Let me preface by saying this book was beautiful, but it also wasn't the sort of book I normally like for various reasons. Therefore, some of my criti...moreLet me preface by saying this book was beautiful, but it also wasn't the sort of book I normally like for various reasons. Therefore, some of my critiques of it might be quite biased due to mere preference.
The best part of this book is the way the words flow off the page in so many sweet flavors it's hard to stop eating. The fact that Hope Mirrlees was also a poet is so evident you'd have to wear two eyepatches not to notice. Quite appropriately, the setting of the book is a fantastical world in which innumerable wonders and mysteries flourish. I felt half in a dream as I read about them.
But one often wakes up from a dream and thinks, "That was nice, but what did it mean?" And that sums up my final reaction of this book. The plot meandered from one place to the next: at first I thought it was about a boy who needed to be cured of fairy fruit, but I blinked and it became a murder mystery. The thread running throughout was Master Nathaniel Chanticleer's journey to save his son, and in order to do so, he had to--in a fashion--embrace the mysteries of the fairy realm. That's the best way I can describe it.
What it comes down to is I like stories with a nice balance of dark and light, of wonder and horror. Mirrlees came close to reaching this balance, but not quite, and in the end Chanticleer saves the day because even the things that looked scary turned out not to be so scary at all (I'm being vague so as not to spoil anyone). I felt like Susanna Clarke reached this balance more successfully with her book, "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell."
Read this book for a gentle getaway, an escape into a bright fantasy landscape for the sake of escaping there. (less)
This book is an incredible, and horrendous, eye-opener. I don't think I'm exaggerating too much when I say that everyone in America needs to read this...moreThis book is an incredible, and horrendous, eye-opener. I don't think I'm exaggerating too much when I say that everyone in America needs to read this book in order to truly understand the heart of this nation. Unfortunately, that heart is bleak and corrupt. It may seem unpatriotic of me to recommend. Nevertheless, it's the truth, and we all need to open our eyes.
We hear our politicians ceaselessly refer to our nation as a source of "good" in this world. What they don't explain is that when we--the U.S--provide "aid" to another country, we do so to the extent that those countries become indebted to us. We tell them they'll be better off for our help in the long run. But ultimately, they can't pay us back, and we ask for a high interest. We destroy their economies, we unbalance their social order. We make them miserable. But we say "we're helping them out."
I use the word "we" because while the book is about an Economic Hit Man, one of the few people who actually has the daily job of interacting with those countries and fooling them into debt, he makes it painfully clear that the entire nation is involved. It's not even just the government. He uses the term "corporatocracy." The huge corporations work alongside the government seamlessly. "Capitalism" becomes a euphemism for a lot of greedy, rich, white guys banding together to take as much money from everyone else as they can.
This book isn't going to cheer you up after a long day. But if enough people read it, if enough people are willing to admit the serious flaws of our country, then who knows? Maybe there's a chance it will change.(less)
This book is beautifully written, the story well-woven and wonderfully imagined.
As a novelist myself, I've recently grown bitter when it comes to rea...moreThis book is beautifully written, the story well-woven and wonderfully imagined.
As a novelist myself, I've recently grown bitter when it comes to reading books about books--or more specifically (because I love "Neverending Story"), writers writing about writers. More and more, I see writers doing it everywhere, as if they've forgotten how to write about life itself. That bitterness followed me into three fourths of the book, even as I got swept away by the characters and the plot. I found it wearying that so many characters lived and breathed books and little else.
But I suppose part of my bitterness has to do with the state of our culture today, in which writers seem to be viewed as lonely outcasts of society, living apart from modern society's movies and television and so forth. I don't think it needs to be that way. In a sense many writers outcast themselves, feeling as if they live in a secret world, until eventually, all they know is writing and the books they've surrounded themselves with. This creates a terrible cycle, making it even harder for them to mix into the world flying by them. Eventually, I realized this was Zafon's point, and so I forgave him for it. I was also strangely relieved, and found it rather symbolic, that the narrator of the story never became a writer himself and chose--instead, as it were--to live his life.
I will continue reflecting on this book and will probably like it more and more with time. However, I do have one other small complaint, which is that I saw the two major plot twists coming way ahead of time (the true identity of Lain Coubert, and the reason Julian Carax and Penelope couldn't be lovers). I don't think the author intended any dramatic irony, so this took some of the pungency of the story away from me. (less)
I grabbed this book from the library and devoured it in two days, desperate for help and inspiration amidst my quest to get something--anything--publi...moreI grabbed this book from the library and devoured it in two days, desperate for help and inspiration amidst my quest to get something--anything--published. Strangely enough, I expected Stephen King's own quest to get published to be much more difficult. I hoped to hear him describe the agony of getting one rejection letter after another. I didn't get that satisfaction. I mean yes, there's some of that, but that's not what the book is all about.
However, that sort of depressing drivel is probably not what I *needed* to hear, anyway. This is a practical book about writing that tries to address writers at all levels and, because of King's unique perspective, succeeds. King reminded me that I need to pick up more books in order to hone my own voice, and write more every single day. I mean, every writer knows that, but it's still good to hear.
Most importantly, this book helped remind me why I love writing, and assured me that I'm doing what I should to succeed but I might as well do even more. It also reminded me that to keep trying is worth it. That's probably the best I could have hoped for.(less)
This book was beautifully written, and the three novels elegantly interwoven. I can't even say which novel I liked the best, because they combined to...moreThis book was beautifully written, and the three novels elegantly interwoven. I can't even say which novel I liked the best, because they combined to make a superior whole. Similar themes ran through each book, primarily themes of alienation of man from society: men who have lost their cultural identity and are struggling to discover it again. The landscapes and descriptions were graceful and delightful.
I only give it three stars because I found it hard to feel much emotion for any of the characters. To a degree, I think this was intentional, because each man was a man searching for himself. Personally, however, this was a drawback for me, and kept me from ever feeling swept away by the story or passionately involved. Nevertheless, I'm very glad I read it. It's the first book I've read by Ursula K. LeGuin and I will probably read another!(less)