, but I didn't enjoy it enough to give it a higher rating.(less)
Definitely readable -- interesting and a little weird. The strange style was slightly reminiscent of "History of Love," and a little annoying at times...moreDefinitely readable -- interesting and a little weird. The strange style was slightly reminiscent of "History of Love," and a little annoying at times in the same way. Sometimes I felt like the book was trying to be moving and poignant, as opposed to naturally being so. Overall, though, I enjoyed it. (less)
This book was both very weird and very engaging, an unusual combination for me. I usually find magic realism/fantasy books alienating, but this one re...moreThis book was both very weird and very engaging, an unusual combination for me. I usually find magic realism/fantasy books alienating, but this one really drew me in. I still feel like I didn't get some of it, which is why I took off a star. I think the ambiguity was deliberate, but I guess I'm kind of a control freak who likes to feel like I understood the whole story in the end. I was amazed by the translation, though -- the writing felt extremely natural, not stilted like many translations. (less)
This book was a very creative exploration of the ambiguous boundary between imagination and reality, using the infamous disappearances in Argentina as...moreThis book was a very creative exploration of the ambiguous boundary between imagination and reality, using the infamous disappearances in Argentina as a setting. The writing was good, and I thought the idea was fascinating; however, I only gave it three stars because it took me a while to get into the story and I never really felt engrossed in it. It sometimes felt repetitive, especially during the first half. I'm also not a big magic realism person, and sometimes feel distanced by books which play with the rules of nature. (less)
This was a hard book to rate. The vast majority of the time, I found it compulsively readable, if a bit confusing. After about 400 pages, I started to...moreThis was a hard book to rate. The vast majority of the time, I found it compulsively readable, if a bit confusing. After about 400 pages, I started to feel like it was dragging a bit and the constantly shifting narratives and points of view were getting to me, as well as the increasing confusion. As with "Kafka on the Shore," I still don't feel like I understood exactly what was going on. However, the overall reading experience definitely rates a four for writing and originality. (less)
There were many things I should have disliked about this book, and didn’t.
1. The 848-page length. A friend of mine once said, “Most books longer than...moreThere were many things I should have disliked about this book, and didn’t.
1. The 848-page length. A friend of mine once said, “Most books longer than 300 pages needed a better editor.” I usually agree with that sentiment, but like “Pillars of the Earth” and a few other books, this is an exception.
2. The nineteenth century writing style. It could have been pretentious and alienating. It wasn’t. Instead, it was engaging and often funny.
3. The genres. I find that historical fiction is often not done well, and magic realism usually doesn’t appeal to me. Here, the historical aspects felt very natural and readable, as opposed to feeling like the author was trying to stuff in everything she knew about the period or sounding anachronistic. The magic realism was fun and interesting, and not off-putting to people like me who are not fans of fantasy.
Basically, Susanna Clarke pulled this off, and it's a huge accomplishment. For that alone, she deserves five stars. My one minor complaint about the book is that there were occasional moments (very few, especially in proportion to the book's length) where I didn't quite get what was happening. I'm not sure whether that was the ambiguous nature of the magic, a flaw in the writing, or my occasionally fluctuating attention span over 848 pages. It doesn't matter, because I kept reading and enjoying the book regardless. An 850-page book, written in a 19th century style, that never got boring? It seems, ah, magical.(less)
I debated long and hard about that fifth star. On the one hand, this book was dark and depressing and too intense to be read in long intervals, at...moreWow.
I debated long and hard about that fifth star. On the one hand, this book was dark and depressing and too intense to be read in long intervals, at least by me. In that sense, I don’t know if it truly deserved all five stars because reading it didn’t always feel pleasurable. I finally decided to add the fifth star, because all that being said, this book was brilliant – one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Blindness imagines a situation where an epidemic of “white blindness” breaks out in an unknown city – increasingly, individuals are struck with a malady in which all they see is white. These individuals have the misfortune of existing under an apparently totalitarian and inhumane government, where rather than being concerned for their rights and needs, the panicked government’s goal is to protect the rest of the population at all costs – isolating the blind victims and anyone known to have been exposed to the illness in an empty mental hospital, providing them with insufficient food at unpredictable intervals, no medical supplies, no cleaning help, etc., and shooting anyone who even looks like they’re trying to escape. Naturally, all hell breaks loose and we have yet another dystopian, cynical, dark and depressing novel depicting how quickly humans turn to animals under adverse conditions.
This book is clearly an allegory with an incredibly rich panoply of meaning. Blindness itself is such a multifaceted symbol – fear blinding people, wishing to be blind, etc. Then, the whole “Lord of the Flies” thing with that age-old question: is a corrupt but strong leader better than none? And the fact that the prostitute turns out to be one of the nobler and more altruistic individuals in this bizarre situation (although what was up with that little tryst with the doctor, Marg? And why the heck was his wife so accepting of that?).
It was also very reminiscent of a holocaust book, which is ironic since I’m told Saramago is actually anti-semitic. The whole idea of people being isolated for a reason that is not their fault, then forced to dwell under inhuman conditions that bring out the animal in them, persecuted by guards and forgotten by everyone else – it did feel like every holocaust book I’ve ever read. This was especially true because it was so black-and-white – the guards appeared to have no sympathy whatsoever for these poor blind victims, no remorse or even ambivalence about being cruel to them, etc. While this seems to have been the case during the holocaust, in the holocaust it was likely an attitude which developed over time, fed by propaganda and mob psychology. Here, the epidemic was sudden and the guards’ cruel behavior seemed to have developed overnight. It’s true that the fear of catching their illness was very real, but I still wonder whether the effect of that fear on the guards’ behavior wasn’t a bit one-dimensional and possibly exaggerated. Maybe this was intentional, for the purposes of the allegory, but I think I would have preferred a more complex understanding of what was going on.
Another suspension-of-disbelief issue – there’s no sense of anyone advocating for the needs of these victims, trying to research and find a cure for their illness, etc. Where were their friends and relatives? Where was the ACLU?
One final complaint – the writing could be annoying at times. Run-on sentences, uninterrupted dialogue with no quotation marks or other breaks so that you have to somehow glean who’s talking when, etc. It worked, surprisingly, but I still would have preferred an easier reading experience.
And yet, despite the annoying writing, despite the darkness and heaviness and depression and occasional one-dimensionality – this book really pulled me in. I needed a strong stomach, which I don’t always have, and found myself taking frequent breaks from reading this book. But I never wanted to close the book and not look back. I was always ready to pick it up again, and there was no question as to whether I was going to finish it.
Highly recommended if you can handle a dark read. (less)
The sequel to "The Eyre Affair" didn't disappoint. Thursday Next and Jasper Fforde's zany alternate 1985 are back -- a world where time travel can be...moreThe sequel to "The Eyre Affair" didn't disappoint. Thursday Next and Jasper Fforde's zany alternate 1985 are back -- a world where time travel can be used as a weapon, extinct species can be and are genetically engineered, and book characters live lives of their own. As you read, you are entering the world of Thursday Next, ironically a book character herself although she protests otherwise, and following along as she enters the worlds of various other book characters, who occasionally moonlight in other characters' books...it can make your head spin, and I wish I got all the literary allusions, but the books are insanely clever and fun, if sometimes over my head.
"Lost in a Good Book" picks up where "The Eyre Affair" left off. Having rescued the kidnapped Jane Eyre and killed the villain, Acheron Hades, in "The Eyre Affair," Thursday Next is now dealing with unwanted celebrity while trying to live a normal life. Unfortunately, a corrupt individual has used time travel to "eradicate" Thursday's husband (i.e., gone back in time to her husband's childhood near-death experience and reversed the outcome) so that no one except Thursday is aware that her husband ever existed. Her husband lives on in her memories and in her dreams, but nowhere else. To get him back, Thursday must rescue Jack Schitt (I know; if you think that's bad, try his half-brother Schitt-Hawse, or Thursday's lawyer Akrid Snell) from Poe's "The Raven" where she managed to imprison him in "The Eyre Affair." Although Thursday actually succeeds (thanks in part to Great Expectations' Miss Havisham's willingness to serve as a book-jumping mentor -- Miss Havisham is way more developed in this book than I remember in Great Expectations!), she then discovers that she's been duped and it will take more effort and clever plotting on her part to rescue her husband. Her time-traveling father, meanwhile, has warned her that the world is about to end, so Thursday really has a lot to deal with.
I loved many things about this book, including mental conversations taking place through footnotes (so that the text reflected what was actually heard on the outside while the footnotes supplemented by showing you the mental voices), satirizing the overuse of coincidences as a plot device, and the few literary allusions that I did get, although there were probably way more that I missed. Although I don't think I'm sufficiently well-read to fully appreciate these books, I enjoy them enough to keep reading them (plus my mother-in-law brought them for me from the library, and I need to finish them so she can return them!).(less)
Jasper Fforde bit off more than he could chew with this one. I feel like he had many creative ideas for bookworld (insider trading of plot devices, pl...moreJasper Fforde bit off more than he could chew with this one. I feel like he had many creative ideas for bookworld (insider trading of plot devices, plot smoothers and sewers of plot holes, bookworld awards, etc.) and basically constructed this book in part from loosely connected excuses to introduce these ideas. It often felt, as my seminary guests would say, random. I admired his creativity, but I had trouble even following the story at times, much less becoming immersed in it the way I would have liked.
Oh, well. I'll try the next one, because it's sitting on my nighttable and has to go back to the library in NY after Pesach. We'll see how it goes...(less)
Well, I liked this better than The Well of Lost Plots, though not quite as much as The Eyre Affair or Lost in a Good Book. In this book, Thursday retu...moreWell, I liked this better than The Well of Lost Plots, though not quite as much as The Eyre Affair or Lost in a Good Book. In this book, Thursday returns to the real world, now with a two-year-old son, hoping to finally recover her husband and defeat Yorrick Kaine. There were some funny moments, and I loved the ending. I still debated whether to continue with the series, but having bought the last book and read all the others now, I may as well. MAP recommended it, so hopefully it will be enjoyable.(less)
I finished it, and I didn't finish it, which is typical of the strange paradoxes running through this book which I didn't car...moreBronx cheer to this one.
I finished it, and I didn't finish it, which is typical of the strange paradoxes running through this book which I didn't care enough to invest myself in figuring out. The whole time travel paradox lost me, and I guess I could have sat and tried to wrap my mind around it but by page 50 I was already skimming and the skimming grew increasingly careless and superficial as I plowed through the rest of the book (hence the finished/unfinished dichotomy).
I give Jasper Fforde a lot of credit. He's incredibly creative, literate, clever, funny, etc., and was able to keep me reading for more than four books -- longer than many other series authors. I really don't know why I bothered to finish this one, though. I highly recommend the first two books in this series; it goes downhill from there and I wish I could have that time back.(less)