I did not love this one, mostly because it was relentlessly, hopelessly sad. I don't always mind sad, but there has to be a little bit of hope, or humI did not love this one, mostly because it was relentlessly, hopelessly sad. I don't always mind sad, but there has to be a little bit of hope, or humor, or something to make me care. Otherwise I just feel depressed. Also, even though each of the different parts were well-told and beautifully written, I felt like the author was throwing a lot of stuff out there without fully developing it. ...more
Really great. I love how the author uses what could be a pretty traditional mystery as a launching point for exploring ideas about raising kids and whReally great. I love how the author uses what could be a pretty traditional mystery as a launching point for exploring ideas about raising kids and what happens when they grow up and start wanting to have sex, and the mixed messages society (and parents) send about whether that is a good or bad thing. I'd like to go back now and read some of her earlier books....more
Whoa, what a book! I was listening to this on audio and it really made my commute fly by. I love the way she uses humor and a light-hearted touch to eWhoa, what a book! I was listening to this on audio and it really made my commute fly by. I love the way she uses humor and a light-hearted touch to explore serious issues like bullying, domestic violence, and rape. Also, I just loved the characters. Really excellent....more
I loved this on audio; the language was beautiful to listen to. And I loved how she jumped around to different periods of his life -- in a way the booI loved this on audio; the language was beautiful to listen to. And I loved how she jumped around to different periods of his life -- in a way the book reminded me of a large intricate painting, stretched out not over canvas but over time. The longer you look the more you notice details here and there. And I find it endlessly astonishing about how one person's life can contain so many disparate moments. In the same way I find it hard to believe that I was really once a baby, or a little girl, or a sulky teenager, it's almost incomprehensible that the confused old man meandering down the highway could once have been the red-headed toddler being raised by a native family in Malaysia, or that the traumatized little boy in Wales could be the same person as the respected barrister living for years in Hong Kong. Despite some dark secrets which are gradually unveiled throughout the story, Old Filth is more on the meditative side -- not really a page turner, but still very much worth reading. Besides, it made me cry like clockwork every morning on the way to work, and I suppose there are worse ways to start the day....more
Really great - well-written and utterly enthralling. Had a little trouble with the audio keeping track of all the different generals, but loved hearinReally great - well-written and utterly enthralling. Had a little trouble with the audio keeping track of all the different generals, but loved hearing the names pronounced with the correct accent....more
I was really bothered by a number of themes in this book, most notably the way it sets up a dichotomy between being creative and being good at school.I was really bothered by a number of themes in this book, most notably the way it sets up a dichotomy between being creative and being good at school. This starts early on and at first I thought it was just Hazel's thing - like when she makes the distinction of there being two kinds of schools, one where you are told you are creative and one where you are told to follow the rules. Obviously, I thought to myself, this is just Hazel's perspective on the world, and she will come to learn that there are many many people who are very creative and also do well in school and, later on, are able to function in society. As the novel continued, however, I increasingly started to feel like the author had an agenda. The idea that people can be creative or follow the rules but not both is repeated and expanded on. When Jack gets the ice in his heart from the queen or whatever, he instantly becomes very good at math. Because people who are good at math are cold and emotionless automatons with calculators where their hearts should be? Not to be all "think of the children!!" but that is a really really terrible message.
Worse, when Hazel gets depressed after Jack stops being her friend (either because his heart got stolen by the ice queen or because Hazel threw a snowball at him and he decided he wanted to be friends with someone a little more even-keeled, take your pick) she completely loses her ability to imagine things and be creative, but suddenly becomes good at worksheets. Not only does this support the author's "imagination vs school" agenda but it's actually totally unrealistic. Being depressed might make you lose your imagination, but it's not going to make a student magically good at schoolwork. Not only is this strange and wrong, but it also seems incredibly unhelpful to kids having trouble in school. Hey kids, just close off your soul, cut off your emotions and strangle your imagination and then you will be good at school. I'm sorry, but that is not how it works, and seems particularly unproductive and unhelpful for a struggling student.
Another point that bothered me a lot was Jack and Hazel's friendship. Like the "school vs imagination" thing, this made me think a lot about how I was reading the book versus how I would have read it when I was younger. It seemed pretty apparent to me that Jack and Hazel did not have a healthy friendship. Hazel was possessive and needy, even obsessed with Jack. At first I felt like Jack seemed a little manipulative of Hazel, but became more sympathetic with him - it seemed like he was genuinely trying to be friends with Hazel and balance his other friendships as well. I found myself comparing their friendship to the friendships in Doll Bones. In Doll Bones, the friendships seemed genuine and well-grounded - I really wanted the characters to stay friends even as they were being pulled apart by changing social dynamics as they got older. In Breadcrumbs, social norms (ie boys needing to be friends with boys and girls with girls) were blamed for the problems with Jack and Hazel's relationship, but I felt like there was way more going on. And I was very sympathetic with Hazel's mother - I would have wanted Hazel to be friends with other people too!
Hazel's character actually bothered me a lot - she was very judgmental about everyone, often to the point of being mean, and acts like no one likes her but then pushes them away when they are nice to her. I guess her parent's divorce, and possibly the difficult period leading up to that, gave her an unhealthy perspective. Also, I think the first school, she went to, the one with no rules, didn't do her any favors.
Also, at the risk of being a little obsessive myself, I just need to repeat that I find the idea of getting your soul stolen by the ice queen making you good at math completely and totally offensive. We actually have a lot of negative stereotypes and prejudices in our society towards people who are good at math, and, coincidentally, we have a huge number of kids who say they don't like math and think that they are not very good at it. This is incredibly sad and a huge loss. To return again to the division between being creative and being a good student - this is also a very unhelpful message for kids who want to be creative. Writing a book, directing a movie, illustrating a graphic novel - successfully doing these things requires a lot of discipline and, dare I say it, study skills. The kind of stuff you might learn from actually doing a worksheet instead of staring out the window and thinking mean thoughts about your teacher and classmates. Imagination alone isn't enough.
I am also not a fan of the "is it or isn't it" approach to fantasy. Fantasy is about adventure and imagination - this book's fantasy elements just felt a like a big, lame metaphor....more