What if Louisa May Alcott, renowned author of Little Women, spent the summer of 1855 engaged in romance, torn between her love of freedom and the loveWhat if Louisa May Alcott, renowned author of Little Women, spent the summer of 1855 engaged in romance, torn between her love of freedom and the love of an all too flesh-and-blood man, only to destroy any and all evidence of it at the end of her life? This is the premise of the debut novel from Ms. McNees, and a clever one at that. Too much romance for me, but the historical setting - the intellectual & political fervor of mid-19th Century Boston and it's environs, particularly the Transcendental Movement and pre-Civil War machinations - was intriguing. The author cleverly took the historical coincidence of the publication of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and wove it into the story deftly by positing that Louisa pinches her father Bronson's copy & is deeply affected by it, a not-implausible possibility considering his philosophical inclinations and connections.
Reading historical fiction always leaves me wondering: what is historical and what is fiction? But in this case, I believe that McNees stayed, with the exception of her fictionalized scenario of the love afair, true to the facts. But geez, another novel that posits that the only thing a woman really wants is love? Come on. This seems a particularly egregious liberty-taking with the life of LMA; an obsession with love seems out of character for the young woman that McNees portrays.
But any book that gets me hot for poetry isn't all bad.
BookCrossing'ed 5/4/10 - BCID: 889-7984371
The ARC I read and reviewed here was provided to me by the publisher via my local Indie bookstore, and no money was exchanged....more
This is my new favorite book, and has inspired me to return to Erdrich's earlier novels about this fictional family of families, reminding me how muchThis is my new favorite book, and has inspired me to return to Erdrich's earlier novels about this fictional family of families, reminding me how much I love reading about the North Dakota landscape that clearly inspires and shapes her characters.
I have to admit that the story was so funny and poignant that it alternately brought out laughter and tears. I read slowly, breathing in the similes that paint a remarkably vivid picture. I love the gender ambiguity of the protagonist; alternating the narrative between her/his two perspectives was a stroke of genius. The "imperfect perfection" of her characters -- whom I want to embrace, to shake, to sit with at a fire -- they are human, a reflection of our best and our worst. Somehow, Erdrich has made me love these people.
Picked this up at a thrift store with no knowledge that it has been made into a film or that it has such a following. My question: Why?!? I don't so mPicked this up at a thrift store with no knowledge that it has been made into a film or that it has such a following. My question: Why?!? I don't so much mind the historical inaccuracies; it is, after all, fiction (although, the entire final third of the novel is completely fabricated, and the sources Gregory consulted are not considered reputable, so I'm not sure this really qualifies as historical). My real complaint is how utterly pedestrian it is.
It's written in a thoroughly modern voice, and really, what's the point of that? If you are going to write from a modern perspective, Ms. Gregory, why not give the characters modern motives and emotions? Because Mary's words and actions don't jibe, I didn't get the sense that the author knew her protagonist's mind, or, by extension, what she wanted to say as a writer.
Beyond the waffling Mary, there is also the matter of the shallow, caricatured characters. With the exception of George Boleyn, whom I thoroughly liked, that rascal, every character was written as a flat stereotype. There is simply no believing in the scheming, devious, one-dimensional supporting cast.
Finally, any time I can make it through over 600 pages without once needing to consult a dictionary, I am disappointed. I read it in about 3 days, so at least I didn't waste too much time on it. I'm thinking that having a decent working knowledge of the history of that era might have actually exacerbated this problem for me: maybe the readers who enjoyed this more than I did have little background in the customs of the time? Certainly the shock of one GR reviewer at the 'vulgarity' of the story surprised me (really? you didn't expect there to be descriptions of seduction techniques?).
Not much on technique, not much on history, tepid story: hence the 1 star.
I feel a bit ill-equipped to review this book, because my descriptive vocabulary might not be up to the task - I loved it that much & don't want tI feel a bit ill-equipped to review this book, because my descriptive vocabulary might not be up to the task - I loved it that much & don't want to give it short-shrift. This is one of those books I want to proselytize about, & it is the most enjoyable Kingsolver since I first read her Bean Trees/Animal Dreams/Pigs in Heaven trilogy. It has everything: politics, history, art, love (of every kind), and -- most importantly -- characters that stand for something. I just want to turn back to page 1 and re-read it immediately....more
Let me just say up front that The Raj Quartet, the sweeping tale of the twilight years of the British Empire on the Indian sub-continent that is calleLet me just say up front that The Raj Quartet, the sweeping tale of the twilight years of the British Empire on the Indian sub-continent that is called by some "The English War and Peace", has entered the Velma Canon of 5★-faves with some of the best writing and one of the greatest epic sagas I've read to date. So, now you know where I stand here.
This volume collects the final two novels in the Quartet, continuing the temporally and spatially flexible storytelling style Scott used in The Jewel in the Crown and The Day of the Scorpion. Personally, I love stories that jump around in time and space, but if that isn't your bag, this work isn't for you; Scott weaves the big picture tapestry together in a non-linear way that switches warp and weft at will.
In part 3, The Towers of Silence, the story is retold & extended primarily from the perspective of Barbie Batchelor, a previously relatively minor figure that was friends with Edwina Crane in the previous novels. Barbie's character tells the story in a way that reminded me at times of poetry, at other times of a stream-of-consciousness inner dialogue; there are also epistolary passages and diary entries to mix things up a bit. Her story is the most personally poignant to me, but that may just be because it's been awhile since I read the previous volumes.
The last installment, A Division of the Spoils, was the funniest for me (at least until the final climactic, devastating episode). Narrated mostly by male characters, it struck me that Scott might have been contrasting masculine and feminine perspectives in Volume 2: in TToS, the story was explicated predominantly by women in the voices of Barbie, Mabel, Sarah, Susan, Mildred, et. al, whereas in ADotS mainly men (primarily Perron and Rowan) relayed the story. In both cases, I was struck by the pathos evinced by all the characters. Focusing on one of the sexes at a time was an interesting literary strategy that I might not have noticed if I hadn't read these back-to-back, but I thought it was very effective and unusual for a male writer of Scott's time.
One of the things I find surprising when I read criticisms (most notably by Salman Rushdie) of The Raj Quartet is the claim that because Scott portrayed the pervasive racism of the period, he must have been a racist himself. I don't know how you could read Scott and believe that. For me, everything about all four novels screamed how disturbed Scott was by all the racial (as well as class) warfare on all sides; this story wasn't just decrying British-vs-Indian discrimination, but also Hindu-on-Muslim, Muslim-on-Hindu, everyone-on-Sikh, Upstairs-vs-Downstairs...the list of hatreds was boundless, and it was clear, at least to this reader, that Scott was appalled by it all. In fact, I believe that was the point of his Quartet.
But, issues of racism aside, my biggest complaint about the complainers (cough)Rushdie(cough) is the beef that Indians are given a backseat to Brits in the telling here. I think that is a patently unfair criticism; The Raj Quartet is clearly Scott's attempt to tell the British story of post-Amritsar India, not the Indian story of that period. Given that, it's no wonder that the native characters are, as Sir Rushdie pointed out in his diatribe against both literary and cinematic portrayals of Indians under the Raj as "bit-players in their own history". Come on.
Finally, I'll leave you with Scott's words, my paean to the beauty of The Raj Quartet...
"I walk home, thinking of another place, of seemingly long endless summers and the shade of different kinds of trees, and then of winters when the branches of the trees were so bare, that recalling them now, it seems inconceivable to me that I looked at them and did not think of the summer just gone, and the spring soon to come, as illusions; as dreams, never fulfilled, never to be fulfilled."