Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman's got to hold on to. ~Dolores Claiborne
Meet Dolores Claiborne -- island woman, mother of three, murderess and...more
Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman's got to hold on to. ~Dolores Claiborne
Meet Dolores Claiborne -- island woman, mother of three, murderess and overall high-riding bitch. And I love her! She is strength and smarts and dignity personified and in my opinion, one of the most vivid and memorable literary creations ever to walk the pages of any book. I don't say that lightly. Yes I'm a fan, yes I'm gushing, but this is also a more tempered, critical evaluation after living with her existence these many years. She has stood the test of time and I have no doubt she will continue to do so long after her creator has passed.
Arguably one of Stephen King's most underrated and dismissed works, Dolores Claiborne remains for me one of his best and most literary novels. The first-person narrative voice is brilliantly executed, the island dialect ringing true, the rhythm of the language making the sense of place so vibrant and tangible. The reading experience is only enhanced by the audio version (which I highly recommend).
Bringing nothing but his A-game, King delves into the life of a poor, uneducated, island woman, who marries young and gets to repent in leisure. I love this story so much because not only does it capture small town life and a woman's place in it, but also the unshakeable bonds of friendship that can be forged like steel between women, and the ferocious love a mother feels for her children.
This book is a powerful and naked look at mother-love, at how desperate, intense, and all-consuming it really is....But mainly this is the story of an unlikely alliance between two hard talkin’, high riding bitches; two women from very different walks of life who find that they have a similar core of bitter strength.
At its heart, this is a book about a desperate woman who is driven to a very desperate act. It is a crime novel built around a detailed confession that's so urgent, so immediate, the story sucks you in like quicksand and does not want to let go. This is not a horror novel, but there are a few moments of unadulterated suspense and terror that had my heart jack-rabbiting in my chest. (view spoiler)[When Dolores returns to the well and Joe has nearly succeeded in climbing out and grabs her ankle, I just about screamed and threw the book across the room! When you have to do such a dirty deed, you want it to happen as fast and clean as possible. It could not have turned out more ugly and terrifying for Dolores and is it any wonder she imagines Joe's face grinning out at her from behind the wheels of Vera's wheelchair on the day of Vera's death? (hide spoiler)]
Dolores Claiborne is not the only high-riding bitch in this story, there is also Ms. Vera Donovan, her contrary, vitriolic employer who explains the facts of life thusly: "Husbands die every day Dolores. Why, one is probably dying right now while you're sitting here weeping....An accident can be an unhappy woman's best friend." Dolores and Vera make an unlikely pair, but over the years they cleave to one another in an unexpected, unforgettable friendship that runs dark and deep.
This review can also be found at Busty Book Bimbo["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
So far I am loving this book. The writing is sharp with teeth and edges. Strong female voice (Cass 'Scary' Neary). Always know a book is great when I...moreSo far I am loving this book. The writing is sharp with teeth and edges. Strong female voice (Cass 'Scary' Neary). Always know a book is great when I get that sinking ball of jealousy in my lower abdomen as I secretly long to have written it myself. Heard about this book from this year's first ever Shirley Jackson Awards. This won best novel so how could I not read it? ***** This book did not finish nearly as strong as it began. No doubt the writing is quite good and I will try something else by Hand. But here's the thing: the payoff was not enough for the long, mysterious set up. The plotting dragged in the middle and there was just way too much description of photography and photographic technique. Way too much ... especially since very little of the, at times excruciating detail, contributed anything to the story. Unfortunately, the uber action sequences at the end reminded me of a high end movie-of-the-week and the resolution was simply anti-climatic. (less)
Camille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille wa...moreCamille Preaker is haunted by childhood memories of a cold, hysterical mother and the devastating loss of her sister, Marian, who died when Camille was only 13. Literally carrying her war wounds upon her flesh, Camille is a recovering "cutter" who has carved a myriad of words into her skin as a visible record of the pain and trauma she's experienced. Having escaped from the clutches of a cloying family environment, Camille is being sent back into the cauldron, this time as a reporter for a second-rate newspaper to cover the gruesome murders of two local pre-teens. The more involved she becomes in the mystery, the more she uncovers about her town, her family, and herself. The discoveries are anything but pleasant.
Part thriller, part mystery, part Southern Gothic, Gillian Flynn's debut novel is simply outstanding. Camille Preaker is a heroine worth cheering for, as Flynn expertly delves into the female psyche and the delicate, often damaging ties between mothers and daughters. In the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, the writing here is so effective and evocative, this one will stay with you long after the reading is done.(less)
While I don't read him anymore, I read a lot of Dean Koontz in my late teens/early twenties, and this had to be one of my favorites. Loved the time-tr...moreWhile I don't read him anymore, I read a lot of Dean Koontz in my late teens/early twenties, and this had to be one of my favorites. Loved the time-travel angle. Koontz offers a unique and thoroughly engaging spin. For a rip-roaring yarn, you can't do much better than this one. (less)
It is now abundantly clear to me why this novel is such a popular selection for book clubs the world over -- it is a family saga that features a sordi...more It is now abundantly clear to me why this novel is such a popular selection for book clubs the world over -- it is a family saga that features a sordid tragedy, filled with abhorrent, compelling, wretched, titillating detail. It is a book meant to conquer and divide its readers, elicit strong emotion, a take-no-prisoners approach that leaves you anything but detached and unmoved. I can't imagine anyone coming to the end of this ordeal (for it is an ordeal) and not have some opinion, if not a plethora of them, on the nature vs. nurture debate and parental culpability in a child's deviant behavior.
The power of the book is not in its brilliance or originality (because it can claim only a trace amount of both) -- its power lies in its subject and the passive-aggressive way in which it is delivered in the first person -- a cloying, nails-on-a-chalkboard supercilious tone surely meant to inflame. Its power is not in the reading, but rather what follows -- the heated, emotional, no-holds-barred tempest of feeling it can only serve to generate at its conclusion. It's an A-bomb type of deal -- right up there with abortion and capital punishment -- and it will make you question the very core of many of your beliefs.
But I didn't enjoy it. It's not a book to savor. Even the prose is overwrought, perfectly capturing Eva's hapless condescension and sense of superiority brimming over in her letters to husband Franklin, as much a part of her character as Kevin's sociopathic tendencies.
And herein lies my biggest problem with the novel -- it seems to me Shriver goes out of her way to present Kevin as a "born psychopath". Over hundreds of pages, the portrait builds, the evidence mounts, layer upon layer, Kevin as The Bad Seed. That I don't have a problem with. I actually fall into the camp who believe sociopaths can most definitely be born -- a true by-product of nature with very little if nothing to do with nurture.
I first thought Shriver was taking the easy way out to explain Kevin's mass murder as the product of a truly evil, unstoppable, beyond redemption monster. Real life is usually much more complicated and contradicting than that. Then I began to see the real horror for what it was -- an unlovable child, who could not feel love, who could not feel much of anything really and the deep-seated terror and repulsion that would accompany that realization, to recognize this thing in your midst that is of your flesh and blood as alien, unknowable, menacing, monstrous.
Then I wondered ... okay ... what came first? Kevin's sociopathy which evidenced itself at birth, or Eva's cold rejection of her son, her unwillingness to embrace him in a mother's love the sure cause for his later descent into darkness? You could even accuse Eva of being an unreliable narrator of the worst sort, painting a portrait of Rosemary's Baby even while she flagellates herself with guilt over her inability to see him as nothing other than Damien-esque, a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one. Despite any of Eva's shortcomings as a mother and a human being, in the end there was no doubt in my mind that Kevin was not made but born.
The frigid embrace of a hyper-critical, suspicious mother aside, Kevin came out of the womb absent some fundamental building blocks to engage in life and experience empathy. His above-average intelligence became a weapon to better wield cruelties and abuses upon his victims who he saw as no more significant than ants under a magnifying glass. Ironically, the only person he had any semblance of respect for was Eva herself, if only because she was the only person to see past the artifice into Kevin's dark heart. I also think Kevin responded to Eva's sense of superiority as well, that she thought she was better than most appealed to his own arrogance and self-inflated importance.
But then ... (view spoiler)[towards the end, we see Kevin showing some level of remorse and regret, at least that he had hurt his mother in a profound way, if not for his other hapless victims including his father and little sister. This is what disappointed me and pissed me off, because it felt like a cop out. After writing a convincing and chilling portrayal of a child sociopath, Shriver now seems to backtrack. It's like she wants it both ways -- Kevin a born sociopath AND a misunderstood teen -- a by-product, nay victim, of his mother's inability to love him unconditionally. This duality might work stylistically if your intent is to stimulate the nature vs. nurture debate, but I think it weakens the story considerably. To have Kevin visibly shaking at the daunting prospect of adult incarceration, to cling to his mother in a helpless childlike embrace, is so OUT OF CHARACTER for everything that's come before as to make it meaningless.
What did chill me -- and maybe this was the point all along -- is Eva's final acceptance of her son now that the worst has happened. The fact that she has a room waiting for him when he gets out of prison did not strike me as a mother "standing by her child no matter what" (finally!) but that Eva's mind had broken and this was no more than a twisted, gothic grotesquerie to claim the only family left to her. That she did not whisk her daughter away from the monster in her midst WHEN SHE KNEW what he had done to her sickened me. That Eva should now forgive the unforgivable when her daughter's body lies cold in the ground is unfathomable to me and left me with the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up. (hide spoiler)]
Whew! I had no idea this review would run on so long, but as I said in the beginning, that is the nature of this book. It pokes and prods and incites; it's provocative and maddening. It is not enjoyable. If you are looking for pleasure, keep looking. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I don't think you can watch the film adaptation and remain unmoved by Graysmith's story and his obsessive quest to uncover the identity of the Zodiac...moreI don't think you can watch the film adaptation and remain unmoved by Graysmith's story and his obsessive quest to uncover the identity of the Zodiac killer. There was no question that I had to read his book. Graysmith was a cartoonist by occupation, not a journalist, and it shows. He makes the number one blunder of any amateur writer of either fiction or non-fiction -- he tries to include every last detail. Graysmith's obsession with the Zodiac killer means every minutiae of the case is deemed critical. As a reader, you're completely snowballed by facts and circumstances. I'm not a fan of police procedurals anyway, so this proved to be a bit much for me. Watch the movie; it's quite excellent.(less)
While not a fan of the police procedural, the premise of this one intrigued me, and with a rave recommendation from a friend I decided to give it a tr...moreWhile not a fan of the police procedural, the premise of this one intrigued me, and with a rave recommendation from a friend I decided to give it a try. If this is your genre, this is one of the best books you'll read -- it's shocking, gruesome, gripping. The characters are well fleshed-out and the narrative momentum zings along. I would much rather experience this story as a movie and I'm sure it's being optioned as I write this (or will be very soon). One of my favourite films is Seven starring Morgan Freeman, a police procedural featuring a serial killer like no other. While I love the film, I'd have no desire to read the novel (if it had been adapted from one). Rather than read on in the series, I think I will wait for the movies, for I am certain they are coming. Heartsick is great source material and Cain a remarkably vivid writer. She made me squirm and wince; that's good writing. (less)
I love Neal Shusterman; this isn't my favourite of his, but it's still very enjoyable -- kinda like The Chocolate War with a twist of Lord of the Flie...moreI love Neal Shusterman; this isn't my favourite of his, but it's still very enjoyable -- kinda like The Chocolate War with a twist of Lord of the Flies. If you have a reluctant reader in your life, boy or girl, do them a favour and introduce them to Shusterman's books. (less)
A nice follow-up to The Shadow Club, although the story is not as rich as it doesn't really build upon the conflict created in the first book as much...moreA nice follow-up to The Shadow Club, although the story is not as rich as it doesn't really build upon the conflict created in the first book as much as repeat it. The "pranks" become larger and more dangerous, so in some respects this sequel is more of a page-turner than the first, focusing on the action, rather than the moral / ethical significance of the acts. Shusterman is a great storyteller though, and I highly recommend his books to anyone. (less)