I enjoyed this, as I do all of Brooks' writing. Although a little slow to start, it was engrossing. A little strange, that while I was reading it, I tI enjoyed this, as I do all of Brooks' writing. Although a little slow to start, it was engrossing. A little strange, that while I was reading it, I thought it was great - but once I finished, thinking back on the book, I realized that the characters were not very well-formed. Caleb's character is stronger in the beginning, but once he moves into the Mayfield house there just isn't much there. Definitely a great historical read, especially for Brooks fans (I absolutely love the way she can take a little piece of historical info, and build such wonderful stories around it), but missing that something that her earlier works had....more
I was a little apprehensive in picking this one up after reading some mediocre (and less than mediocre) reviews - and I only had a few days to read itI was a little apprehensive in picking this one up after reading some mediocre (and less than mediocre) reviews - and I only had a few days to read it before it was due back the library, and I was worried I'd slog through it. Perhaps my low expectations had something to do with it, but I was pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed this.
I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the whole thing. Niffenegger does a wonderful job of setting the stage for the novel. It starts out with a realistic depiction of our world, with a slight creepy factor due to Highgate Cemetery neighboring the flat. And then, of course, there's the haunting. From the summaries I'd read, I wasn't sure how literal this haunting would be - just an overbearing sense that Elspeth still "owned" the flat? Her belongings and what she left behind keeping the twins from feeling like it was their home? The hold her memory still has on Robert and the others she knew? Or the actual presence of a ghost? It turned out to be the latter, and I thought the "haunting" factor was very well done. It's gradually built up so that it's almost believable, with Elspeth beginning as a weak, vaporous spirit and eventually becoming capable of moving small objects, etc., and the atmosphere is a big help in allowing the reader to suspend disbelief.
Speaking of which, the reader's ability to do just that is important for this one, I think. A lot of other reviews I read said the ending took it too far, pushing it past the point of believability. I can see how; there are several twists at the end, some more far-fetched than others, and one that I saw coming from early on in the book. Nonetheless, I think she ended it the only way she could, if that one big twist (if you've read it, you know which one I'm talking about - I don't want to give anything away!) is something she was aiming for through the whole novel, and I get the impression that she was. One the whole, it was beautifully written, and with great characterization (I especially liked Martin, and it was interesting to see how his journey - or lack thereof - paralleled Elspeth's). There were a couple of things that bothered me about the ending, but on the whole I really enjoyed this once I allowed myself to get lost in it. ...more
Fantastic - this is one of those books that people have been telling me I'd love for a long time, and for some reason or another I just never got to.Fantastic - this is one of those books that people have been telling me I'd love for a long time, and for some reason or another I just never got to. So glad I did! The perfect book to lose yourself in....more
I haven't read much Byatt since I finished my thesis last spring, and I didn't realize how much I missed her writing. This was somewhat different (forI haven't read much Byatt since I finished my thesis last spring, and I didn't realize how much I missed her writing. This was somewhat different (for me, at least) from her other works that I've read, in a way I can't quite put my finger on. It spans social and political changes over a rather large period of time, centering primarily on the Wellwood family and others that have entered their social circles at some point or another. The large cast of characters could make it a bit difficult to remember who was who at some points, but overall I think I enjoyed all of them - they all had their roles to play in the big picture.
Now, my thesis was on her use of fairy tales and fairy tale elements - if she's written this novel a few years ago, I probably could have centered the whole thesis on it! Fairy tales are vital to this story. Olive Wellwood is a writer of children's stories in Victorian (and later, Edwardian) England, and her fairy stories and themes almost define her family.
I especially loved her portrayal of women in this novel. Olive's children (and their childhood playmates) are growing up in a time when it is becoming accepted for "respectable" women to hold "real" jobs - but often at the cost of any romantic desires or chances of marriage. Dorothy (who wants to pursue the career of a doctor/surgeon) is perhaps the most affected by the double standard, observing that although there are female doctors with husbands, those are few and far between. Griselda and Florence grapple with this decision as well. One can pursue a career, but by the time her studies are through in her late 20's, she would would be considered something of an old maid. One of my favorite passages in the novel that sums this struggle up nicely comes on page 495:
Florence was in a turmoil. She had promised herself to Geraint, and she was now promising herself to years of study. She did not think Newnham College would care for married students. She wished to disturb her father, at some ferocious girlish level, and felt - she was not really thinking - that the engagement would do that. And yet - like Griselda, she did want to think. And she did see her future as, perhaps, the choice between thinking and sex."
Byatt has always done a wonderful job of exploring the roles that women play in various situations, past and present. This novel is no exception. ...more
Beautifully written (of course), but for whatever reason the plot didn't keep me terribly interested. The ending redeemed it somewhat (although I sawBeautifully written (of course), but for whatever reason the plot didn't keep me terribly interested. The ending redeemed it somewhat (although I saw it coming), but I had to trudge through it to get there....more
The man can write, I certainly won't argue that. There were several things about this novel that really struck me - the passage where a young Saleem eThe man can write, I certainly won't argue that. There were several things about this novel that really struck me - the passage where a young Saleem exposes the infidelity of Commander Sabarmati's wife, the ghost of Joe D'Costa, etc. In many ways, Rushdie is genius.
As much as I wanted to enjoy this book though, most of the time I didn't. I'm not sure why - was the style that threw me off, or something else? I found myself finishing it for the sake of finishing it. ...more
This novel is a fascinating exploration of the ways in which the mind can work, distort, and deteriorate. At the outset, this seems to be a fairly simThis novel is a fascinating exploration of the ways in which the mind can work, distort, and deteriorate. At the outset, this seems to be a fairly simple story of estranged sisters reuniting in their old age. While I could tell from reading the jacket that the real story would probably come in the possible scandal or heartbreak of their estrangement, I wasn't expecting the instability of the narrator.
It's the little things that tip you off gradually to what is happening here. Once you realize that Adams is using the classic technique of the unreliable narrator, it's impossible not to look beneath the surface of everything that she sees and remembers for the truth. It's also amazing how easily you can understand or sympathize with Ginny's logic, as twisted as it is - almost frightening once you realize how easily a mind can warp the truth.
The novel is a little slow to start out, but the story really picks up fairly soon. The descriptions of the moths and the processes that come with studying them may seem a little tedious, but I think they are necessary to completely immerse the reader in Ginny's mind - especially at the end of the novel. Adams includes little details in all the right places.
This is definitely a novel worth reading. Adams does a fantastic job of mapping the way Ginny's mind works, and also of manipulating the story. It's fascinating to see things from Ginny's point of view, all the while trying to figure out what's truly happening outside of her comfort zone and under the surface. This really is an impressive first novel - Adams certainly did her research, and knows what she's doing when it comes to her narrative.