A few months ago I started following another reviewer who's quite prolific and seems, more rather than less, to seek out titles similar to those whichA few months ago I started following another reviewer who's quite prolific and seems, more rather than less, to seek out titles similar to those which appeal to me. I love her reviews and I've added more than a few of her titles to my "to read" section. Specifically, after finishing the ever so popular "Girl on the Train" I was slightly surprised and very intrigued to read that she didn't think TGOTT was nearly the book that Harriet Lane's "Her" had managed to be. I immediately got the book and began reading--because I loved TGOTT and if "Her" was better, then what was I waiting for?
For starters, I finished in 2 days and, despite a toddler who's up at 5, I stayed awake until 12 to finish. It quite simply IS very good. Both characters--the inward, thought-driven Nina, with money, style and a secret vendetta; and oblivious Emma, sleep-deprived, overworked and utterly awkward in her new mommy skin---are compelling and at some level, fairly easy to relate to. Lane is careful to maintain Nina's level of grudge: the reader is not granted access to the source until quite late in the book and it does propel you along. Nina clearly has memories of Emma in another life, as a young, self-assured and rather thoughtless teenager who gets things quite easily. Nina, by contrast, fills in her past with bits and pieces: a broken home, wealthy but preoccupied parents and a defined sense of introversion which seems to provide a self awareness later in life, an unflappable ability to say one thing and think another, to appear authentic and genuine while silently observing every snag and tear.
Suffice it to say, Lane is a master of characterization. Her ability to describe place is spot on as well. Nina's perfectly not-quite-too perfect silent home with pristine paintings, Moroccan lunches and white wine were a perfect pairing to the character's sleek, short bob, spicy/earthy individual scent and shift dresses. Emma's middle class bungalow riddled with a "growing damp patch" on the ceiling of her son's room and a cavernous couch sure to have "petrified" pieces and change is perfect, as are her thread bare, sagging swimsuit she's not had time to replace: it's all the perfect platform for a woman willing to believe someone like Nina, or anyone so randomly unlined to turn up in your life, has good intentions.
The characters and setting I mention because they're noteworthy, but also because I found myself directly contrasting/comparing to TGOTT. I found Rachel, by mid book, to be difficult to stomach. I know that's the intention, but short of being an alcoholic yourself, it's difficult to spend so much time with one. I understood and empathized with her, but I was ready to move on. Megan was slightly more relatable, not too far off from Lane's Nina, in a way, but even Megan was sad. I found myself favoring Anna, not because she was terribly real or interesting (on the contrary she was the most two dimensional and far fetched--as a mother I found her callousness hard to believe. You just can't have a daughter without imagining even if you could walk over another woman, that what if someone did that to your daughter?) but because the others were so lost. Nina was angry, not pathetic, and Emma, it's also meticulously made clear, despite Nina's one-sided observations, isn't either. Her life is hard, but it is her own and she considers herself lucky. She even spots Nina's own hardships: a sad childhood, a failed marriage, another to a much older man, a daughter pulling away. While she respects and admires aspects of Nina's life, she doesn't seem to covet it. Both maintained an integrity entirely absent from TGOTT.
But here's where my review splits, because I gave TGOTT full stars, something I rarely do, and "Her" only three. Why? It would be easy to say simply the ending, but there's more to it. TGOTT, despite Lane's skilled character and setting abilities, lacked the plot. The ending was disappointing and rushed and it made it clear it just want the same caliber story as TGOTT. I preferred Lane's characters, but in the end the development was absent. "Her" felt like a short story with 80 extra, beautiful, but not entirely relevant, pages tacked on to round it out. It was not a plot driven story, but by the end it needed to be. I got o the last page and thought, "I missed the end." But it's because there wasn't one.
So my new favorite reviewer and I have different ideas on what makes a masterpiece. But that seems strangely fitting to realize from reading this book. How we interpret our realities can make a novel, and a good one, even without an ending....more
Admittedly I read this quickly and it was a page turner. But I found myself checking both Amazon and good reads reviews to make sure I'd indeed downloAdmittedly I read this quickly and it was a page turner. But I found myself checking both Amazon and good reads reviews to make sure I'd indeed downloaded the right kindle book, because this was not a well done book. The characters were unreal, the writing juvenile--the language used is at times preposterous, the similes like something out of a Sweet Valley Twins book--I even now just went back to check genre thinking perhaps it was young adult? I found it listed as literary fiction, and the author's note cites several sources for authoritative writing.
I'm baffled. I don't mean to just whale on a book, but this was astounding. The reviews were good, but I'm not sure how I could be so opposed. Granted, it's hardly easy subject matter, but it was completely obvious who did what, another character is omitted entirely and it's never really explained why this poor heroine is so mistreated by her family (not to mention other bits of plot left by the wayside, like her family's lost fortune, her brothers death or most of her life).
It's all chalked up to one monster, which makes things simple, but that seemed to be a hallmark of this book. Simplicity. It really felt like high school creative writing, if one student had been very ambitious and fleshed out a novel. The subject matter interests me and the authors had some ideas, but my goodness. I'be never given two stars. And I would have done just one except I felt research of any kind merits some additional support. I don't get it. Maybe I'm just being hyper critical, but this was not my favorite. ...more
I remember in college being told it was typically a hallmark of female authors to really use setting--use it so intensely it was as ardent as any charI remember in college being told it was typically a hallmark of female authors to really use setting--use it so intensely it was as ardent as any character--and I don't think I've ever seen quite such a shining example of this as the girl on the train.
I love this book and found my brain spinning with it for hours each day. I read it feverishly and finished quickly. The story was captivating, the three rotating narrators commanded attention. I found each relatable in their own, horrible way, and I give major accolades for the writer's ability to create a captivating mystery, while still trusting herself and her readers enough to not be deliberately tricky and spoil the story with one of the impossible surprise endings I come across in mysteries so often, as if the making sure the reader unable to solve a mystery is the same thing as constructing a really solid mystery that stands alone.
In fact, my only "draw back" on this book is completely the result of the author's skill. I found these characters, especially Rachel and Megan, to be so intense, bleak and depressing, I spent much of this read in a bit of a funk. Rachel's drinking was oppressive and inescapable, as it was intended to be, but at some level I couldn't wait to be ride of her. Likewise, the confused and chronically unhappy Megan left me raw and terrified.
I couldn't wait to be done--to escape these intense characters, and to determine how did it and why....more
Impulse airport buy because I'm afraid of flying, just a little, and my biography of a yogi my husband put on my iPhone wasn't nearly engaging enough.Impulse airport buy because I'm afraid of flying, just a little, and my biography of a yogi my husband put on my iPhone wasn't nearly engaging enough. First I was scared because I scare fairly easily, but the writing was pedestrian enough I knew finishing it would likely ease my silly case of the scares. Totally right. I appreciate all books, it's not easy to write books, even harder to publish, but this was a really bad book. It was created in that unavoidable, bleakness a la Stephen King, where you just can't escape the evil thing and there is no warmth of or light, but it wasn't a story worthy of the treachery. The characters were flat, the relationships were distractingly simple--even the names were wrong. This read like an R.l. steine for adults, that same hurried, over the top scare tactics with no purpose that keep you reading only to feel terribly taken advantage of....more