An entertaining saga of old New York. Bought it for research purposes, but unlike Paradise Alley and Heyday, it kept me entertained even as I was learAn entertaining saga of old New York. Bought it for research purposes, but unlike Paradise Alley and Heyday, it kept me entertained even as I was learning....more
I found this novel valuable because I am writing a novel that takes place in 1886 and this was a treasure trove of research. But that's where it stopsI found this novel valuable because I am writing a novel that takes place in 1886 and this was a treasure trove of research. But that's where it stops. Jack Finney's characters are unbelievably wooden, and because I didn't care about them I really didn't care about the rather weak mystery they were emeshed in. So I skimmed rather than read. I've gone through the book a number of times for all of its great research, and every time I force myself to pick up a little more of the plot, but frankly it is so poorly written that it is hard to force myself to do even that. Really don't understand how people can read it seven or eight times, as some reviewers did.
Had it been written as straight non-fiction, a portrait of New York from that era, I would have rated it a lot higher. (Although as one reader pointed out, even some of the details were wrong, such as the supposedly good air quality of the time -- not true, it was far worse than today's.) As it was, the story seemed crafted to hang a bunch of research on, and no more. ...more
I loved the cover of this book – a cobblestoned street in a historical looking village or town -- and I found the plot description intriguing. 13-yearI loved the cover of this book – a cobblestoned street in a historical looking village or town -- and I found the plot description intriguing. 13-year-old Natalie is being cyber-bullied by classmates, and finds answers in an old diary she's reading for a school project. Excellent. I Love history, love parallel stories of past and present, and am writing a book about a teenager myself. But I could barely get through it.
For one thing, the main character is a 50-ish librarian named Kathleen Lynch, and the details of her life (on which Moore spends a LOT of time) are not that fascinating: dog Lucy's shenanigans and finally illness, co-worker Neil's plans to adopt a Haitian baby, the pie that she is going to bake for Thanksgiving. Natalie was a bit more interesting, but she didn't feel terribly authentic for some reason: I had the sense that she was being seen through the lens of a much older person (although Moore, in her photo, looks youngish). When Natalie used the term "tattling" instead of "ratting" my disbelief was sealed.
Mostly, I was very disappointed by the lack of synchronicity between the present-day story and the past one in the diary. Except that the journal was an excuse to keep Natalie and Kathleen connected, it could almost have been removed from the plot without emotional effect. Nothing it contained really taught Natalie anything or made a difference in how she coped. And its story was dreary and predictable.
**spoiler alert** Like many others, I could not wait to get my hands on the "Sea of Poppies" sequel, and was quite disappointed to meet up, not with t**spoiler alert** Like many others, I could not wait to get my hands on the "Sea of Poppies" sequel, and was quite disappointed to meet up, not with the familiar beloved characters of the first tome, but an almost entirely, and not as appealing, set. A couple of the characters from the first volume are present, but in very supporting roles. (I understand from the rumor mill that the original cast will be back in the third book, but perhaps that is only wishful thinking on the part of the fans.)
So, perhaps unfairly, I was disappointed. "Sea of Poppies" had so much movement and action, physical and emotional, that it swept me away. By contrast, "Smoke" takes place in one locale, Canton, and while the historical events (the lead up to the Opium war between the Chinese and the British) were interesting, it was a more static tale, with characters who were real but felt just slightly manufactured to illustrate the history and make moral points. I read it almost as non-fiction (wonder how accurate it actually is?) and enjoyed it, but it didn't have the same magic as Poppies.
And it was more depressing. It principally follows one opium trader, an Indian, who is caught between a newly conscious awareness of the evil his trade promotes, and a desire not to be ruined by doing the right thing. One feels compassion for him and his sad end is wrenching. But it is not uplifting stuff.
Don't get me wrong -- I find the topic of this trilogy fascinating, and don't recommend you skip Book II as it is an important part of the story. I own both Poppies and Smoke in hardback, and when Book III comes out it will join the other two on my shelves, something only reserved for favorites. Just be forewarned not to expect a reprise of Poppies. ...more
**spoiler alert** I give this book credit for keeping me interested as I did chores and walked (I listened to it on my iPod.) It read a bit like a lat**spoiler alert** I give this book credit for keeping me interested as I did chores and walked (I listened to it on my iPod.) It read a bit like a latter day Agatha Christie (to whom the writer pays homage by having the protagonist read "Murder on the Links"). The action mostly takes place at a country Manor, with an array of characters offering themselves up as potential suspects. But whereas Christie's prose was economical, Speller tends to overwrite and drag scenes out unnecessarily, which makes for a less compelling read. Most importantly, the satisfying, startling "Ah Ha" ending was completely missing. Kitty Easton turns out to be alive, but in perfectly ordinary circumstances, instead of cleverly hidden right under our noses as I had expected. Christie would never have settled for that!
However, I did enjoy the various characters, the historical setting, and even the architecture (the detective is an architect) and I see that Speller has set up her next mystery to take place in Rome during the era of Mussolini. Despite myself, I'm intrigued, and may give it a whirl if the reviews are halfway decent....more
This is my kind of book -- a story in the present day that goes back into the past -- and "The Bone Garden" did not disappoint. The present day storyThis is my kind of book -- a story in the present day that goes back into the past -- and "The Bone Garden" did not disappoint. The present day story could have been a bit stronger, but the past one was gripping, filled with good characters, and incredibly real. (Too real, sometimes -- those descriptions of early medical practices were pretty stomach turning.) I won't talk plot, but I will say it revolves around medical students in Boston, one of whom is accused of being "The Reaper" -- a grim character who kills and defaces the bodies of his victims. There is a good love story and Oliver Wendell Holmes, father of the supreme court justice, is one of the characters.
If you like this sort of book, I highly recommend it....more