I've been a big fan of E. Lockhart books before (namely the imminently re-readable Frankie Landau-Banks), but this one wasn't quite as 'wow' for me. II've been a big fan of E. Lockhart books before (namely the imminently re-readable Frankie Landau-Banks), but this one wasn't quite as 'wow' for me. In terms of atmosphere and milieu, it had a lot going for it, and I actually quite liked that there seemed to be a lot of story and history that existed outside of this particular story (the origin of the Liars' nickname, for instance). There's a nice build-up of tension and drama, but the whole 'twist' ending is not so much of a twist (and really, with all the hinting, I don't totally think it was meant to be), but it resolves a bit like a M. Night Shyamalan film and I'm not sure that's really an effect I'm ever looking for in a novel. ...more
Other than re-reading Music for Chameleons every few years—that probably being my all-time favorite book—I have purposefully spaced out my other CapotOther than re-reading Music for Chameleons every few years—that probably being my all-time favorite book—I have purposefully spaced out my other Capote readings to extend the pleasure. Answered Prayers, however, was likely a pleasure I could have forgone. I appreciate some of the characteristic snark and bitchiness (some grade A Capote zingers like "...she looked as if she wore tweed brassieres and played a lot of golf"), and concede that there are some really entertaining scenes (the dinner party with Monty Clift, Dorothy Parker, and Tallulah Bankhead, for instance). Moreover, the book is not without those moments of incisive observation and characterization that even at his most cynical and his most mocking, Capote really excelled at.
Nevertheless, this is, by and large, a cynical, mean-spirited, self-indulgent, and almost self-loathing sort of book. It's a fast read, but it's never quite a fun read, which a novel based on gossip really should be, I would think. But he's too self-satisfied when I thinks he's being shocking, too pleased to have ferreted out nasty stories about famous people, and too convinced of his genius to realize that adding the vague patina of fiction wouldn't make most of this good art.
He could have done better—so much better—and it's frustrating that this is basically the book that tanked his career. More frustrating on top of that that he seemed to believe that it was actually a work of genius.
Telling, however, that the long chapter/short story "Mojave", which was published in Music for Chameleons, was supposed to have been a part of this book. It's my least favorite part of MforC and I often skip over it. That makes all the more sense now....more
**spoiler alert** I picked this up on a whim at the library because I was in the mood for a quick crime read and all the jacket quotes about it having**spoiler alert** I picked this up on a whim at the library because I was in the mood for a quick crime read and all the jacket quotes about it having "one of the most stomach-churningly fatalistic noir endings of any crime novel published [in 2011]" etc. were rather compelling. In the end, I was a little less taken with the result, although I do have to admit that I read it through rather speedily—three or four sittings spread over a little over a week.
I suppose my main complaints are two-fold. Firstly, this book is the fifth in a series and feels distinctly transitional, as though it is kind of a road stop between other, more developed stories. It works fine as a standalone—all the back story that you need about the characters is woven through the narrative—and yet, it seems pretty clear that having prior context about Doctor Quirke's orphan past, his decision to pretend that his daughter had a different father, and his relationships with his assistant and Detective Hackett would probably make this particular story feel more significant. I've read crime novels where the plot of one is really contingent on the one before it (Louise Penny's Bury Your Dead, for instance), but those are rare. Typically with a series, you can expect to step into it pretty much anywhere and feel as though you're right in it, even if the secondary plot line about the detective has developed over the course of multiple books. But here, there are an awful lot of references to past cases, past circumstances, etc. and in many instances, those cases sound a more compelling. A Death in Summer hones in on the femme fatale element, but only seems to occasionally dip into the crime itself, most of which is resolved in one fell sweep at the end.
To that end, I might add that the conclusion (specifically the child abuse at the orphanage), though most certainly serious in its tone and subject matter, is one that has been telegraphed quite clearly from early on. Its final reveal is a little disappointing, however, because it feels pretty cursory. I would definitely not enjoy reading vivid descriptions of child abuse, but I do think the psychological fall-out, as you might call it, is pretty glossed over here. Sure, Francoise immediately shoots her husband in the face when she discovers that he has been abusing her daughter, but, for one example, the way that the child behaves throughout the book doesn't seem at all consistent with the idea that she's been repeatedly raped by her father. Neither does the idea that Richard Jewell could just up and "corrupt" a twenty year old man and convince him to repeatedly take part in the systematic sexual abuse of children really make any sense. I appreciate the delicacy that the author had in explaining the crimes themselves—the circumstances are horrific enough without having to go into visceral specifics—but the psychology of the victims could have been dealt with in a less vague manner. ...more