I'm a little torn on how to review this book. There were parts I loved, parts I hated, and parts that were just average. I guess that's why I gave it...moreI'm a little torn on how to review this book. There were parts I loved, parts I hated, and parts that were just average. I guess that's why I gave it three stars. That's right in the middle. But it took me ten months to get through this, and that's the longest it's taken me to read a book in recent memory. At first, I read it deliberately slowly. Then, in the middle, I wasn't interested enough to keep it going. By the end, I just couldn't wait to be done with it that I didn't much care what happened.
1. The Prose. The prose started out so gorgeous and lyrical that I just wanted to savor every word, to read it slowly and linger in it the way one lingers in a warm bath. I'm a big fan of first paragraphs, because I think they can set the tone for the whole book. Fail to grab my attention on the first page, and you'll have to work a lot harder for the rest of the book to win me over. The first paragraph of this book is gorgeous:
If you were a spirit, and could fly and alight as you wished, and time did not bind you, and patience and love were all you knew, then you might rise to enter an open window high above the park, in the New York of almost a lifetime ago, early in November of 1947.
Sometimes, though, a first paragraph is a little like a gorgeous man. All pretty and sexy at first sight, but once you go a little deeper, you find that the pretty face is all there is there. As the book went on, there were other moments of lyricism and poetry (Manhattan and its vassal boroughs tirelessly generated images. Even smoke and steam rose beautifully, slowly unfurling in the play of wind and light like a silent song to redeem the memory of forgotten souls), but mostly it just seemed to be trying way too hard to be deep:
Now, on the shadowed slope of a dune that was the last wall of land to face the sea, on silken cold sand, they sat together, thinking that the way they felt would last forever. Far out on the water, a distant sail glided silently, true to the spread of the wind and heading into the horizon. Tranquil, remote, and, above all, silent, it moved toward a great open space. "If that's death," Harry said, "then I look forward to it, I confess that when I see a sail shining in white, moving in the distance toward the shadows as if from this world to the next, I want to follow."
2. The almost too-perfect love between Catherine and Harry. It's love at first sight, and it's so consuming and total that in a more passionate book, it would be exciting. In this slow-paced, overly wordy tome, it comes across cheesy:
He was in love with every part of her body, every stray hair, every plane or curve as much as he loved each individual part of every word she spoke or sang, and he was sorry for the years he had spent in the grip of lesser enthusiasms.
Or And yet her fingers never existed in relation to each other except beautifully... The thing that made me roll my eyes the most was the oft-repeated line about Harry seeing her blouse flutter with the beat of her heart. I don't think anyone's heart so strong or clothes so flimsy that the cloth would actually move from the sheer force of the heart beating beneath the ribcage.
And then what's the point in writing a story about a high society woman who falls in love with a Jew if (view spoiler)[you're just going to conveniently have her find out that her grandmother was Jewish (hide spoiler)]? Too convenient and unnecessary.
3. Harry's other women. We're supposed to be really invested in this love story between Catherine and Harry, and yet the book takes us on multiple trips through Harry's reverie, where he remembers every other woman he's fallen in love with. There's the seamstress, with whom Harry had been madly in love during college. There's Claire, the New Zealand woman at the London dinner party during the war. There's the woman he meets who was surfing in the lake. None of these interactions really seem to have anything to do with anything.
4. The audiobook. I read the first 20% and the last 10% on my Kindle, but for the most part, I listened to this on audio. The narrator is just awful. He has a weird, hollow sort of whistle in his S sounds, and the way his voice rises at the beginning of each sentence and falls at the end makes him sound like he's in a lemonade commercial. I may have enjoyed the prose more had I been reading it with my own inflection. The audiobook made it sound so corny.
5. The ending. Screw you, ending. (view spoiler)[Harry's moral highground won't allow him to take any money from his wealthy father-in-law to save the business, and he won't think of selling the business, but instead he'll plan to murder a bunch of gangsters? And what does Harry get for his trouble? A bullet in the belly. So all of the preceding 700+ pages are for naught. And then the book, even in the epilogue, never tells us what happens to Copeland Leather. Does it survive? Does Harry's child end up running it? Who knows? (hide spoiler)] Ugh. Thanks for nothing, book. If I wasn't so glad to see this book end, I would be really upset.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Deftly woven tale about a man who decides to just leave his life behind and let his bipolar disorder run wild. Told with such conviction by an increas...moreDeftly woven tale about a man who decides to just leave his life behind and let his bipolar disorder run wild. Told with such conviction by an increasingly unreliable narrator that at times it was difficult to tell what was really happening and what was not (until things got really crazy, and then I questioned even the stuff that seemed normal). Three and a half stars, but rounded up for GR purposes. (less)
A nice little supplement to the Delirium series. It doesn't really add a lot to the story until the last sentence, but it's a good set-up to the final...moreA nice little supplement to the Delirium series. It doesn't really add a lot to the story until the last sentence, but it's a good set-up to the final book, which Hana is in. (less)