**spoiler alert** It's kind of hard to believe how MUCH is in this tiny, seemingly simple, story. The language is so basic, and there are two main thr**spoiler alert** It's kind of hard to believe how MUCH is in this tiny, seemingly simple, story. The language is so basic, and there are two main thrusts in terms of narrative: 1) the story of Addie and Louis - a coming together at the end of their lives for companionship and - eventually - sex. Very sweet and loving. 2) the intrusion into that coming together of Addie and Louis by Addie's grandson Jamie, and his father Gene, Addie's good-for-nothing son.
The novel pulled at my heartstrings in many ways (coz kids and old people, right? vulnerable, dependent, fragile), but where I think its emotional power resides is in the collision of this gentle, sweet love story (whose sweetness was pretty much all about Addie's courage and Louis's kindness and the fact that they were aged 70, when the pursuit and potential for love and companionship is often abandoned but so sorely needed) with the violence and disruption (view spoiler)[(the implicit and explicit child neglect/abuse and, eventually, elder abuse) (hide spoiler)] of the Jamie/Gene story line.
The novel is really subtle in how it weaves these two narratives together - with Addie's love, courage and autonomy ultimately giving way to her guilt, fear and dependence. Everyone ends up (or remains) battered and damaged. And so what starts out as a simple little love story with a bit of a unique twist turns very dark, profoundly sad, deeply moving.
Gorgeous prose poem about living (and dying) under an oppressive dictatorship, but ultimately - despite the beauty and interesting resonances of the iGorgeous prose poem about living (and dying) under an oppressive dictatorship, but ultimately - despite the beauty and interesting resonances of the imagery, which you almost had to feel rather than read - it felt to me distancing and slightly impenetrable. For something similar, my tastes run more to The Vagrants - much more difficult and horrific, but somehow more suited to the subject matter....more
this is my and jo's first attempt at a joint review. this task, already a difficult one, is made all the more difficult by the fact that we disagreethis is my and jo's first attempt at a joint review. this task, already a difficult one, is made all the more difficult by the fact that we disagree about the book! jo liked it less than i!
jakaem: i particularly enjoyed the unique portraits of all the characters, even though i didn't like any of the characters themselves. creating well-articulated characters who didn't have a lot of redeeming qualities, in fact weren't terribly interesting, felt quite a feat. one might claim that it is easier to portray villains than self-absorbed, relatively nondescript, run-of-the-mill banal characters. and yet, they emerge vividly and with distinct personalities and quirks.
jo: i, too, found the characters quite distasteful, at least til the very end, where the author decides to give us something to like about at least some of them. i don't know why hadley chose to populate this novel with unpleasant characters -- even the kids are not pleasant! i did not like the insistence on the physicality of these women (they are mostly women), especially the fact that they are all more or less dumpy and frumpy, excepting the exotic, latin-american new wife of the brother. i also didn't like the emphasis on bad aging. as a woman, i read this book and felt generally quite depressed about the allegedly terrible fate of aging women. i don't read books to get depressed (and yes, i do get that hadley is being more positive about aging than the surface of the novel suggests, but this comes up a bit too little too late).
jakaem: what hadley is doing is drawing a parallel between this family and their changing relationships with each other as they age. hadley anchors these changing relationships in the increasing decrepitude of the childhood home; it's the end of an era for them all. there is something poignant about the siblings' tragic past in connection with the history of the house, which they've taken a final three-week vacation to determine whether they can keep going, or must give up. i also found the pastoral prose enjoyable and thought it worked well as a setting for the organic nature of these complex, growing, changing sibling relationships.
jo: too. many. words. too many nouns, adjectives, plant names, trees, flowers, shapes of the sky, rivers, configurations of the light and the air, permutations of the weather. many, many words about bodies, skin, body parts, over and over and over. and clothing. so much clothingness. i couldn't keep my attention on the page cuz the language kept getting in the way. but look: i admire the book. the writing is exquisite, just not my cup of tea (lots of tea is drunk in the course of this book).
jakaem: the thing that kept me going, aside from the fact that i actually liked the language, is a sense of foreboding. i kept expecting something terrible to happen. (view spoiler)[since nothing really happens, this seemed to me an interesting way to add drama where there is in fact no drama. (hide spoiler)] jo: i have seen that other people rank hadley's former books more highly than this one so i'm willing to try more of her stuff. but here something i'm really not interested in: the rural, exuberantly grown, verdant england all english people love -- this england of long, rain-soaked walks, wellington boots, and hot cups of tea by the poorly-working fireplace at the return.
jakaem: hahaha. yeah, it really was weakly steeped in lots of places. i liked Harriet and her whole character arc, though. she kept me going. also, this book gets the award for most creative - and abundant - descriptions of eyelids.
jo: what kept me going was wanting to know where it all went. and the ending definitely pays off!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more