McCann wrote characters you can love. Really don't know the last time I could honestly say that. Especially impressive in crafting such a relatable, sMcCann wrote characters you can love. Really don't know the last time I could honestly say that. Especially impressive in crafting such a relatable, stirring religious character; a Christ-figure who isn't too much, too contrived, too flawed. Anyway the braiding of stories is also wonderful, although I found myself bored with some characters and missing others, but YMMV.
This is wonderful fiction for fiction-averse readers. In many ways is a meditation on NYC, the only truly universally present character through the novel....more
That third star is mostly Atwood good will, pushed over the edge by what must have been pretty impressive research to pull the book together.
Here's aThat third star is mostly Atwood good will, pushed over the edge by what must have been pretty impressive research to pull the book together.
Here's a thing about Atwood worlds: there is something urgent about them, but the urgent thing is very far away from everything that's actually going on. So what we're reading about is, more or less, daily tedium and social shuffling. And yet we read!
Basically I got too far into this book to turn back. There's a lot of interesting stuff being almost-addressed... the early-mid 1800's were an interesting time in psychiatry, the institutions of penitentiaries and asylums, the social trends of household help and immigration to and within North America, etc and so forth. Despite being the setting and a lot of the meat of the novel, I didn't actually engage with any of that, because I was so busy trying to care about what was going on with any of the characters in the literary present. This could just be me, but if you're not Austen I don't think I want your story to get tangled up with extended diversions into polite society and sitting rooms and all that.
SPOILER ALERT, but it's not a spoiler because you shouldn't read this book: 400 pages in, the major plot twist is a murderess with multiple personalities revealed at a seance! I know this is rooted in the Spiritualist practices of the time and could excuse it six other ways, but come on. I expect more. That's not the end nor is it the definitive answer to any of the questions the book poses, but it's a lot to get past.
In closing, how does anyone write a historical novel that fails to live up to the drama of the word "murdress."...more
Really enjoyed this until the big reveal at the end. Nothing like a surprise graphic rape to end an otherwise thoughtful and measured story (as far asReally enjoyed this until the big reveal at the end. Nothing like a surprise graphic rape to end an otherwise thoughtful and measured story (as far as ridiculous fantasy novels go)....more
Atwood's position on this book is that it is not, in fact, sci-fi: since there are no elements of the universe that don't already exist (albeit in anAtwood's position on this book is that it is not, in fact, sci-fi: since there are no elements of the universe that don't already exist (albeit in an extremely exaggerated form in Atwood's world), she calls this a work of "speculative fiction." I'm not sure that her distinction makes much of a difference as far as the experience of the novel, but it is jarring as a reader to take a step back and realize we're a couple of wrong turns away from precisely the sort of world(s) (both pre- and post-apocalyptic) depicted.
The big criticism I've read about this book is that it's lacking in character development; in general I think that's fair, but with a notable exception (which is the element that, for me, blows this book out of the water): Atwood explores the world of child-trafficking and sex slavery from a perspective I've never seen, never even dared to imagine. And what's incredible is, in this Paula Vogel sort of way, I wound up questioning whether the situation was all that horrible for Atwoods particular victim (who does not see herself as a victim at all). So that sounds sort of insane, but Atwood really makes you question whether we already live in a world so screwed up that these atrocities are better than the alternatives for these children and families. At minimum, it means that several chapters of this book are unquestionably really, really good writing, that a story is compelling enough to make one even consider these things.
Unfortunately that story-line doesn't connect to the central plot in a particularly meaningful way... a lot of the book feels like that. Plot is secondary to the depiction of the world, and character development is at, like, 1.5. As a veteran sci-fi author (sorry, Marge), one would expect better integration, better showing-not-telling of the world in a way that gives depth to the characters and forces the plot forward. To some extent this was unavoidable given the structure of the book, which hops back and forth between the pre- and post-apocalyptic worlds (a device which is effective and probably necessary to tell this story in an interesting way). But it could have been done more elegantly than it was.
All told, though, this book is worth a read for the few chapters in the POV of Oryx... Atwood's deep dive into her psyche and the current, often unimaginable world of child-trafficking is truly remarkable. ...more
I downloaded this bubblegum for the mind while trying to figure out how to borrow e-books from the library. Don't make the same mistake. It's basicallI downloaded this bubblegum for the mind while trying to figure out how to borrow e-books from the library. Don't make the same mistake. It's basically a desperate plea for a movie deal. The only thing that makes it genuinely interesting is in the end notes -- the entire story is based around manipulated images from the early 20th century, using darkroom tricks and clever staging. I like this as a premise and a prompt. The book might be very exciting for a 15 year old, but it lacks the strong themes and moral implications that make YA novels like Hunger Games a worthy read for adults. ...more
It's almost like GRRM didn't WANT me to make it through this slog of a book. Do not care about any of the Zebnak bo Bevlak characters, dude. The peoplIt's almost like GRRM didn't WANT me to make it through this slog of a book. Do not care about any of the Zebnak bo Bevlak characters, dude. The people want Tyrion....more
I made Kendra read the whole trilogy to me, which was a generally enjoyable experience. Just couldn't read it with my eyes... needed her to change theI made Kendra read the whole trilogy to me, which was a generally enjoyable experience. Just couldn't read it with my eyes... needed her to change the incredibly stupid character names to ones that did not frustrate me constantly....more
Daniel Quinn is apparently the answer to how to get us fiction-averse readers engaged in novels -- while the plot and characters are satisfying and roDaniel Quinn is apparently the answer to how to get us fiction-averse readers engaged in novels -- while the plot and characters are satisfying and round, respectively, Quinn has essentially mastered the art of making it palatable to read the story of people sharing ideas with each other which are not fictional in the least. Very enjoyable, first book in a while I haven't wanted to put down at the end of a subway ride....more
A charming, quick little read. Bennett paints the modern monarch in his story in a way that I found entirely fresh and surprisingly human -- rather thA charming, quick little read. Bennett paints the modern monarch in his story in a way that I found entirely fresh and surprisingly human -- rather than approaching the queen as an archaic, icy figure and watching her crack as we did with Helen Mirren recently (which was also moving in its own sense), the queen of this novella understands her lot in life as a vocation, a set of duties and behaviors she is responsible for in the interest of her country. She approaches her daily tasks almost humbly given the circumstances, and rather than cherishing that which keeps her aloof, she simply understands it as a necessary function of monarchy and does what she can to keep herself satisfied and amused without ever reveling in her position. Watching this very human depiction of a monarch evolve as a reader and a writer over the course of the book is highly satisfying, because she struggles up the same path the rest of us do -- reading her choice words about Joyce early in her journey rang delightfully true for me now, having not yet grown enough in my own reading to have the patience for the man.
By no means the most substantive read of the year, but a very satisfying character study sprinkled with gems of cheeky insight about literature, high and low, that makes the Uncommon Reader's story feel very common indeed, in a pleasant way....more