I think this would be a good starter book for someone who doesn't know anything about the Chinese cultural revolution. It doesn't go into a ton of det...moreI think this would be a good starter book for someone who doesn't know anything about the Chinese cultural revolution. It doesn't go into a ton of detail, but I think it would be a good place to start. Also, I looked up some YouTube videos of Li's dancing, and he's really fantastic. So it was interesting seeing how hard it was for him when he started. He makes it look effortless. (less)
**spoiler alert** I'm finding that I can't write about how this book made me feel without talking about what happens in it. And I mean every major plo...more**spoiler alert** I'm finding that I can't write about how this book made me feel without talking about what happens in it. And I mean every major plot point, not just the ending. What makes this a four star book isn't that the prose is particularly good or that I learned anything profound about myself or the world in which I live. It's the story, and these two characters, and the things that happen to them, and to say what that means, I have to talk about spoilers. So I'm marking this whole review as a spoiler, and if you continue to read on - if you click that little link - then on your own head be it.
(view spoiler)[This book did not end the way I wanted it to. I really want to hate it for that, to be totally pissed off at it for manipulating me into rooting for these characters and then rip out my heart at the end. But I just keep thinking of a quote from The Silver Linings Playbook: "Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly."
And that is so true. Sometimes, life just plain sucks. Sometimes, you are rich and handsome and vibrant and happy and then you get hit by an asshole on a motorcycle and end up a quadriplegic. Sometimes, you get to live in a town with one of those beautiful English castles and then one night, you get a little drunk and a little high and before you know it, you're being gang raped by a bunch of frat boys in the middle of a maze. Sometimes, you can go on a fabulous dream vacation with the man you love and on the last night you get in a huge fight and it ruins the whole experience. Sometimes, the boy doesn't get the girl. And sometimes, the boy does get the girl, but he chooses death anyway.
I knew how it was going to end. I'd accidentally seen a spoiler in a Goodreader's review. I had not been warned repeatedly, as you have, that the review would have details about the ending. And yet, even though I knew what was going to happen, I couldn't help but hope I'd read it wrong. As Louisa kept hoping that she'd change Will's mind, that this would be the outing that turned it all around, I also kept hoping right alongside her.
I'm not going to make any judgments or statements on the ethics or moral question of euthanasia. I really don't think, as a reader, it matters whether you think it is right or wrong. What matters is the way these two characters are able to touch and change each other.
And, yes, the supporting cast are all cookie-cutter and cliche: The sibling who's always overshadowed the heroine; the beautiful ex-girlfriend; the boyfriend who is such a fitness fanatic that he really only serves to be the polar opposite of a paralyzed man; the daffy parents. And yes, some of it is just too precious and contrived, like the family of the disabled person being so fabulously wealthy that money is no object when considering his treatment or the efforts to give him the will to live. His money even makes for a nice, tidy little epilogue where the money he leaves to Lou magically solves all her problems, except for the one where the love of her life commits suicide in her arms. That part actually does piss me off a little, as I know some real-life families who have to struggle and figure out how to make ends meet while paying for the care of a disabled family member, and remodeling their houses to be wheelchair accessible, and buying a car with a chair lift, etc., and the insurance money doesn't even begin to cover it. But I suppose if this book had focused on those very real struggles, we would have been distracted from the will-they-or-won't-they drama of two people falling in love. These are the reasons this book is not five stars.
But the fact remains that I did not want to put this book down. I stayed up way too late last night reading, and after I made myself turn out the light I still lay in bed thinking about this story. Today at work, I had the Kindle app on my phone open so I could sneak in a paragraph whenever I could. And when I finished, I just sat for a while and cried. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
When I first started this, I thought Pat's voice reminded me a lot of Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I didn't really like much. But...moreWhen I first started this, I thought Pat's voice reminded me a lot of Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I didn't really like much. But the more I read on, the more I liked Pat. I found him charming and dear. I adored the ending, which bumped the book from three to four stars. I think I like this book even better now that I've seen how they bastardized it for the movie. Bradley Cooper did a great job, and I love me some Jennifer Lawrence, but I did not like the changes to the story. I'm so glad it didn't win Best Adapted Screenplay, because if it had, I would have felt pretty pissed on behalf of Matthew Quick, whose story is so much better than the one Hollywood made up.(less)
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)