Oddly, even though I've read many of the V.I. Warshawski novels, I'd yet to read the first one until; now.
I have certain expectations of one of Vic Wa...moreOddly, even though I've read many of the V.I. Warshawski novels, I'd yet to read the first one until; now.
I have certain expectations of one of Vic Warshawski's exploits: well-written; tightly plotted; intricately bound up with Chicago culturally, politically. and topographically; gritty, and, of course, depressing as all get-out.
That Vic is always always under the hammer isn’t surprising; most detectives are. That she faces tall odds is also expected. However, she's the only detective I’ve read of so far whom everyone outside of her ‘inner circle’ (put in quotes because even these folks only get so close) seems to have some problem, from slight discomfort to outright loathing. Very few people like Warshawski on first sight, and those that do soon change their tune. Part of it has to do with the massive ‘me against the world’ complex Vic carries around with her, crystalized in visions of her deceased mother’s recalled ferocity. This means that Warshawski usually winds up at odds with everyone, from the people she’s against to her clients, and sometimes even to those in her inner circle. She’s a lone crusader, battling against the world, willing to fight the good fight right up until the moment she falls. Which, by the way, is going to happen, sooner or later. Warshawski never out-and-out says this, but there’s a certain fatalistic air to the novels that makes me feel that way.
Why read them, then? Because it’s damned good writing! God knows I wouldn’t want to be Warshawski — I’d probably be tempted to eat a bullet at some point, only the remembered stare of my mother’s fierce eyes would guilt me out of doing it, setting me up for more misery — but Paretsky’s words make it worth the slog.
Which is why Indemnity Only came as a surprise. Things are gritty in it, yes, but Vic hasn’t yet reached that level of fatalism that darkens the later books. There’s more, much more chauvinism against her, especially from homicide detective Bobby Mallory (not one of my favorite characters in any of the books, but he reaches new —or old, I suppose— heights of m.c. oinkhood here) but the foreword keeps you aware that this is to be expected: this was the early eighties, and the things we accept that women can do in the post ‘naughts without (much) of a blink was still new and raw then. And hell, one of Warshawski’s clients actually doesn’t turn on her!
So, if you’re a fan and like me, haven’t read this book, by all means pick it up and celebrate V.I. Warshawski’s thirtieth anniversary in style. And if you’re new to our lady of scrap-iron, this is a great place to start making her acquaintance. Just remember, things do get better, and, of course, worse.(less)
I'm not going to place a spoilers warning on this review simply because the only people who'll probably be 'spoiled' are those who've read the Pern se...moreI'm not going to place a spoilers warning on this review simply because the only people who'll probably be 'spoiled' are those who've read the Pern series, and they might like to know what's coming. But stop reading if you don't want to be 'cheated.'
This could've been a very good book, but, for reasons known only to her, instead of having a sort of 'flavor' of Pern, Rae decided to raid Anne McCaffrey's work outright. In the worst of these instances, there's a plot that's taken almost verbatim from Dragonseye (the girl denied her chance to impress) for no particular reason that I can see (it does little or nothing to develop the plot of this novel), and there are other somewhat less heavy-handed pilferings as well.
It's a shame, because the most interesting parts of the novel (those that kept me reading, by the way) have little to do with Pern and could stand more developing. How paired people negotiate marriages with non-paired people is never delved into, nor are many situations included as an afterthought at the tail-end of the book. Argylian/Vadath relations are very different from anything found on Pern, where the dragonriders are by necessity and custom isolated, and more investigation of how the non-integrated humans get along with those who accept the Lind would be very interesting. So, too, would a deeper look at Larg society and at it's troubles. But for the most part, Rae skims over these.
I hope that Rae is less derivative in the next installment in this series, but I do wonder if it's worth finding out. After all. I already own most of the Pern books.(less)
This novel has a definite Pern vibe, but different, too, since the Lind have a culture, unlike McCaffery's dragons. I'd say that if you like that, you...moreThis novel has a definite Pern vibe, but different, too, since the Lind have a culture, unlike McCaffery's dragons. I'd say that if you like that, you probably will this, too. In fact, you may like it more, since a lot of the unwieldy managing stuff that has to do with raising dragons is handled very differently here. The Lind are fully sentient and have minds of their own, and that necessarily changes the relationships.
Something about Rae's villians, who are very easy, for the most part, to detest, even while what they do is not unreasonable so much as expedient and barbaric, makes me think of Anne McCaffery, too; specifally, for some reason, Dinosaur Planet. It's just a feeling I have.
Anyway, it's very readable, despite the typos (Rae really needs a better proofer, but that's common enough in e-publishing), and I'd especially recommend it to anyone who loved Pern as it first was. Of course, it's but part the first of a series, but the novel is self-contained; you don't have to read any of the other four. Right.(less)
Pretty amusing read. Kramer's use of first-person and revolving narrators definitely kept me guessing about what was going on. I don't mena to belittl...morePretty amusing read. Kramer's use of first-person and revolving narrators definitely kept me guessing about what was going on. I don't mena to belittle Kramer, but the word 'cute' kept popping into my mind as I read this. Of course, the cover art may have something to do with that.(less)
A thousand words and still 'to be continued.' Of course, since Mitchell keeps adding to the cast, that's not surprising. Good, with something of an An...moreA thousand words and still 'to be continued.' Of course, since Mitchell keeps adding to the cast, that's not surprising. Good, with something of an Andrea Norton feel, plotwise and worldwise, anyway, especially the blend of fantasy and sci-fi. If you like the Witch World series but Norton's particular tone isn’t a must-have, you should like Gorinthians(less)
This first novel is interesting, so far as 'Future Regressed' fantasy novels go. The characters occasionally do more 'telling' than I'd like to appraise this or that listener (and the reader) of this or that bit of history, but I suppose Adams has to get the notes he's built the novel on across to us somehow.
There's some homophobia involved, but Adams does have one character claim the vilified characters are practicing a perversion of his race's (Greek) customs. Really, what's being decried is mainly child rape. Interestingly, though, apparently heterosexual rape is okay, so long as the victim is of a proper age.
All in all, I don't know how to take Adams yet. On the one hand, he presents his world in a 'this is how things are now' fashion, and, as I know it's to some extent how things have been, it's hard to fault him too much. On the other hand, he does present a character from a more civilized time who doesn't bat an eye, mostly, at what the world has become.
So I can't decide whether Adams is some starry-eyed atavist, or a writer who sees himself 'telling it like it is,' if you follow me. I scored quite a few of these at a library sale, though, so I think I'm going to see where he goes.(less)
I'm not a big fan of zombies in any form, but this novel, combining superheroes and zombies, interested me (as did the free preview.)
It's a solid book...moreI'm not a big fan of zombies in any form, but this novel, combining superheroes and zombies, interested me (as did the free preview.)
It's a solid book, and not in any way as predictable as I'd thought (I guess I've been conditioned by George Romero). Worth reading, although (view spoiler)[I have to say that Cline lets one plot point, the one involving Regenerator, get out of control and get way more attention than it needed. Yes, it's why things are happening, but the whole point of zombie fiction is that there's no clear reason — they just are appear, and so, you… (hide spoiler)]
I give points to Cline for making his heroes real without investing them with the 'Marvel' brand of overwrought realism. They're believable characters, even the flamboyantly-named Mighty Dragon. One of my favorite parts of the novel is how his Batman analog got her name.
If you're a superhero fan, this is definitely worth your time. For those of you who're zombie fans, I've no idea…["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I think this marks the point where the series, or perhaps Nita and Kit themselves, begin to mature. Before I begin the spoiler part of this review, I'...moreI think this marks the point where the series, or perhaps Nita and Kit themselves, begin to mature. Before I begin the spoiler part of this review, I'll say this much: nobody gets a holiday. Bet you'd never guess that…
(view spoiler)[The really interesting part of this book, to me, anyway, is that it implies that the Lone Power is actually necessary to spur races/civilizations on towards growth. Previous to this, at least in the books I've read of this series, It's invention, death, has been played as something that was not supposed to be. Now, I wonder.
Of course, as a veteran of The Silmarillion, I tend to wonder about evil's place in fantasies where the creator powers are involved. In Tolkien's Arda, it's made pretty clear in the "Ainulindalë" that the tamperings of Melkor, his version of the Lone Power, make the One's creation ultimately greater, if sadder, than it might otherwise have been. I wonder now if the same is true for the Wizardverse. Since these two writers seem to draw, to an extent, on the same sources, I'd guess so. Hopefully, Duane will deal with that in the next two books. (hide spoiler)] …would you?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I don't know if it's a good idea to plow through this all at once, but if you do, you'll quickly notice and perhaps even grow troubled by the repetitive nature of the tales, since many are, after all, but regional variations on the other. At the same time, it can be interesting as to how exactly they do vary. For example, one tale's trolls' heads come in multiples of three, another's, five. Is this simply a case of one-upsmanship (hey, my hero cut off fifteen heads, not a measly nine!) or is there some reason for the variation? Why do some collect heads as trophies from the corpses of defeated foes (yeah, there's some definite serial-killer type stuff at work here) and others, tongues and/or lungs? (Those with fine sensibilities may want to skip the spoiler) (view spoiler)[Also, I wonder if the actual word was 'lugs,' which I have a feeling means testicles, since they are to a penis as lugs are to a spear. (hide spoiler)]
So, no, I don't know if this is really a good bedtime collection of stories, or maybe it is, depending on your theories concerning child-rearing. (All in all, they probably won't care nearly as much as you do, but…)
ALl in all, I found it a fascinating read on several levels, but it's probably not for everyone. Some of you may want to stick to Mother Goose.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
First, I'm glad I've already read The Innocents Abroad, or else at some point I'd have little to no idea what Twain is talking about when he refers to...moreFirst, I'm glad I've already read The Innocents Abroad, or else at some point I'd have little to no idea what Twain is talking about when he refers to incidents on that trip, which happens occasionally. This seems a slightly more 'serious' book than that, too, which shows me some of the changes (not to mention growth) in Twain himself, which adds interest.
Beyond that, there's no easy way to categorize this book: humorous travelogue, social critique of both Europe and the U.S. (in which neither has everything its own way), journey of self-discovery, collection of folk tales, art critique. Twain ventures into all of these areas, and not in exactly an orderly fashion, either. Like a good journey, sometimes one doesn't really know what's coming around the next corner until it arrives.
One rather specialized section near the end will mostly appeal to those like myself who have, starting with English, attempted to master German. In it, Twain offers to reform the latter. I don't know how funny a native speaker would find some of his suggestions, but to me it was in many ways the funniest part of the book.
If you like Twain, this is a must-read. It's a good book to tackle when you have somewhat limited time, since it's divided into longish, but not unconquerable sections, between which you can let the book lie and, once you've come back to it, not have much of a task, if any, to return to the narrative. Those unfamiliar with Twain's longer stuff really may want to start with The Innocents Abroad and then try this, since, although this book can stand on its own, one gets more from it having read the former. That's just a suggestion, though. (less)
**spoiler alert** So here I go, about to review what’s been hailed as ‘a perfect work of fiction.’ Oh, dear.
When I set out to read Madame Bovary, I fr...more**spoiler alert** So here I go, about to review what’s been hailed as ‘a perfect work of fiction.’ Oh, dear.
When I set out to read Madame Bovary, I freely admit I did so expecting some sort of feminist statement, an indictment of a world that crushed a woman who dared to defy its predestined, preordained plan for the confines in which her existence should, according to it, be spent. That’s the impression I’ve gotten from reading about the novel.
Actually reading it was… something else.
Before I get into that, I will say that the prose itself (realizing it’s a translation, of course) was what I expected. Flaubert can be very precise, and yet still convey a wealth of sensations to his reader. Some of his descriptions of scenes, whether natural settings or crowds of people, are worth reading for themselves.
The problem, or my problem, anyway, occurs when he gets down to examining individuals. This is where, for me, Madame Bovary tends to fall a little flat. In the first place, it soon became apparent to me that there was not a single person whom Flaubert presents to his reader in detail whom he does not also detest. To me, he shows no fondness for any of these individuals—instead, he seems bent on making me see their faults, their imperfections, how they are wanting in the particulars that make a person good or admirable or even pleasant. To my surprise, Léon Dupuis, Emma’s ‘ideal’ lover (for a time, at any rate) and even Emma herself are not spared this. I find it difficult even to have sympathy for Emma—Flaubert is too hell-bent on showing me her constant obliviousness to reality for that. It’s difficult even to pity her, since one is constantly aware of how she manipulates her husband, Charles, whose only real fault, so far as I can tell, is that he is himself. Actually, Charles Bovary would come close to being some sort of hero in the novel were it not fot that fact that part of that self is he is gullible beyond belief and seems to have no drive whatsoever.
I really couldn’t make much sense of what Flaubert was about until I remembered a scene from the 1991 filmImproptu. Improptu is a contemporary account of sorts, in that it depicts a period of the life of George Sand (a woman Flaubert greatly admired) and her romance with Fredrick Chopin. At one point in the film Sand and various other artists gathered in the house of an aspiring socialite, the rather foolish Duchess d'Antana, who is trying to accumulate great artists in her salon. The said artists, in response to her insipid boorishness, put on a mini-drama, a satire about Noah and the Flood in which, among other things, they grossly insult their hostess, whom Sand portrays as ‘Mrs. Noah.’ As the play gets underway, Mrs. Noah complains to her husband (Noah is modeled on the Duke) about the ‘stupid, stupid rain’ (‘stupid, stupid’ is the Duchess’s catchphrase). In the play, God is in fact sending the ’stupid rain’ to the earth to engulf all its inhabitants in—what else— stupidity.
This, I think, is really what Flaubert is up to in Madame Bovary. He’s trying to show his readers that, yes, Emma is a prat, but she’s a prat because the stupid, stupid world won’t allow her to be anything else. All she can aspire to are the stupid, stupid fantasies she’s read in the stupid, stupid romances she was exposed to in her youth at the stupid, stupid convent where she was educated in a stupid, stupid manner deemed appropriate for girls. This being her lot, there’s nothing else Emma can aspire to other than, after marrying the stupid, stupid Charles to escape the stupid, stupid rural life, having some stupid, stupid affairs in an attempt to recreate the stupid, stupid novels. She naturally fails, and so comes to a stupid, stupid end, dragging her husband and child down with her.
The problem I have with this is that it seems to me that anyone who isn’t painfully stupid—which Emma is not, so far as I can tell—should be able to see the impossibility of making fiction real (as well of living continually at the peak of happiness) and turn her hand to something else. It doesn’t help that I have the George Sand of Improptu to compare Emma to, something of a Rawhide Lil of a woman (she can out-drink, out-ride, out-shoot, and out-f**k any man, pardner) who plays outside of the world’s rules and wins, at least some of the time, together with the knowledge that the real Sand was not a far cry from the character in the film.
Lest I be accused of putting a modern yardstick to Flaubert's classic, I also have some characters of more contemporary literature to compare Emma to. The first is Rebecca Sharp, the anti-heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. Having the double strike of being poor and an orphan against her, Becky, too, is at the mercy of a stupid, stupid world, but while she is possessed of the same sort of cunning and ruthlessness as Emma, instead of using it to realize fiction-based fantasies, Becky applies herself to clawing out a real place in that stupid world, even if the more ‘respectable’ members of the society (those who know what she’s done, of course) Becky Sharp has chiseled her way into turn pale when they encounter her.
Becky Sharp precedes Emma by about nine years. Edna Pontellier’s story, told in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, comes about forty-five years afterwards. Like Emma, Edna discovers she lives in a world that has no place for the person she wants to be or the life she wants to live. The difference, however, is that Edna makes this assessment by examining the real world she finds herself in, whereas Emma, so far as I can tell, never considers her actual circumstances as anything more than a backdrop she must play against trying to recreate the fantasies of those romance novels. One can understand why Edna feels driven to suicide—I find it more difficult to understand why Emma cannot try existing in reality.
Of course, one could argue that Emma thinks she is reaching for a reality, the reality of the world of the aristocracy she briefly visits early on in the novel. I suppose one could also claim that Flaubert limits Emma’s aspirations because she is born a commoner, unlike his real-life ‘heroine’ Sand, and so unconsciously accepts some sort of limitations an aristocrat like Sand simply ignores. To put it another way, Sand knows very well the aristocracy are as limited as everyone else and so throws off the limitations, a perspective Emma cannot be expected to have.
While it works for me, I confess to disliking this view of the novel; I find it rather unsatisfying, possibly because I expect more from a man who knew of and celebrated Sand and her defiance of society. On the other hand, I can understand him wanting to attack that society, and my guess is that is whatMadame Bovary is intended to do: to flay the world it depicts to the quick. If Flaubert must throw Emma under the carriage, so to speak, to accomplish that, then, well, that’s how omelets are made, yes?
Postscript: there is one passage in this book that I simply cannot grasp, and I’m wondering if it’s a mistranslation. When Emma and Rodolphe are planning their ‘escape,’ we get this scene:
The tenderness of the old days came back to their hearts, full and silent as the flowing river, with the softness of the perfume of the syringas, and threw across their memories shadows more immense and more sombre than those of the still willows that lengthened out over the grass. Often some night-animal, hedgehog or weasel, setting out on the hunt, disturbed the lovers, or sometimes they heard a ripe peach falling all alone from the espalier.
"Ah! what a lovely night!" said Rodolphe.
First, I wonder if Flaubert wrote ‘stoat’ instead of ‘weasel,’ or the French word is the same for both, since that would (or at least could) have a ribald connotation. Second, what’s romantic about peaches splatting on the ground as they fall? I sense sarcasm…
As for hedgehogs, well, we all know about them … (note: this link is not for the faint of constitution).(less)
Finally got around to finishing the series, and I wasn't disappointed. Riordan brings things to a pretty walloping conclusion and, despite me thinking...moreFinally got around to finishing the series, and I wasn't disappointed. Riordan brings things to a pretty walloping conclusion and, despite me thinking I knew how things were going to turn out, managed to surprise me, which, I blushingly admit, is something of a rare thing.
For those still beating the "It's a Harry Potter Remake" drum, I'm still refuting this. Similar? Sure, in some ways, but since both writers are taking The Hero (read your The Hero with a Thousand Faces if you want to get into this) and exploring what he'd be like in modern times as a schoolboy, that's sort of unavoidable. To me, Riordan has taken on the harder task, since he's walking some very well-trodden ground and made it new again, without—and I can't emphasize this enough—distorting it. All the old charcter you know and love or loath from Bulfinch's Mythology who show up are very recognizable in their modern guises. A few are ever so slightly altered to push the plot along, but not enough so you won't recognize them, and no more than they are from one myth to another. That Riordan has managed to take the old Greek myths and breath this much life into is astounding.
If you're a fan of the old stories, you owe it to yourself to give Percy Jackson a look.(less)
Reading the foreword of this book, I get the message: a critical person in Ms. Auel's support team wasn't with her for this book (her personal assista...moreReading the foreword of this book, I get the message: a critical person in Ms. Auel's support team wasn't with her for this book (her personal assistant, who has retired due to illness), and it shows. Most people don't realize how important such people can be for a writer, but I think if one compares this book to the five previous, it's fairly obvious something has changed, and not for the better.
All the substance needed to make Land of Panted Caves the equal of its predecessors is present; it's just not been assembled properly. There's much unnecessary repetition, for one thing, and for another, nothing much is done with (view spoiler)[whatever Ayla learns on her donier tour Instead, in the last few chapters, we are given what in many ways is a re-write of The Mammoth Hunters. Neither Jondalar nor Ayla seem to have learned much. Worse than that, though, the various new plot elements aren't incorporated very well. It's almost if Ms. Auel *wants* to revisit the ideas of the previous novel and develop them further, but can't quite pull it off. Instead, poor Danug is put in as a plot-saving device, very nearly a Deux Ex Machina. On the other hand, I find myself momentarily wishing Jondalar, his work done, as it clearly is after the Donier tour, had gotten eaten by a cave lion and Danug had somehow managed to show up in time to be Ayla's new mate. She'd've been better off, as poor Jondy has been written into a regression. Of course, he fares better than dear Cousin Brukeval. Exit, stage left, screaming, is really not good character development. Nor is Madroman's exit, stage right, scheming. (hide spoiler)]
Still, we do get a resolution of sorts, which is far better than leaving us hanging the way The Shelters of Stone did. It may be an unsatisfying resolution, but we still have it, and I am glad of that. But oh, what could have been…
This novel doesn't really break any new ground; in some ways, it's a redo of Larry Niven's Footfall, only the aliens are dinosaurs and Hopp has decide...moreThis novel doesn't really break any new ground; in some ways, it's a redo of Larry Niven's Footfall, only the aliens are dinosaurs and Hopp has decided to shove a romance in. Hardly the 'heavy' sci-fi of Niven's novel, Dinosaur Wars is a light read, and if you're a fan of dinos-come-to-life-again and don't enjoy them being the results genetic experiments gone wrong, this may be for you.(less)
**spoiler alert** "The human heart is vast enough to contain all the world. It is valiant enough to bear the burden, but where is the courage that wou...more**spoiler alert** "The human heart is vast enough to contain all the world. It is valiant enough to bear the burden, but where is the courage that would cast it off?" Marlowe, Lord Jim pg 218 (or thereabouts—it's what my Nook says, anyway)
I was struck by this passage when I read it. I think it is what Conrad is going round the world (almost literally) examining in Lord Jim. Jim, after the abandonment of the Patna, is frantic to show he has courage. That's why he faces the board of inquiry and why he doesn't leave Patusan. There he does prove he has courage, enough to face Doramin when there's little doubt Doramin will shoot Jim rather than take responsibility for his son Dain Waris's death (if you read carefully, it becomes evident that this is where that blame belongs).
But Jim continues to lack the courage to say 'screw 'em' and live his own life regardless of what others think. Everything, everything he does is motivated by the thoughts of others. I think Brierly, for all his apparent solidness (I feel his name is an illusion to pipewood; hard, strong, polished and somewhat aristocratic), is a similar character and kills himself lest he find himself in a similar situation to Jim's, which he can apparently foresee; either that, or Jim facing the board and introducing the simple possibility is too much for him.
The are some people in the novel possess the kind of courage Marlowe speculates about. One of them seems to be Captain "Holy Terror" Robinson, who is still a captain despite being suspected of having eaten his fellow castaways after a shipwreck. On the other hand, he seems to be senile. I suspect Stein did, and I think Jewel does, but with both of them it’s harder to say. Stein has lost so much that he has no place save with his insect collection, and at the end of the novel, Jewel finds herself in similar straits. But I note that both of them have lost persons, persons whom they cared for, not honor—honor is something only the world can bestow, at least as far as Jim, Brierly, and, I suspect, Marlowe are concerned.
Marlowe says one cannot go home and it be home without feeling entitled to the respect of others—at least that's how I interpret his ruminations on page 150. Jim can't go home because he'd have to explain to his father, and others, how he'd failed in his duty. Even his achievements in Patusan can't wash that away; all they afford him is a clean start there not in the world at large; a cleanliness, incidentally, that Jim likely feels he’ll lose if he’s blamed for Dain Waris's death.
But, were Jim able to shake off the world’s hold on him, he could leave Patusan, taking his Jewel with him. He could go home, trusting that those who truly loved him would still receive him and that those who do not could ‘go hang.’ Jim is trapped by the the burden of the world. He cannot cast it off, and it thus drags him to his death.
The bad part is I think Conrad could’ve managed to tell us all of this in about half the time. I don’t see where we really need the scenes from Jim’s POV at all—the book would work just as well if all told by Marlowe. On that account, there are many lushly described scenes Marlowe gives us when, so far as I can see, he can have no such in-depth knowledge of those scenes, and they often seem to serve more to pad out the book than to really tell us anything. Of course, I’m likely wrong, but it certainly felt that way at times. I find myself in sympathy with those critics who felt Lord Jim was “a short story [that] had got beyond the writer’s control.” (from the Author’s note at the beginning of the book). That’s a little harsh. I’d say ‘novella.’
In the end, I cannot say I haven’t profited by reading Lord Jim. It’s given me some food for thought about the human conditions, so it does succeed after a fashion. But I’m left with the feeling it either could have either done more, or else presented less information for me to work through to gain these insights, and for that reason, I remain ambivalent about it. I may well be, as many suggest, I need to give it another read-through. Time will tell on that one. (less)
I anticipated this as going to be a drag, but was surprised. It's interesting to 'watch' Quatermain try to match wits with Ayesha, to say the least. N...moreI anticipated this as going to be a drag, but was surprised. It's interesting to 'watch' Quatermain try to match wits with Ayesha, to say the least. Now I think I'll have to re-read She just to see how these two match up.(less)
I don't usually like tales in which I know from the start that things will not end well, so it’s not much of a surprise that I didn’t approach this bo...moreI don't usually like tales in which I know from the start that things will not end well, so it’s not much of a surprise that I didn’t approach this book with much enthusiasm. However, I’ve already gotten the idea that each of Haggard’s Alan Quatermain tales builds on those he penned previously (which is why my decision not to try to read them in chronological order turned out to be wise), so I felt that I would be making an error not to.
The voice I’ve been enjoying so much in the other Alan Quatermain tales is missing here, which is a another minus, but that’s not surprising, since, despite the fact that Quatermain is old when he pens the narrative, he clearly still feels it as though it had just happened and writes with the feelings intact of the very young man (when the novel finishes, he is eighteen) he was at the time. Which is, when I think about it, good writing on Haggard’s part, but disappointing nonetheless.
As for the tale itself, it is one of Doomed Young Love, not my favorite subject. The quarrel is between the English and the French (and to a lesser extend, the English and the Boers) instead of Montegues and Capulets, but the result is somewhat similar, even if the individual members of the ‘clans’ seem to get on well enough—up to a point, anyway.
Of course, much misery could have been avoided had young Alan the wherewithal to simply blow a certain individual's noggin off his shoulders, but, for a variety of admittedly realistic reasons, he doesn’t. I can’t fault Haggard for trumping up difficulties—god knows there was enough trouble going around in South Africa in those days and to spare for him not to have to bother. Too, he does keep me interested; I ghoulishly read to the end to see exactly how everything was going to go to pot. But I doubt I could be tempted to read Marie again.
If you, like I, are trekking down the trail of the adventures of A. Quatermain in toto, then I think Marie is probably a must-read; too many things referenced later (at least, as much as I can see so far in Child of Storm, the next novel, together with the way the other previous tales mesh with the later ones) occur for you not to. If, like me, you’ve read James Michener's The Covenant, then you may find this slightly different perspective on the Voortrekkers interesting. And, of course, if you like doomed romance, you almost have to read this. But otherwise you might wish to give Marie a miss.(less)
**spoiler alert** I picked this up for my niece, then wound up reading it, having heard my sister talk about it a good bit when we were young. (Always...more**spoiler alert** I picked this up for my niece, then wound up reading it, having heard my sister talk about it a good bit when we were young. (Always wondered where "I must, I must, I must increase my bust" came from.) While Margaret is interesting, I have to admit the thing I found really interesting is the world around Margaret, and how skilled Blume is in letting that world filter in to us through the narrator without carrying things beyond Margaret's understanding.
Some things I noticed: (note, this is all my personal reactions, but I was surprised a teen-targeted book roused such reactions in me, and so thought they were worth recording)
Nancy Wheeler: an inveterate liar. Margaret better ditch her now, because trouble's following that one. Unless something changes, a lifetime of gossip, failed matchmaking, ruining relationships, and, possibly worse awaits Nancy.
Janey Loomis: some flaws, but honest. A keeper.
Gretchen Potter: either a future scientist or sociologist. That enthusiasm will serve her well either way.
Laura Danker: I may be reading this wrong, but I wonder if she and Margaret aren't destined to become good friends.
Sylvia Simon: Margaret's paternal grandmother is stuck in a hard place. She really wants Margaret to convert to her faith, but, bless her, values Margaret as her grandchild more. Also has the good sense to hook up with a man, since, sadly, Margaret is about to outgrow 'grandmothering.' My favorite character in the book, even thought I can imagine she was a little much too deal with at times for Barbara and Herb—I suspect some of that's Barbara's fault, though.
The Hutchins: Margaret's maternal grandparents seem to be miserable bible-thumpers of the worst sort—that is, they value their idea of God over His (not to mention their own) actual children. The sort who interpret 'Feed my sheep' as a call for a funnel and a headlock. They have managed to put the guilt she-bang big time on their own daughter, Barbara.
Barbara Hutchins Simon is a real piece of work. It's pretty clear to me it's her fear that Sylvia will succeed in making a Jewish girl out of Margaret that's moved the Simons to Jersey, and I simply adore her freakout when Margaret actually starts taking steps to fulfill the promise Barbara and Herb made to their daughter much earlier—that she can choose. It's my guess that Barbara retains a healthy dose good old Catholic or Protestant Guilt (I can't recall which, or does Blume let us know?), and, worse, after being shown the door over a decade ago, she still values her parents' good opinion, if not over her daughter, at least to some extent over her husband. If I ever received any communication from a family member in which my wife was pointedly, ignored simply because of who she is, I would in turn politely but pointedly ignore said family membr and any request they had to make. To do otherwise is to value them over someone I've made vows to (and who, in Herb's case, is certainly honoring those vows on his end). I hope this last incident has cured Barbara, because if not, she and Herb face some rocky times. Some of her last scenes give me some hope for her, though—and I also have to remember she's being described by her pre-teen daughter, so she's going to suffer the most.
Herb Simon: a nice guy. He lets his wife run things a little too much (as opposed to being equal partners—I don't mean Herb needs to be some sort of Promise Keeping shmendrick), but he does try to support her.
Philip Leroy: Future School Hero and, afterward, all-around jerk. Good match for Nancy.
Frank (can't recall the last name): in for a big surprise, possibly in the form of a thrashing, someday.
Moose: is in big trouble. If he wants to evade matrimony, he'd better start running now…
Miles J. Benedict: has a bright future as a teacher. Anyone who can outsmart eleven-year-olds (note: this requires thinking like eleven-year-olds, which is no mean feat for someone over twenty) his first time at bat is destined for teaching greatness.