I'm not the kind of person who highlights passages in books, and it's a rare thing for me to take time after finishing a book to rummage back through...moreI'm not the kind of person who highlights passages in books, and it's a rare thing for me to take time after finishing a book to rummage back through the pages, mining for diamond-sharp sentences to be transcribed and kept. I did that here. Not for the opening lines, though they are wonderful and hooky and all of that good stuff, but for a sentence that tells you all you need to know about Eva, concisely and parenthetically. And another couple that muse on life and death, love and memory, and a wet hat that drips with import. There were many more, but these were my favorites.
Bloom tells her tale in scenes, moving through decades. Happenings are punctuated by letters from absent characters. It's lean, economical storytelling, and didn't feel at all fractured to me.
I was drawn in from the off and didn't lose interest at all along the way. Her characters are somewhat opaque, in the way that real people can be, and more than once I found myself tearing up, amazed that such seemingly cool prose could provoke such emotion.
There is no black and white in this book, no plucky heroine, no gleaming prince on a white horse. Instead, there are people, and the things they do, or fail to do, and a family that somehow chooses itself and makes itself out of whole cloth. And yes, it is riveting and sad and funny and affecting and gorgeously written. It's not the kind of book you'll read and forget, and I'll happily carry it around in my head for some time.
I'd heard great things about this book, but hadn't gotten around to reading it for some reason. Maybe I was just being ornery or maybe I was having on...moreI'd heard great things about this book, but hadn't gotten around to reading it for some reason. Maybe I was just being ornery or maybe I was having one of those phases where I smile and nod when people say something is amazing and think it's all just standard internet hyperbole (Best. Thing. Ever. Etc.). Whatever it was, I bought this book shortly before moving house, a reward in anticipation of successfully sourcing and wearing my big girl pants and behaving like an adult when the situation called for it. Bribing myself in advance, so I wouldn't just clamber into a packing box, close the lid over myself and wait passively for the move to magically happen without me.
The above preamble is required so that it's clear that this book, of all books, was the best possible choice to read at the end of an upheaval. I'm pretty sure Maxon could whip up an equation to cover it, maybe with some help from Sunny to explain the strange alchemy of escape into immersion, recognition and relief, tears and catharsis.
The message of the book is one that we know deep in our secret selves, everyone is a little bit broken inside. Some people are more externally "obviously" damaged; some paper over the cracks and hold themselves together with super glue and spackle. However, not every broken thing needs to be fixed, not every problem needs to be solved. Instead, just maybe, the supposedly broken part in all of us is what makes the impossible possible and helps us to find a way to love and forgive, to make peace with our regrets and live on with hope and wonder and keep striving for the moon. Whatever your own personal moon might be. And if you're lucky enough to have the right people in your life, that moon may not be as far out of reach as it seems.
Any book that affirms all of that is a marvel, and one that does it with such elegance and heart and humor is a wonder.
Tl;dr: This book is a wondrous, marvellous thing, and I loved it. (less)
Holy crap. Mind. Blown. In a good way, the best way. Lithe and sinuous as the cheerleaders themselves, Abbot's writing is a shimmering, snaky thing. T...moreHoly crap. Mind. Blown. In a good way, the best way. Lithe and sinuous as the cheerleaders themselves, Abbot's writing is a shimmering, snaky thing. There is brightness, there is vitriol and then there is the darkness at the heart of it all. I finished this hours ago and I don't know what to feel. I love that I don't know what to feel, that there may not *be* a right way to feel. I just know that this blew me away, and that I will be reading more from her, post-haste.
The opening of this, Homes’s first novel since THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE in 2006, may feel somewhat familiar to her readers (and not just those wh...moreThe opening of this, Homes’s first novel since THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE in 2006, may feel somewhat familiar to her readers (and not just those who read the short story in Granta). It echoes MUSIC FOR TORCHING a little, with Thanksgiving dinner in place of Elaine and Paul’s dinner party. There is clearing of leftovers, an encounter over the dishes...and a feeling that something big will happen soon to pull the rug out from under everything.
There isn’t long to wait.
Rather than give a synopsis and heap spoilers on a book that screams to be read fresh, I’m going to play this one a bit differently. If THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE struggled at times (for me at least) with Richard’s journey back into the world; if MUSIC FOR TORCHING suffered from an ending that some readers rejected (I thought it worked, that last line was stark perfection) then MAY WE BE FORGIVEN is her most complete and accomplished novel to date.
There are familiar themes here, the passive narrator who is “stuck” in a life he doesn’t even realize he’s not living. The surreality of life, the things that happen that are beyond our control and the telling nature of our response (or lack of response) to them. Family, strangers, the perplexity of people, the kindness of children and the harshness of adult selfishness – it’s all here, told with a playful open-heartedness that doesn’t shy away from the darkness in the world, but doesn’t rush to name it and judge it either. As with her other books, not naming someone (or something, in this case George’s madness), adds to the menace of it, it cannot be categorized and dismissed and looms larger as a result.
Cheever also looms over this novel (perhaps even more so than the short story “Brother on a Sunday” which almost out-Cheevered him), with its cast of disaffected suburbanites who are classically “stuck”, victims of their own expectations, their place in the world, and their passivity. This is not to say that MAY WE BE FORGIVEN is an attempt at some sort of literary ventriloquist act, far from it. This book has Homes’s stamp on every page, and Homes at her best will make you laugh and break your heart in the same paragraph.
This is Homes at her very best. Avoid spoilers. Read, laugh, cry, enjoy. (less)
I read SHARP OBJECTS years ago, and liked it; then I read DARK PLACES and raved about it to anyone who would listen...
I picked up GONE GIRL with a feeling of apprehension, when a writer produces two such exceptional novels you can't help worrying that their next book will somehow be a lesser effort.
Add to this that when it comes to crime novels, two books are often enough for you to pick up on cues, figure out how the writer thinks, and extrapolate where the plot will go from there.
An example of this for me is Tana French, loved IN THE WOODS, admired the heck out of THE LIKENESS and was terribly disappointed with FAITHFUL PLACE because I knew where it was going from very early in, and hoped I was wrong...but I wasn't.
GONE GIRL upended my cynical expectations.
To give you an idea of my taste in books: I have no issue with unreliable or downright unlikable protagonists, as long as they remain believable, interesting and capable of surprising me. I believe that many writers bathe their characters in an overly-flattering light, like shooting them through a vaseline-smeared lens; their foibles are small, they are rocks of morality with no skittering small creatures lurking in the muck below the surface. I have always been more interested in what lies beneath.
In her books Flynn deep-delves into her characters psyches, showing the bad, the good and the vast swathe of questionable grey tones in between. This makes for meaty characterization, and it is never undercut by an authorial voice passing judgement on the characters (as if the writer is somehow afraid that you'll equate their characters with them).
In GONE GIRL, Flynn introduces us to Nick and Amy Dunne. We meet Nick on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when the sight of his wife making crepes for breakfast makes "bile and dread" rise up in his throat. We meet Amy, his wife, through an old diary entry that covers the night she met Nick for the first time. Next thing we know, Amy is gone, the living room has been tossed, and Nick is under the glare of suspicion; "It's always the husband" after all.
To say any more of the plot is to invite spoilers. Suffice it to say that the characters are fascinating, the story unfolds in a way that is never obvious, and the novel is brimful of dark humor coupled with wry observations on popular culture.
Flynn dissects a marriage here, with a scalpel as sharp as Edward Albee's in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. She presents a married couple where you don't know who, if anyone, you should root for, like A.M. Homes did in MUSIC FOR TORCHING. She has proven herself time and again to be capable of Patricia Highsmith levels of characterization.
High praise? Indeed, because Flynn is an amazingly talented writer. As for GONE GIRL, it's simply phenomenal, on many levels.
Novel (not "just" crime novel, mark you) of the year so far.