I want to think more about this book before I write a definitive review. I read it on a smartphone while I was in Mexico with a friend, my first timeI want to think more about this book before I write a definitive review. I read it on a smartphone while I was in Mexico with a friend, my first time reading an ebook. I'm sure that had something to do with my reactions to it, but the truth is that it was compelling as history, as only a view of history, obviously, but since I believe everything you, and I, and anyone thinks is always a partial view, I appreciate clear ones, without having to adhere to that vision as absolutely true or false. It is not great literature. The personal stories which serve as narrative suspense are love stories primarily and ideological illustrations secondarily. And 'literature'--i.e., literary musicality or architectonics--hardly at all. Nevertheless for the first time I feel as if I have gained a grasp of why the assassination of some weird-sounding "Arch-Duke" (what fantasy novel or comix does this come from?)could have been a linchpin to one of the most hideous wars in human history, one that was relevant only to a scrambling grasping fight over the spoils of 'colonies.' The only reason I would like to live forever is to satisfy my curiosity about how some more utopian future thinkers may picture the whole 'Colonial/Imperial/Capital' -ist period from about 1492 to the end of World War II and the subsequent unraveling of empires in the wave of national liberation struggles that concluded with Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau (& maybe Spanish Sahara). I will now turn back to a book I abandoned last year, Sleepwalkers, for a less fictional treatment of the beginning of World War I. I recommend, for those interested in this topic, two other works of fiction: Servants of the Map by Andrea Barrett, and The English Patient by of course Michael Ondaatje....more
Ironic that I finished this book on December 7. For all the historical background stories set in World War II in Manchuria/Mongolia, there is only theIronic that I finished this book on December 7. For all the historical background stories set in World War II in Manchuria/Mongolia, there is only the briefest mention of the Nagasaki bomb and nothing, I think, in reference to Hiroshima. ...more
Sometimes it's a good idea to read everything an author has written, especially when it's an author like Edith Wharton whose excellence I have only beSometimes it's a good idea to read everything an author has written, especially when it's an author like Edith Wharton whose excellence I have only begun to appreciate in House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, for instance. But it's also probably a good idea to find out the relative ranking of the books in a few reviewers' opinions.
What I wish I'd paid attention to most was how long it took Wharton to write this: six weeks. That's about what it was worth. It was a great disappointment.
Why? Well, that's hard to say. First of all, because the main character was so uninteresting: she was immature and self-centered without the author seeming to notice these negative qualities, treating her instead as a sympathetic girl. The situation was not quite believable. A girl adopted without any legal arrangements or any sense of who or where she had come from (maybe more normal in the period about which Wharton was writing) but adopted by a male boor, someone who drank too much and tried to seduce the adolescent girl in his own house.
The depiction of the young suave seducer was charming and compelling, but the relationship was somehow never quite realistic and the denouement of the story was farfetched, almost Gothic.
It was interesting to see that abortion was accessible even back at the turn of the century (i.e., nineteenth to twentieth) and that human sexuality is not so different no matter what era one examines.
The ending of the story echoed, I suppose, the ending of Ethan Frome , a kind of reverse symmetry of sorts: grim and oppressive. But not believable.
I am just maundering on, trying to justify such disappointment as I felt, especially concerning a write I have begun so belatedly to admire and study.