The wearyingly boring tale of an aging woman who never does much of anything, telling the story of her youth where she passively never does much of an...moreThe wearyingly boring tale of an aging woman who never does much of anything, telling the story of her youth where she passively never does much of anything (life happens to her, never the other way around), all while reading a book her sister wrote, which tells the story of an affair (the affair's consummation is inferred) between a humdrum wealthy girl and a poor, crabby writer who vocally abuses her (which she never does anything about) between bouts of telling her science fiction stories worthy of "Astounding Science Fiction".
A wide chasm exists between the assumed kinfolk subtlety and passivity. Grade school writing classes hammer into our skulls the merits of avoiding the latter. Sadly, this novel bludgeons you with it. Clearly the intent is to tip-toe around that which is really going on... yet 500+ pages of tip-toeing is not subtlety. It's mind-numbingly boring. And the story-within-a-story-within-a-story-within-a-story structure is hardly redemptive.
Top-Level Story: Iris Chase is old. So old that nearly every reference in her life is in the past tense. Even her dawdling off to buy a donut in the morning is something that's already been done. And that's about all she does: buy donuts and read graffiti in public bathroom stalls. Oh, and to tell the...
1st-Level-Down Story: Iris Chase is young. Her dad is wealthy, so neither she nor her sister go to school. They sit at home. Nor does Young Iris ever need to make a decision for herself. So: she doesn't. This is hammered home by her past tense stories passively telling of events further in the past! Never does she simply go to the park. Rather, the reader is told "We had been to the park earlier that day." B-O-R-I-N-G. Or rather: "I had decided after I had completed the book that is was B-O-R-I-N-G."
Book-Within-the-Story: A wealthy lady has an affair with a poor jerk. The jerk verbally abuses her; she never does anything in response (save for sleeping with him). He's a hack of a sci-fi writer, so he tells her a story...
Tale-Within-the-Book-Within-the-Story: Perhaps the only redeeming part of the book. The story – through subtlety, inference and thematic parallels – actively gives "meat" to the rest of the novel. Which is assuredly why it shares the title with the actual novel itself. Sadly, the tale is short and not enough to redeem the concrete shoes that is the rest of this book.
5th-Wheel of the Story: Oh yeah. And to further bludgeon us with the passivity of matters, the novel is sprinkled with newspaper clippings, which (*sigh*) again tell us passively and in the past tense of events that had happened. No, we never experience these events. We're just told they occurred. And perhaps that's the overarching problem with the book: the reader is never given a chance to "experience" the story. Blah.
Clearly, Margaret Atwood is a gifted writer. Many descriptive passages throughout this novel are lovely, and several turns of phrase are worthy of an underline. But this was an awful choice of what book of hers to read first. Iris Chase's pitiful life – in the end – is her own damned fault, and to highlight a life of passivity, inaction, and boredom is (you guessed it) BORING. Horrifically so.
So, I guess if this was meant to be a horrifically boring story, then it was executed beautifully.(less)
Golly. What a poor book. And what a let down of a sequel.
The original "The Gold Coast" had the right mix of fun, intrigue, a glimpse into a world we'r...moreGolly. What a poor book. And what a let down of a sequel.
The original "The Gold Coast" had the right mix of fun, intrigue, a glimpse into a world we're not used to, an enticing setup ("The Great Gatsby" meets "The Godfather"), and an amusing/snarky narrator.
This? Well... DeMille was clearly grasping (desperately?) for whiffs of those successful elements this go around. The result was a bloated (seriously: 770 pages?!) mess that spends the first half (yes, almost 400 pages) rehashing -- and then rehashing the rehash -- the story and relationships and history of the first book. And not by weaving these elements delicately into the story as it unfolds. Nope, the reader is bludgeoned continually with the events of "The Gold Coast". And not as if these events were intended for readers who skipped book 1... because they would've "gotten it" in the first 50 to 100 pages. No. This felt as if the author couldn't manage a sustainable plot... and then spent the first half of the novel figuring out what was supposed to happen in the novel.
Which may sound repetitive, but, well...
Oh, and the plot is boring, hardly existent, and ends up really consisting of (minor spoilers -- kinda but not really) a letter... and not knowing where someone is. That's it.
OK, it's not strictly nonfiction per se... But it's as close to a true crime novel as you'll get.
Our book club searched for the best mystery novels of...moreOK, it's not strictly nonfiction per se... But it's as close to a true crime novel as you'll get.
Our book club searched for the best mystery novels of all time and this was surprisingly at the top of the list (because none of us had heard of it). Turned out to be a fascinating read focusing on the history of the infamous King Richard III. And quick too. Only around 180 pages.
Give it a quick read... and then look at all the recent news on the very same subject that's just come to the surface. You'll enjoy yourself.(less)
Ooof. Based on some of the reviews, I had medium-to-high hopes for this book. Maybe it's worth two stars - maybe - but my initial impressions are... e...moreOoof. Based on some of the reviews, I had medium-to-high hopes for this book. Maybe it's worth two stars - maybe - but my initial impressions are... er... bad. EDIT: I've given it some time: one star. (And I'm rounding up.)
While the novel's concept is a decent jumping off point, the author's writing style just killed it for me. ("Killed" in the unfavorable context.) Ishiguro is horribly repetitive, grinding out long, unnecessary sentences creating by far the longest 300 page book I've ever waded my way through. Perhaps a representative sample (made up by me) of the author's writing style will give you an idea? Here's ya go:
"Sally was a dear friend of mine. When I say Sally was a friend, I mean that she and I were the same year at school and spent time together from time to time. Sally and I would often treat one another as friends, doing friendly things of all manner. When I say we did friendly things together, I mean that many of our activities were done in the context of friendship - whether just the two of us or in a group of friends. Our friendship was something that our friendship was based upon, and the friendliness was something that was dear to me while we were in school together."
That. For 300 pages.
It's not depth. It's not subtlety. It's not nuance. It's... dull repetition. If Shakespeare is correct that "Brevity is the soul of wit", Ishiguro just might be a soul-sucking zombie, whose wit died out in some previous work. And you should barricade your home.
Yes, the story's eerie tone helps entice the reader. At first. Think a mash-up of PD James' "Children of Men" and Michael Bay's "The Island" (ouch). But this was never meant to be the focus of the story. (Readers expecting/waiting for a big "A-ha!" moment -- due to the story's setup -- will be disappointed; this is not The Sixth Sense or Witness for the Prosecution.) Rather, this book is intended as a longgggggggg, slowwwwwwww, blunt-force trauma commentary on individuality, racial/class divisions, and how nasty school children can be to one another. Unfortunately, any subtlety is maddeningly blown apart by -- have I mentioned it before? -- the author's repeated insistence to have his narrator repeat herself right after she's done restating what she's just said a few times. (She's boring.)
Sadly (yes, "for me"), this came off as yet another "No matter who you are, life is bleak and sucks... and then we all die" tale with little redeeming value beyond spurring me toward an even greater appreciation for Hemingway. Depth AND brevity? Good on ya, Ernest.(less)
Wow. A lot of fun. A step back towards the first in the series. (I wasn't as much a fan of book 2.) Now I just have to wait for season three of the sh...moreWow. A lot of fun. A step back towards the first in the series. (I wasn't as much a fan of book 2.) Now I just have to wait for season three of the show to begin...(less)
Subject matter? Fascinating. Actual writing? Marginal at best.
While certainly one of the better Tesla biographies out there, the quality of the book it...moreSubject matter? Fascinating. Actual writing? Marginal at best.
While certainly one of the better Tesla biographies out there, the quality of the book itself leaves quite a bit to be desired. The back half of the book plods along with little actual information, relying heavily on conjecture and inference and rumor. If only the biographer had focused more heavily on what's actually known and available about Tesla -- as she did fairly well in the first chunk of chapters (perhaps expanding on that time period) -- she would've had a book with much more meat on the bone.
Sadly, the result is (as mentioned at the start) a fascinating subject -- arguably one of the top inventors ever -- left to a flabby biography that's more of a dreamy love song to Tesla than an actual delving into his life, heart, and mind.
If no one knows of a newer or better take on The Nikola, I'd love to read it. For now I'm guessing that might have to be Wikipedia... Or the new museum that Matthew Inman is championing. (Yay, The Oatmeal.)(less)
Diving headfirst into this book, I found myself reminded quite regularly of JUNO.
Problem: I hated Juno. That may come as sacrilege to many, but (the...moreDiving headfirst into this book, I found myself reminded quite regularly of JUNO.
Problem: I hated Juno. That may come as sacrilege to many, but (the movie) continually sounded as if all the characters - especially the title character - were trying to sound smarty-smart-smart (technical term) just so we could bask in how smarty-smart-smart Diablo Cody was. It oozed (maybe even literally) of trying too hard. That and Juno wasn't all that likeable... Unless "likeable" is a synonym for snarky. I'm bad with 3 syllable words.
I digress. A good bit. Back to the book. (Spoiler Alert: The similarities start and end with that first whiff of Juno-ness.)
Yes, this lovely little book is chock-full of characters (teens and adult) who have an uncanny ability for the snappiest of comments and comebacks. Fortunately, that's just the surface. There's a deeper, more honest, more thoughtful layer beneath the snappy frosting. As much as Hazel is drawn to that depth when found in Gus, so too the heart of the book is uncovered when it allows itself to be honest, not trying overly hard with the snappiness.
Really quite a good book, tackling some tough issues -- whether or not you're a young adult.
Four stars from me. We'll see how it settles in my brain machine. Might upgrade to 5.
(Meanwhile, it's worth checking out John Green's work on YouTube. Rounded out my appreciation for him and his work. Just watch out for the Mongols!)(less)