I'm doing something I haven't done before, give 5 stars to a book I feel is not perfect and had some structural flaws. The writing is too good, the chI'm doing something I haven't done before, give 5 stars to a book I feel is not perfect and had some structural flaws. The writing is too good, the characters too well drawn, the period so well captured, and the story too unique to not give the author her due.
A fabulous debut, centered around two main characters from different classes in the 18th century. One raised in a brothel, one in a wealthy household, but both are outsiders due to their physical appearances and their subservience to the men in their lives. Freeman does not let her characters fall into cliches, however, and the people surrounding these women are complex as well, both hateful and sympathetic at times.
The author gives us a fascinating look into the world of early boxing, and the role women played in the ring. How this theme plays outside the ring though is where the real interest lies. It's about inner turmoil and physical release, love and dependency, the class system, and basic survival.
Unlike many current debut novels I read where the beginning chapters were clearly workshopped, then the rest of the novel doesn't hold up, this novel gets a slow start. You don't much like the rough Ruth at first, or the plot. But hang in there. This novel builds till you can't put it down, and you fall for both of the women, who eventually meet.
I mentioned flaws. That slow start, plus there are a few chapters told from the pov of George, the bisexual lover. While I see why he is used (he reveals some important info from an outside pov), they are chapters to endure rather than enjoy. And I did not like that the final chapter was given to him. I would have ended it with Ruth's final line. But...that's just my opinion, and I still loved this book and highly recommend it to those who have the patience to read almost 500 pages and have an interest in women's roles and history.
I also have a beef with the cover of this edition. They have that partial view of a beautiful woman with her bodice hanging down. I don't feel it's true to what this book is trying to say about women. The publisher fell into the exact cliche that the author tried to avoid in her book. But my guess is, it will help sell the book in the end, and that's a good thing for Freeman.
I wonder what Freeman can do after this amazing debut. I will for sure be watching for her next book. She has a special gift....more
While some of the stories didn't startle me or stay with me, the crowning virtue of this collection is a long story that amounts to a novella tucked iWhile some of the stories didn't startle me or stay with me, the crowning virtue of this collection is a long story that amounts to a novella tucked into the center of the book. A novel in stories? Not really, more of a linked story collection that circles back to itself at the end. Overall 4 stars for me, but 5 stars for the novella "The Electric Nowhere" that had me riveted to every sentence like the best novels out there. One of the best pieces of writing I've read this year in long form. I dogeared my copy with all the carefully crafted sentences Mauk constructed with apparent ease. An interesting study of the trials and tribulations of growing up in Ohio's flat lands. The final story, "The Full Horizon," is another gritty, original winner....more
This was selected by Dana Levin as the winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize. It doesn't disappoint. While I admit I'm not an avid reader oThis was selected by Dana Levin as the winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize. It doesn't disappoint. While I admit I'm not an avid reader of poetry, I have never read poems with such innovative, intriguing topics as these. Ethereal and earthy at the same time, the series of poems set in an asylum were for me the most inventive and powerful. I reread about a dozen times "Letter to a Suicidal Man." This is just one stanza:
Once there was a man who went into a mine and he was heavy and stayed there. They say his wife packed him a lunch and he left it on the kitchen table and that's where she found it before they told her.
Doesn't the image of that abandoned lunch stay with you?...more
A vivid, original collection. Jean has an amazing control over the English language and bends and manipulates words, sending her Fool self to the edgeA vivid, original collection. Jean has an amazing control over the English language and bends and manipulates words, sending her Fool self to the edge of the cliff over and over, but saving her each time. A powerful voice in poetry....more
"I am quite certain that determined lost girls are the most powerful of all forces," writes the absent mother in this novel. Absent because her death"I am quite certain that determined lost girls are the most powerful of all forces," writes the absent mother in this novel. Absent because her death opens the story. This tale within a tale is deftly told, reminiscent of the old pilgrimage tales and fairy tales that lead the characters into the depths of the forest to find the truth of something. Normally I don't like pov switches, but it works in this book. We move back and forth seamlessly between the two polar opposite Moon sisters, with the mother's old letters cementing the cracks between.
This is one of those new breed of books that is both popular and literary fiction. Walsh has a lyrical style, especially when trying to capture the synesthesia world of Olivia. The dialog is mostly realistic, and the rural settings well drawn. And for fans of suspense and mystery, there is a twist at the end I didn't even see coming.
Definitely recommend for readers who enjoy their lit fiction with a bit of plot, adventure, and drive forward to satisfying completion....more
I think the best part of this novella is the title and the last two paragraphs. Not much holds up this story which seems more like an early sketch forI think the best part of this novella is the title and the last two paragraphs. Not much holds up this story which seems more like an early sketch for a longer novel. If you are looking to read Bolano, I'd read one of his earlier works....more
Highly recommend for flash and short story lovers. Becker has a unique voice. Her prose is simple, but packs a wallop of an intellectual and emotionalHighly recommend for flash and short story lovers. Becker has a unique voice. Her prose is simple, but packs a wallop of an intellectual and emotional punch. Beautiful stuff here....more
One of the things I love about Goodreads is the community here. One big book club. And a huge thanks to one of my book club members, qtasha, for recomOne of the things I love about Goodreads is the community here. One big book club. And a huge thanks to one of my book club members, qtasha, for recommending Bakker to me. A jewel of an author I never heard of before.
I understand from the reviews that he may have more popular books than this one, but I loved this book. 4.5 stars. It's a literary novel with a dash of suspense and mystery. Full of unreliable narrators (three in total), some of the best dialog I have ever read, a bleak setting worthy of Wales, full of the natural world. It starts slowly with almost no interactions between the main narrator (Agnes) and any other characters, but stick with it. It slowly builds, like an intricate 3D puzzle. I don't want to spoil the plot, but it's hard to surprise me, and I was not expecting the conclusion.
It's a tragic tale, full of pathos and the almost impossible task of human connection. In the best passage of the book, Agnes, AKA Emily Dickinson, thinks about her adored uncle: "she sensed how vulnerable people are when they have no idea what to do next, how to move forward or back. That a shallow hotel pond can feel like a standstill, like marking time with the bank--no start or end, a circle--as the past, present and unlimited future."
It is one of those books you have to reread portions of again when done. Bakker lays out sparse clues to the mystery that surrounds the happenings throughout, but they are so deft you don't realize they are clues till the end. Some clues are still really hard to grasp, and I wonder if the translation has something to do with that, but I still highly recommend this book and this writer....more