I read this book when I was 14 or 15 for the first time, and I have read it many times since. It's absolutely my favorite book. (However, nothing else...moreI read this book when I was 14 or 15 for the first time, and I have read it many times since. It's absolutely my favorite book. (However, nothing else du Maurier came close to this, sadly.) As an awkward teenage girl, I could identify in some ways with the shy, young heroine trying to find her place and live up to the oh-so-beautiful-and-perfect first wife of her older, distant, rich new husband. WEll, I take that back. I think most teenage girls can identify with the first half. I probably thought myself, "Wow, I'm already shy, awkward, and sort of plain. But I live a regular middle class life. If this girl can marry a handsome, rich, emotionally distant man twice her age and live on an English country estate, I want to do that too!" The setting is straight out of Gosford Park. The estate of Manderley becomes almost another character. Speaking of other "characters": Rebecca, Maxim's first wife, is an omnipresent force in the life of the narrator, who constantly imagines and reimagines what Rebecca did, was like, and would be doing in her place. But honestly, who wouldn't become a paranoid daydreamer in the same situation? The characterization and pacing are brilliant. The book isn't quite a romance novel. It ends up being a sort of murder mystery - but you don't know it's a murder mystery until the climax. Ultimately, it's also a book about the way we think others see us. It's tempting to dismiss this book as pure mind candy, but it's much too good for that.(less)
As a native Buffalonian, I was excited to pick up a novel that took place in the City of Good Neighbors. The only other Buffalo-set novel I've read, C...moreAs a native Buffalonian, I was excited to pick up a novel that took place in the City of Good Neighbors. The only other Buffalo-set novel I've read, City of Light, was pretty decent, though with some flaws, but it was historical fiction, taking place during the Pan-American Exposition of 1901. This book is a nearly-contemporary work about a Buffalo expatriot, living in Brooklyn (of course), and which takes place during visits back to his family. You can read a synopsis elsewhere, though. I'll give you my reaction: This book is depressing. And not in the way a Paul Thomas Anderson movie is depressing. Depressing as in I wondered why I was reading it and who the hell did this guy think he is anyway?
Honestly, if you are familiar with Buffalo, you'll probably enjoy the references to things like Allentown and Anderson's. Otherwise? The book is more about a 20-something son's internal debate over assisted suicide in the face of his mother's severe dementia. Like many people in Buffalo, he's nominally Catholic. Or at least his family is. Unlike many people in Buffalo (in my opinion), he's a depressed, alcoholic loser and I really got sick of his loser friends. It's a wonder this guy ever moved out of his parents' house, let alone to a place like Brooklyn. No wonder his friends are impressed with him. I fear people will judge Buffalo by this book. You all know the stereotypes. There's lots of chicken wings and snow. The narrator DOES mention at one point that Buffalo has beautiful summers (and honestly, the winters aren't THAT cold), but I think that message is lost in his depressed self-pity. Buffalo is a lovely, vibrant city, made up of many different kinds of people. Buffalonians are extremely nice, and many are successful. Perhaps we bond over the failure of our sports teams, our rust belt status and snowy perception of outsiders. Not everyone is stuck in a perpetual adolescence, or unemployed, as this book would have you believe. You don't have to grow up and move elsewhere to be popular, successful and tanned. I can think of many cities with a much seedier underbelly than Buffalo. I hope the main character/narrator, James, wasn't THAT autobiographical, because he seems a very unlikeable person in several ways. I had much more sympathy for his family members. Especially if they had to deal with being related to someone with such a woe-is-me attitude. From always playing second fiddle to his sister, to not being able to find and commit to a girlfriend... it got old.
It does have a theme of homecoming, transience, and changing family dynamics, which many will identify with (including me, since I live in Los Angeles). But really, it's mostly about Alzheimer's. Take that as you will.(less)
As a historian, I very much appreciate the amount of research and the talent it took to write this book, which began as Amanda Foreman's PhD dissertat...moreAs a historian, I very much appreciate the amount of research and the talent it took to write this book, which began as Amanda Foreman's PhD dissertation at Oxford. While Foreman tries to convince the reader of Georgiana's special spark, as it is, as well as her innovation and uniqueness in her time (the late Georgian period in London), I couldn't quite buy it. Again, perhaps it is the academic in me, trained to look through the argument to the facts of the issues. I didn't find Georgiana to be particularly likable, a good role model, or even extremely entertaining. She was mildly interesting. I just didn't buy Foreman's conclusions that she was a precursor to all women who became in politics from that time forward, or that she was courageous, or extremely intelligent, or even a great mother. I read this right before taking a trip to London, though, and if you're interested in the history of the city or the history of the nobility in England, you'll probably enjoy this book. Just be aware that it is written much like a dissertation, meaning that Foreman strings together episodes from Georgiana's life supported by snippets of letters and newspaper articles. (less)
Great book for those with a cursory knowledge of LA's downtown history and who are also interested in film. Finding a way to dovetail architectural an...moreGreat book for those with a cursory knowledge of LA's downtown history and who are also interested in film. Finding a way to dovetail architectural and neighborhood cultural history with film history is something I sorely wish I could do, and here Dawson gas done it. I told my husband I wish I had written this book.
As a nearly decade-long resident of the Hollywood area and a holder of an MA in history, I am very interested in the preservation of hollywood and Los Angeles's past. Unfortunately, it seems that even the cheery, well-known, quintessentially Los Angeles type of places are often torn down in the name of progress, let alone places that are working class or don't fit with the city's image, as was the case with Victorian Bunker Hill, juxtaposed with the growing, commercial downtown.
Anyone in LA who is interested in this book should seek out Richard Schave and Kim Cooper (whom I see are thanked in the acknowledgements). They, as well as Nathan Marsak (quoted in the book), give great bus-based and walking tours of LA, downtown as well as many other places, and have done marvelous research on the people and places that are both still there and long gone. They're good people. So is George Pattison, who grew up on Bunker Hill and us quoted in the book's last chapter, and will talk with you about the Salt Box and the Castle and show you interior photos. (less)
This book came pretty highly recommended. And it was so short! I busted it out in 1 afternoon. So I can say... well, at least I didn't have to spend a...moreThis book came pretty highly recommended. And it was so short! I busted it out in 1 afternoon. So I can say... well, at least I didn't have to spend a lot of time on it?
I'll get to the length later. Let's start by talking about how much I like the premise. I LOVE alternative forms of narration. Stream of consciousness? Check. Extremely unreliable narrators? Totally. Partial prose, partial poetry, random lines from song lyrics stuck here and there like a collage? I'll read it. So I was intrigued by the notion of a "novel" written in dictionary entries. But the execution? Not good. This is not to say this is the author's fault. In fact, the writing was beautiful. I would certainly read more by this author (and have been recommended Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist).
Oddly, I WANTED there to be more to this book. I wanted more of a traditional narration. I felt like I didn't get the sense of a story AT ALL with the snippets I was presented of the two characters (the narrator and his girlfriend). There was no character building. There was no back story. I couldn't sympathize with them at all, especially the girl. So what I was left with was an icky feeling of being told only the gory details of someone's dysfunctional relationship. Like overhearing a coworker talking about breaking up with his girlfriend. It was uncomfortable. So you see? If I knew more about the characters and could sympathize with their motivations and see the entire arc of their relationship rather than just a few good and some really messed up times, then I would have been much happier. I understand that part of the point was to distill the book down to the main points, as illustrated by seemingly meaningless snippets of their relationship. But I think that works much better in theory than in practice.
To be honest, I'd give this book 2.5 stars if I could. I just don't think I could give it 3. But I definitely give the author kudos for his writing style and the risk he took with this type of "novel."
My feeling after reading this was relief - relief that I'm happily married and don't have to deal with such messed up relationships anymore.(less)
To be fair, this is at least a 3.5 star rating. I really would recommend this book. I don't know if it's because I grew up in Buffalo, hearing about t...moreTo be fair, this is at least a 3.5 star rating. I really would recommend this book. I don't know if it's because I grew up in Buffalo, hearing about the McKinley assassination my whole life, or if it's because I have an MA in American history, or if it's because I recently read Nixonland, which is VERY thorough and on-point, but this book seems a bit incomplete, or at least seems to lose and/or deviate from its focus fairly often. It's billed as a book which parallels the lives of William McKinley and his assassin, Lean Czolgosz. Then why give us several chapters which detail battles in the Pacific during the Spanish American war? I understand that the author was trying to develop the feel of the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, and that's perfectly valid if America's rise to industrial superpower is the premise of your book. But I finished this book with a cursory understanding of the lives of both McKinley and Czolgosz. On the other hand, I certainly learned a lot about the Spanish American War in the Philippines...
In the end, I think the author couldn't really figure out why McKinley, specifically, was targeted by Czolgosz. And you know what? In the end, it wasn't specifically because of McKinley's business-friendly policies. In fact, the time during the McKinley administration, while business-friendly, wasn't quite as laissez-faire as the environment had been 15-20 years before. I came away from this book not believing that McKinley specifically was destined to be cut down by the radical labor movement, but that it was really just a crime of opportunity.
I believe the author couldn't help but try to put all of his research and everything he knew about the period into the book. I know there's more about the anarchist movement he didn't necessarily add, and I'd really be interested to know more about specific business policies and economically-oriented SCOTUS decisions at the time, in addition to radical movements in America. Flesh out more of that, cut out the parts about "and then this is what happened in 1899" and I think the book would have a much better focus. (less)
IF this is ever released, I'll be one of the first people in line. :-)
ETA March 2011: I have pre-ordered the kindle edition which will be released in...moreIF this is ever released, I'll be one of the first people in line. :-)
ETA March 2011: I have pre-ordered the kindle edition which will be released in July 2011. This is one of the best fantasy series being written at the moment (perhaps THE best) and the HBO adaptation of the Song of Ice and Fire series, of which I've seen 2 episodes, is quite good as well, and sure to draw new fans.
ETA July 20, 2011: Well, after a little over a week, I finished the book! Now to wait another five years... I'm beginning to believe Martin will not finish this series in 7 books as no one really went anywhere in this book, with the exception of a NEW character. With the twists and set backs going on at the moment, I can't see doing what needs to be done in 2 more novels... since he just spent 1000 pages not doing much at all. Also, if you cannot fit all of your characters into a 1000 page novel, you've probably stretched yourself a bit thin.
Regardless, it's a good series. Not something I'll reread over and over forever (though I might give them all another read prior to the final book being released) but a solid series if you want to invest time into an interesting fantasy world. (less)
This book should have taught me not to go into reading any best-seller with high hopes. It honestly left me questioning the intelligence (or at least...moreThis book should have taught me not to go into reading any best-seller with high hopes. It honestly left me questioning the intelligence (or at least reading ability) of all my friends who enjoyed it.
The characters are wooden, and the main character is vaguely sexist and not all that smart, especially for a Harvard professor! There is nothing innovative or controversial about the story. It's all rehashed bits of ideas that aren't Brown's own ideas by a long shot. (Even if the Jesus marriage thing were true, I have trouble believing it would be so incredibly controversial - the Catholic Church accepts that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.) And Brown has no idea how to write suspense. There are multiple scenes where the characters are being pursued, and at the "cliffhanger" end of the chapter... well, Brown leaves you hanging while he switches perspective and writes the next chapter about another character entirely. Lame! What a cop-out. Learn how to write suspense if that's how you want to write! There are really no surprises. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad. The one character who seems to "turn" you can see coming from a mile away. It wouldn't be half as bad if Brown (and his devoted followers) didn't take it all SO seriously, and look on this book as if it's the best thing since Jesus Christ himself. I can't tell you how many people have told me they loved this book and thought it was so novel, and the writing was so good. What the hell have these people been reading? Highlights magazine?
Seriously, if you're used to reading good books, or any books at all, don't waste your time. To sum up: bad characters, bad ideas, bad writing.
OH and against my better judgment, I started reading Angels and Demons, which my friend owned. I got through the first few chapters and stopped, realizing it was the exact. same. book. Except there's a different girl and it takes place in the Vatican, I think. Dan Brown's books are like James Bond movies, except less funny, with less action, and less sex. (less)
This book was first assigned as summer reading going into my senior year of high school (it was an AP English class). No one really understood or like...moreThis book was first assigned as summer reading going into my senior year of high school (it was an AP English class). No one really understood or liked it, so our teacher had us read it again at the beginning of the school year, explaining the characters and metaphors. I guess she knew from experience that this book takes more than one reading, but is well worth it. Even upon my first reading, as a 17-year-old with no instruction, I had trouble understanding some of the characters and much of the plot, but I knew I was reading something brilliant. Eventually, I decided I just loved the sound of the words and phrases Faulkner used. His style in this book is a combination of 19th century stream-of-consciousness and almost post-modern existentialism. The work of uncovering the characters' actions and the meaning of the extended metaphors is a challenge, but well worth it. I dislike when authors lazily lay everything out for you.
I am glad I got to reread this in an academic setting as it really solidified my appreciation of the novel. Faulkner has actually become one of my favorite writers. Although I'm not from Mississippi, there's something I love about his tragic, yet hopeful southern gothic settings and characters. For those who found the stream-of-consciousness structure of As I Lay Dying too difficult, try Light in August, which is more of a traditional narrative, and pick up a copy of one of Faulkner's short story collections (make sure it includes A Rose for Emily). If you tend to like O'Connor and other southern writers from the same period, you won't be disappointed with his other work. (less)
This book seriously changed my life. I've been a vegetarian for 4 years, but you can drink coke and eat chips and still call yourself that. I've been...moreThis book seriously changed my life. I've been a vegetarian for 4 years, but you can drink coke and eat chips and still call yourself that. I've been shopping at farmer's markets since I used to tag along with my dad on his grocery adventures when I was a child (we had a small, Wed and Sat market, for half the year in my home town). However, even though I've been going to the local farmer's market regularly for over a year, I would still think to myself, "Well, I can get salad cheaper elsewhere..." Not anymore. This book redefined what is healthy. Lean cuisine? Not even close. I now buy almost all of my produce at the farmer's market, unless I need something mid-week, in which case I'll buy it from the local or organic section at the conventional grocery store/Trader Joe's, as a pathetic second choice. I strive to cook from scratch a lot, or at least know where my food comes from, and to pack my lunch almost everyday.(less)