I had the pleasure of attending the NEIBA trade show NECBA children's author dinner last Wednesday (Oct. 12, 2011), where Brian Selznick explained wha...moreI had the pleasure of attending the NEIBA trade show NECBA children's author dinner last Wednesday (Oct. 12, 2011), where Brian Selznick explained what he was trying to do in his newest book, Wonderstruck. As you may remember, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, his previous middle grade novel, won the Caldecott Award, for a novel told in both pictures and text - you could not read one without the other, for together, they made the complete story. In Wonderstruck, Mr. Selznick wanted to stick with that format but play with the intent, so that instead of the film still-like images enhancing the same story, they tell a different person's story than that of the text. Ben Wilson's story in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota in 1977 is told via text, while Rose's story from Hoboken, New Jersey in 1927 is told through images. The stories build up suspense for each other until one fateful moment, 3/4 of the way through the book, they collide beautifully.
This structure is particularly brilliant because the main characters in Wonderstruck are partially or fully deaf, and in Rose's story, in 1927, the movie world is about to be completely changed with the invention of "talking pictures". Whereas before, deaf and hearing people could enjoy films together, talking pictures changes all that. I love the underlying film stories in both Mr. Selznick's works, and the themes of independence vs. family, adventure vs. security, past meeting present.
Ben's mother has recently died, and he's having a tough time adjusting to life with his aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins, even though their house is right next door to his old house on Gunflint Lake. One night, Ben sneaks into his own house and decides to search through his mother's things for any message she might have left him. When Ben finds a locket, a book, and a postcard that might give him clues as to who his father is, he decides to try contacting him. Using a phone. In the middle of a storm. When lightening strikes.
Rose is a little deaf girl living in a large house in New Jersey, overlooking Manhattan. Lonely, unable to communicate via either sign language or lip reading, she runs away to find her mother in the city.
Their stories collide when Ben also runs away to find his father in the city. Ben ends up at the American Museum of Natural History, where he makes a friend in Jamie, whose father works at the museum and from whom Jamie has swiped some keys. The boys explore the museum, E.L. Konigsburg-style (if you don't know what I'm referring to, check out Newbery Medal-winning From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), and Ben ends up sleeping in an old Cabinet of Wonders-turned-storage room. After a few dead ends during the hunt for his father, Ben meets Rose, now much older, who tells him her own story while explaining to Ben who his father is, where Ben comes from, and that though his mother died, Ben is not without family and friends in the world. Masterfully woven together, Wonderstruck lives up to the promise of greatness from every Brian Selznick work.
Oh, and one last thing - be prepared to have the line "Ground control to Major Tom" drift through your head for days after reading this.(less)
I am overwhelmed by how perfectly completed this trilogy is. One of the most brilliant things about this whole trilogy, but this third and final book...moreI am overwhelmed by how perfectly completed this trilogy is. One of the most brilliant things about this whole trilogy, but this third and final book in particular, is how seamlessly history and current events are woven together so that you're both reminded of events that took place in the previous two novels, as well as given carefully revealed tidbits of information from the history of these countries, to give context to the action happening in the present. A phenomenal ending, not only with all the loose ends tied up, but some lovely additions or plot asides (such as recognizing the bravery and sacrifice made by a 17-year-old Charynite boy in Lumatere 13 years earlier leading to child care advice for Quintana, or Quintana softening enough to play matchmaker) that balanced out all the sadness that came before. Toward the final third of the book, I found myself crying at the small moments of happiness, the expressions of love, instead of over the horrors that came before.
One of my favorite paragraphs: "And Phaedra saw her smile, with a hint of mischief in it, and she couldn't help smiling herself and then she was laughing. They both were, and the savage teeth were the most joyous sight Phaedra had seen for a long time. It was as if they were dancing. There it was. Suddenly the strangeness of Quintana of Charyn's face made sense. Because it was a face meant for laughing, but it had never been given a chance. It robbed Phaedra of her breath." (pg. 201)
That, to me, is where Melina Marchetta is truly gifted, in that she can make those sweet moments so profound because of the bitterness that is being let go because of them. She makes forgiveness and love such a powerful force throughout this entire series, but most particularly in this third and final installment of The Lumatere Chronicles, Quintana of Charyn.
I will try to describe the plot without giving too much away. At the end of book 2, Froi of the Exiles, Froi was left for dead with 8 arrows in his body, while Quintana was spirited away through underground caves to no one knows where. Froi is saved by his birth uncle, Arjuro, the gods-blessed priestling, and is reunited in Charyn with his birth father, the genius Gargarin, and his birth mother, Lirah of Serker. Meanwhile, Quintana has gotten herself to Lumatere, where she is being reluctantly taken care of by Phaedra of Alonso and the other escaped Charynite women living in the valley between Charyn and Lumatere. The women fakes their deaths to keep news of Quintana from reaching the evil Charynite soldiers-for-hire who killed the seven scholars-turned-soldiers (Rafuel's) men, in book 2. All the women are hiding out in a cave a few miles upstream from the rest of the refugees, with only Rafuel knowing their truth. It is when Quintana begins leaving the cave to hunt for food and meets Lady Beatriss's daughter Vestie, and is found by Tesadora, that the plot begins to unfold.
In Froi's adventures, he's traveling back and forth through Charyn with Gargarin and Lirah in an attempt to both find Quintana and raise an army to rescue her from whoever has her. In Quintana's adventures, as more people find out the women aren't dead and that Quintana is there, the more all the women, but most especially Quintana and the unborn little king, are in danger, for Bestiano, the horrible man who raped Quintana and was trying to take over the palace and the kingdom of Charyn, is still alive and has offered gold as a reward to any man who will bring him the little king, not Quintana, alive.
Subplots include a jealous argument between Finnikin and Isaboe that leads to Finnikin accompanying his father, Trevanion, and Perri, on a hunt for Gargarin, who they believe to be behind the attack and slaughter of Isaboe's family, during which they run into Froi, whom they haven't seen in 9 months; Lucian finding out that Phaedra is alive, struggling with his new feelings of love for her, and the two of them learning to trust each other; Isaboe and Quintana's unborn children talking to each other, to their mothers, and helping to explain what happened during the day of weeping 13 years earlier when all the women of Charyn lost the babies they were carrying and Lumatere became cursed, thus causing the last borns to be marked; and how to best avoid war and broker peace between all the kingdoms.
I am pleased to announce that despite all the political intrigue, battles fought, and messages gone astray, there is a happy ending in there for everyone who deserves it, with compassion, forgiveness, and love occurring in the most unexpected, but well-deserved, circumstances.
Definitely one of my favorite books of the year, the only downside is what on earth do I read next?t(less)
Obviously a steampunk novel, as it's book #1 in The Steampunk Chronicles, there's a great mix of adventure, romance, and gadgetry in this quick (despi...moreObviously a steampunk novel, as it's book #1 in The Steampunk Chronicles, there's a great mix of adventure, romance, and gadgetry in this quick (despite its 450+ pages) read. I love the trim size of this novel, its gorgeous cover with the steel corset peeking out from the scarlet dress, and the black gears that decorate each new chapter page. Overall, a gorgeous package for a book that delivers from a first-time foray into the YA genre by best-selling author Kathryn Smith.
Finley Jayne has had to run. Again. Something about her draws men to her, and at age 16 and a servant in people's homes, she's easy prey for the fathers and sons of rich families. Or so they think. There's something inside Finley that awakes when she's in danger, something dark enough to protect Finley by allowing her to fight well and become strong enough to throw a grown man across the room. Though she didn't kill him, after this last fight with a member of the crew of Dandies, followers of the notorious Jack Dandy, Finley knows she must run again and despairs of where she'll find herself this time, out on the streets, in the middle of the night, in 1897 England.
Luckily, she is run down by a Duke on a motorcycle-type machine. Griffin King, possessing powers of his own, recognizes something within Finley and so brings her to his manor to join his own band of misfits. There's Emily - better at tinkering with mechanical things than any man; Sam - part-man, part-automaton; Griffin's aunt, Cordelia - she can read people's minds; and Jasper Renn - an American who can move like the wind. Suspected by some of being a spy, unwillingly drawn to both Griffin and Jack Dandy, all Finley really wants to learn is why she feels like there are literally two sides of her - the Finley of her conscious moments, and the Finley who can fight like the devil. Is she evil? How will she reconcile her two sides? And can she do so while also trying to help Griffin's gang figure out just what evil plot The Machinist is hatching that involves Queen Victoria and life-like automatons like the one that almost killed Sam?
Though most of the plot twists and turns were not a super-shocking reveal, this is a perfect introduction for the 12-and-up set into the world of steampunk and all the clothing and machinery that goes along with it. I'm looking forward to following the gang to America in book 2!(less)
This was the most fascinating book I've read in a long time. It combines the very best of good reporting, action-adventure novel, history, anthropolog...moreThis was the most fascinating book I've read in a long time. It combines the very best of good reporting, action-adventure novel, history, anthropology, and biography. David Grann seamlessly weaves together his modern-day search for what happened to the lost explorer Percy Fawcett, and Fawcett's own quest for a city he labeled only as "Z", an El Dorado-like city supposed to exist deep within the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.
Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett was a British explorer in the late 1800s, early 1900s who mapped great portions of South America. With the constitution of an ox, he survived extreme conditions of the worst kind in jungles where it seemed every aspect of the environment was trying to kill you. Unlike most other explorers, Fawcett advocated peaceful interactions with the Native tribes living in the jungles, and survived many tense situations. As he got older, Fawcett became obsessed with the idea of a lost village deep within the Amazon rainforest, one filled with gold and other riches. He gathered Native stories, read the accounts of other explorers, and kept his own journals chronicling his theories and his searches for this city he called "Z". As a member of the Royal Geographic Society, Fawcett expected them to fund his expeditions. Unfortunately, they did not, so Fawcett and his family spent many years in poverty, as Fawcett was equally unable to earn money as he was unable to stop going into the South American wilderness. In 1925, having finally secured enough money for another expedition, Fawcett departed with his son Jack, and Jack's friend Raleigh Rimell, into the Amazon in an area close to the region of Mato Grosso. [This is probably why I find this so fascinating, as my parents spent a year or more living with the Bororo Indians in that same region in the 80s before I was born.] The three explorers were never heard from again.
David Grann admits he is one of the least likely people to go exploring in such conditions. Without even a boyscout background, he nonetheless gathers equipment, Fawcett's research, and contacts people in Brazil who may help him find out what happened to Fawcett. Grann is hardly the first to try this; reportedly over 100 people have died during various rescue, information-gathering, and other attempts to enter the Amazon specifically looking for Fawcett and his lost party.
Grann, with a reporter's instinct for hunting out a story, manages to find a guide, then an interpreter, and eventually speaks with the Kalapalo tribe, who may have been the last tribe to see Fawcett and his group alive. What's even more incredible is that archaeologist Michael Heckenberger was living with the Kalapalo when Grann arrives. Heckenberger, and other archaeologists, may have recently discovered the remains of Fawcett's "Z".
Due to the hot and humid conditions of the Amazon, unlike a stone-based city such as Machu Picchu, any civilization built with jungle materials (wood, vines, etc.) would have rotted away and been swallowed by the jungle within 10 years of desertion. Due to the diseases brought by the first early explorers, hundreds of thousands of Native populations were wiped out, ravaged by diseases their immune systems had no experience with, before the next group of explorers came by. It could be that tragedies of this atrocious nature, combined with the accelerated breakdown of the natural materials used to build the great cities, caused the disbelief of early explorer accounts that detail great, prosperous cities with hundreds of people living in them. By the time a second wave of exploration began, the Native peoples, having been decimated to only a few hundred people, were living in small bands and villages, rather than in large cities. Archaeologists such as Michael Heckenberger are just beginning to map out and put together diagrams of huge, complicated cities, entire civilizations, that existed, often with technology and scientific knowledge that was far superior to that being used in the Western cities at that time.
A true adventure story, I was racing through the last few chapters, marveling at how Fawcett's story and Grann's story were coming together in a climactic ending. We're still learning so much about ancient civilizations thanks to modern technology, there was really no way Fawcett would have found his lost city of "Z". Yet, that doesn't mean it didn't exist.
Also, stay tuned for the 2012 movie version of this story that's reputed to star Brad Pitt. (less)
A few years ago, I gave myself the gift of a New Year's resolution to stop reading any book I wasn't enjoying. I think Libba Bray and I just don't get...moreA few years ago, I gave myself the gift of a New Year's resolution to stop reading any book I wasn't enjoying. I think Libba Bray and I just don't get along as reader/writer. I understand that everything she was writing was tongue-in-cheek, but it was SO over the top and SO heavily caricatured that I didn't enjoy this book at all. Reading this made me feel like she didn't respect my intelligence as a reader; as if she had to hit me over the head with fake teen-speak jokes mirroring a potential reality for some of today's teens, and the jokes were SO funny, no really, SO FUNNY - OMG, LOL, because it means, like, the exact opposite of what she's, like, writing about, you know? - it frankly kind of disgusted me. I chuckled over one or two things, but basically, this book wasn't for me.
That said, I can see its intrinsic value for teenagers, specifically girl teenagers, who would get a real kick out of something like this. In a way, it's almost subversive teen literature. As a former bookseller, I often wrestled with this question: What do you hand a girl who loves the Gossip Girls (or similar) series, but you personally wish she was reading something a little less trashy with a little more substance? This book.
Quietly enthralling. That's the first thing that comes to mind when trying to describe this book. The basic facts - the lives of 4 people interwoven o...moreQuietly enthralling. That's the first thing that comes to mind when trying to describe this book. The basic facts - the lives of 4 people interwoven over a period of 40 years - don't do justice to the elegant and simple way this novel unfolds and lays out the complexities of the plot. Rachel Simon exhibits true mastery in how her writing jumps from time, place, and point-of-view to paint a complete picture using pivotal moments, and her writing is lovely to boot: "What is the history of the word for 'child'? What is the future of the word for 'mine'?" (pg. 154).
The story begins on the doorstep of Martha's farmhouse in the late 1960s. A retired schoolteacher and longtime widow, Martha leads a simple life, her social life consisting of writing and receiving letters from her former students and hosting a yearly holiday party. When a deaf black man and a mentally-ill white woman show up on her doorstep with a newborn, Martha barely has time to feed them and clothe them before officials from the State School for the Incurable and Feeble-Minded knock on her door. Without really understanding what is happening, Martha lets the men in and they search her home to find Lynnie, the woman, hiding in a back bedroom. There is no sign of Homan, the man, and the officials apparently don't know to look for the baby. As Lynnie passes Martha, while being dragged from the house, Lynnie manages to whisper, "Hide her," and so Martha does. For the next 14 years, Martha will dedicate herself to the care, feeding, protecting, and loving of the baby, Beautiful Girl, Julia.
Meanwhile, Lynnie is brought back to the School, where she must endure the derision of the guards, and inattention of the doctors, and the loss of both Beautiful Girl and Homan. Not everything is horrible, however, and with the help of her friends - Doreen, a fellow "inmate" at the school, and Kate, a school employee - Lynnie is able to use her artistic ability to draw pictures depicting her escape, her return, and continue with drawing her life after. Over time, conditions at the School improve, Lynnie's own mind and abilities improve, and she is able to work on learning to speak, learning to communicate, and learning to take care of herself within assisted environments, ultimately speaking up in favor of legislation that would close all schools like the one she grew up in. Yet, despite her personal growth, she is constant in her memory of Homan and her baby.
Homan, deaf, scared, unable to communicate as no one understands his signs, he can't understand American Sign Language, nor can he read lips, runs from one situation to another - some of them bad, some of them good - but most of them taking him farther and farther away from Lynnie and Beautiful Girl. For a long time, he keeps the thought of returning to the School at the forefront of his mind, but it's the 60s, and then the 70s, and the introduction of smoking pot into his life makes it easy for him to live more complacently with people and in situations that don't push him to continue toward his goal. After many years of living an almost apathetic existence, crossing paths with someone from his past will bring about a change in him that has him looking toward a brighter future.
Ignorant of the circumstances of her birth, Julia has only known her grandmother Matilda (Martha) and the various aunts and uncles (Martha's former students) that have given them food and shelter over the years. It isn't until Julia hits her teen years that she begins to question, she begins to rebel, and Martha faces the tough decision of what and how much and when to tell Julia the truth of her birth.
Forty years brings about a lot of change in the world, and in the people involved, but certain constants - like love, and sacrifice, and caring for others as part of human nature - weave a positive thread throughout the opposition all four main characters face. The final scenes provide a clever glimpse into the future beyond the book without wrapping things up too carefully, so that Lynnie, Homan, Julia, and even Martha live on inside the reader long past the final page.(less)
**spoiler alert** Melissa Marr hits it out of the park again in this book that took everyone – herself, her publisher, and her fans, as she was not sc...more**spoiler alert** Melissa Marr hits it out of the park again in this book that took everyone – herself, her publisher, and her fans, as she was not scheduled to release this year – by great surprise. What’s not so surprising is that if this book had any amount of graphic sex in it, it would be shelved in the paranormal adult romance section. It doesn’t, making it both appropriate and perhaps a tad disappointing for readers 16+. What it doesn’t have in sex, it makes up for in spades with magic and witchcraft, casual and purposeful violence, harsh emotional realities, and that romantic and sexual tension that can only be created by two people destined to be on opposing teams while being together. When you’re introduced to a centuries-old battle between witches and daimons, what else can you expect?
**Spoiler alert! Plot discussed!**
Mallory is, unknown to her, the missing daughter of Marchosias, ruler of the daimon world. Hidden for 17 years by her birth mother, Selah, a daimon Watcher, and her adopted father, Adam, a very powerful witch, in the Earth realm, Mallory was raised to hate and fight against daimons. Adam has used his magic to keep her from knowing her true daimon self, and that she is why they keep moving so often. He also uses magic to erase her memory of fighting the daimons Marchosias has sent looking for her, and that the new boy, the first boy, she has ever liked, is in fact Kaleb, a cur from the daimon realm, a part-time assassin hired to discover Mallory’s whereabouts, and one of the final contestants in the fight-to-the-death competition held at the Carnival of Souls. Once he does meet Mallory, the game changes, as they are both unprepared for the connection they have.
Kaleb recognizes Mallory as his mate, and when Adam goes missing in the daimon realm, Kaleb will stop at nothing – even aligning himself with Aya, the half-witch, half-daimon child of Evelyn, head of the Council of Witches, and Aya’s familiar, the daimon Belias – to help Mallory travel to the daimon realm, explore her daimon nature, stand up to her birth father Marchosias, and save her adopted father Adam.
I can’t help but be reminded of the machinations of the ruling families during the bloodiest years of European history, and half expect to see these twisted plot lines in a Showtime series like The Tudors someday. Earth vs. daimon realm, witches vs. daimons, parents vs. children, love vs. hate – all face off in Melissa Marr’s newest book, first in what is sure to be a trilogy or series.(less)
**spoiler alert** Having enjoyed Kresley Cole's adult novels, I was interested to see what her YA would be like. It's definitely smoldering, in more w...more**spoiler alert** Having enjoyed Kresley Cole's adult novels, I was interested to see what her YA would be like. It's definitely smoldering, in more ways than one. The heat between Evangeline (Evie) Greene and Jackson (Jack) Deveaux sizzles on the page, while the real burning fire of the Flash - the end of the world event that has killed almost everyone on Earth, turning the survivors into evil creatures called Bagmen who eat anything with liquid, or plain ole cannibals, or power-hungry militants - is gruesome enough to give you nightmares. Among the few non-evil survivors are 16-year-old Evie and the motorcycle-riding, whiskey-drinking, bad-ass bad boy Jack.
**SPOILER ALERT. PLOT DISCUSSED**
Former schoolmates from opposite sides of the bayou in Louisiana, the book opens with Evie talking about what happened in the week leading up to the Flash, the end of the world as everyone knew it. It's the first week of school and as one of the most popular and richest girls in the county (cheerleader dating the hot quarterback, etc.), Evie is trying her hardest to pretend it's business as usual. What she's concealing is the summer she spent in a mental institution, drugged and brainwashed into denying her psychotic episodes. She sees things - burning skies, plants that come alive - and often sleepwalks while having nightmares. Her mother sends her away, denying everything, and Evie is forced to play along. Everything is okay at first, but despite taking her meds, the hallucinations begin to happen all the time, and the voices in her head - voices of other teenagers - just won't stop. She also can't stop the fleeting flashbacks to a memory of her grandmother who used to tell her about Tarot; the characters were real in her grandmother's stories, not just symbols on cards. Add to all that the pressure her boyfriend is putting on her to have sex, the intense attraction and dislike she feels for new kid Jack Deveaux, and Evie is a hot mess.
Then the Flash happens, the scorching sun burning everyone and everything exposed. Evie and her mother were able to hide in their basement, but almost everyone else they know wasn't so lucky. With supplies running low, Evie makes a desperate discovery - her blood brings plants to life. Secretly tending a garden in her barn, Evie tries to not feel desperate at her mother's weakening condition, the rumors of the military and cannibals heading her way (not sure which is worse - to be repeatedly raped or murdered and eaten?), and she has no way out. Until Jack Deveaux rides up on his motorcycle one day, just ahead of the approaching army. When her mother dies in the night, Evie agrees to go with Jack on one condition - he take her to find her grandmother who Evie secretly thinks may have some of the answers to her hallucinations.
Evie has begun to realize that Tarot is real, that the voices in her head are really the voices of other teenagers who represent other Tarot characters, and that Evie herself is one of them. Along the way, Evie & Jack pick up other teenage survivors - Matthew, Selena, and Finneas - who Evie recognizes as other Tarot characters. It seems each Tarot character has a choice, whether to fight on the side of good or evil, though Evie has a hard time recognizing this battle within herself. As Evie, Jack, and the crew continue on their dangerous cross-country journey, they are fighting an uphill battle against almost everything - limited food and water, the Bagmen, the cannibals, the army they have to avoid, and most of all, their attraction to each other. Jack and Evie have an undeniable connection, Matthew loves Evie but like a brother, Selena wants Jack, while Finn wants Selena. It's all raging battles and raging hormones as the crew tries to adjust to each other, their powers, and what to do next. Both Jack and Evie have secrets to hide, and despite all they've been through, both don't quite trust each other. As Evie gets closer to realizing just who and what she really is, she realizes one of the things that scares her the most is that Jack will reject who she may turn out to be - she's not just the Poison Princess, she is the Empress, the one who will win over the other Arcana, the other members of the Tarot, by seeing them all dead with their glyphs written on her body.(less)
Meet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroin...moreMeet Hyde, Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle. By day, they are assistants to three powerful men in Edwardian London. By night, they are the masked heroines that make up the Friday Society.
When flower girls start being murdered, men of science turn up dead, and bits of London start blowing up, it is up to these three to use their unique talents to put it all together and save London from permanent destruction. Cora (Hyde) uses her brilliant scientific mind and her knowledge of the streets from her time spent living on them as a child. Nora (Lady Sparkle) uses her beautiful face and flexible body to escape any trap and scale any wall. Michiko (Silver Heart) uses her formidable fighting skills as a trained samurai to defeat any foe. Together they have the brains, beauty, and brawn to save London.
Irreverent, funny, full of steampunk costumes and inventions, these three ladies are set to take London by storm - as long as they can ditch their bumbling male handlers and be back in time by morning, of course.
"How shocking. Truly. One simply doesn't do such things in polite society."(less)
This book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there are...moreThis book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there are similarities - romance among two people brought together by new findings that shed light upon a piece of British history - the pacing of this novel would have been much better served as a movie. While I am glad I read it, I can't say I simply enjoyed it.
The story got lost for me in the emphasis placed on everything from the detailed descriptions of the British and Welsh countrysides to ancient historical events and genealogies to dreamscapes (which really seemed most out of place) to almost everything but the forward momentum of the story itself. I could see how the sweeping vistas would be gorgeous in a movie, or how the impeccably researched historical elements might appeal to history buffs, but I wanted more meat to the story itself. The very writing itself seemed to contain a kind of stereotypical British constraint that was occasionally swept aside by a fanciful phrase that almost did more to distract than add, it being so out of place.
All of that said, something about it kept me reading, maybe because the pacing was just enough to hook me in as I was about to give up with some new piece of the mystery or new development in a character's relationship. I did like the characters: Donald Gladstone is the co-main character along with Julia Llewelyn. He's an archaeologist; she's a researcher for the OED. Her husband, Hugh Mortimer, I thought was the least realized character, despite his rather central role in the end. Some intriguing minor characters come in, with Donald's American ex-wife being my least favorite, mostly because she either put on airs as a character or the author genuinely believes American women act like this (either one being of extreme annoyance to me).
A slow build for sure, I was almost most disappointed in the ending, for right as there is a final build-up to the actual find that brings all the various pieces of the historical mystery together, the author prefers to write something prosaic and leave it all to our imagination, what happens next, as opposed to giving the reader some closure - which, ironically I felt, was something several of characters throughout the novel were looking for (closure). Overall, I'd recommend less historical reference, more character development.(less)
Beautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I've finished it.
It's...moreBeautiful. Heartbreaking. I fell in love with the language of it and the romance of it and the way my heart still hurts now that I've finished it.
It's brilliant but terrible in its lack of traditional happy ending. Both parties end up with - as harsh as this sounds - what they deserve, but God it still hurts.
I never expected to find myself enjoying a book that spoke so much about Catholic God and faith, but they speak of it in a way that's palpable to an agnostic Jew, which I think really says a lot. I don't shy away from conversations about faith, and in fact, find belief and adherence to those beliefs and searching for those beliefs to be a very real and human and admirable thing. The way the author intertwined the search for faith and the belief in religion with the search and belief in love was, for lack of a better description, done incredibly well. It didn't feel too didactic or heavy-handed, probably because Frances was so pragmatic about the whole thing. To say I enjoyed it doesn't pay homage to the way my heart feels torn apart, but throughout 3/4ths of this book, I did absolutely enjoy reading about Frances and Bernard falling in like and then in love and then I had to figure out what to do about how very much I respected Frances for her convictions and living up to them while I also very much believe in Bernard's declarations of love and try to live my own life believing in it.
*Spoiler alert in the next paragraph!
The one tiny glitch that I am still thinking about is how Bernard's character was framed after his marriage to Susan - all his infidelities. We are absolutely influenced by those we love most, and so though it is possible that Frances might have been influenced for the worse by Bernard's character, was it not also possible that in marrying Bernard, Frances could have been the making of him instead? Was Bernard's character allowed to run out of check because of Susan's character, herself?
That aside, it's going to take me a little while to build back up from all that again. Some books are supposed to make you feel like that.
I feel like I underlined half the book, but here are some particular favorites:
"I thought I had been growing up by unleashing my strength and mind onto the world, by imposing myself and not being afraid of it, but this suddenly began to seem like a lifetime of tantrums. I'd gotten used to having too much, at having whatever I willed become real, which had made my will promiscuous. Not strong at all." (19)
"She is a girl, but she is also an old man, and I see that there is intractability in her heart that may never be shattered. Perhaps that is because she grew up among women who love harder than they think, and she has strengthened her innate intractability in order to keep tunneling toward a place where she could write undisturbed by the demands of conventional femininity. So she may always think harder than she loves." (48)
"My life without you would certainly be less. That is one think I know." (77)
"'Bernard,' I said, and took his hand. 'No, no, that's not enough,' he said. He took the package out of my other hand, put it down on a chair, and then pulled me to him. He was right. That wasn't enough." (81)
"I wonder what of your mother was encoded in you without your knowing; what of your life is a letter she wrote you that you have just opened and will take your whole life to read." (85)
"...people who made a point to weave themselves together because they had poured out their blood among one another. They may be annoyed with each other, but they do not hate each other. They understand that annoyance is a fair price to pay for the strange protective love of family." (132)
"You rely on your books for things the rest of us search for in people... 'Your books need no help from me. They are for you alone. When you don't want to be alone, then here I am.'" (177)(less)