It's such an unsettling read. The main character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, is this charming lawyer that the reader meets at a sketchy...moreMasterful prose.
It's such an unsettling read. The main character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, is this charming lawyer that the reader meets at a sketchy bar in Amsterdam. He lures you in with his life story. Completely. The rise of him being a successful lawyer who manages to be at ease in society and is the toast of his colleagues at work and with women at play, and then his 'fall.' I'm not sure how to sum up his narcissistic downward spiral, really. The only Camus I read before this one was The Stranger/Outsider and I have to say I enjoyed this one more even though it left me more in the lurch. It's a twisted whirl of an amorality tale, not one to be forgotten.
I think now that I should've tried experiencing the book like the way it was told, namely read until Clamence parts from the reader, and then come back to him the next day like how it was. So basically, read it in the course of a few days. But I couldn't help it and read it all in a bit of a frenzy in one sitting because I just wanted to keep going.
Maybe next time! I have this on my 're-read potential' bookshelf for sure. (less)
I really wanted to give this a higher rating, but even 3 stars is a bit of a bump up - 2.5 would be more accurate.
The premise of this novel is a soli...moreI really wanted to give this a higher rating, but even 3 stars is a bit of a bump up - 2.5 would be more accurate.
The premise of this novel is a solid one. It definitely stayed with me when I picked it up to read the synopsis because of the bright cover. Adam as the hero of the story, with obsessive-compulsive disorder, has his own inner and outer obstacles to deal with when he falls head over heels in love with Robyn, a newcomer to his support group. I'm not sure how I had confidence that this wasn't going to be more of a teenage romance and instead delved more into Adam and his struggles, but I did.
Overall, there isn't really anything big for me to nitpick over! I know I said 2.5 stars, but the story and the characters are quite solid. I got the sense the author did her research and made a real effort for the reader to empathize with Adam. I was firmly with Adam and rooted for his successes. There's a decent chemistry with the rest of the support group - there's a sort of superhero parallel that permeates the story that was a bit strange at first but worked. The romance might feel a little bit forced but we're getting only Adam's inner thoughts so I warmed up to it. I got used to the tone of it.
I didn't give this a high rating despite sounding like I would recommend it to people because I had a hard time getting through it. 'Getting through it' sounds the worst for 'reading it,' but that's what it felt like. All the pieces were there to make this a memorable YA read and even though I really liked the intention and the ingredients to it, I just wasn't engaged enough in the writing itself. I'm not sure what it was but for the good...first half or so, every chapter felt like a hurdle. I wanted to make it work so bad and the novel did improve for me by the end but if it wasn't for the premise and the heart behind it, I wouldn't bump this up to a 3 stars. (less)
Darn, I thought I was going to be witty (for once!) and give this book the alternate title of Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story with Russia,...moreDarn, I thought I was going to be witty (for once!) and give this book the alternate title of Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story with Russia, his parents, with life, etc. but I flipped to the back of the book just now and Zadie Smith already beat me to it [on her blurb]. This is why I'm not a writer.
Anyhow, I actually have never read any of Gary Shteyngart's (I have to keep checking the spelling of the name because I keep getting it wrong) novels - heard of SSTLS but satire can be hit or miss with me so it wasn't on my radar - but the reason I even knew about this book was because of the radio. He just so happened to be the guest on one of the few shows I listen to, Q on CBC radio, and I tuned in right in the middle of him talking about his complicated relationship with Russia. After about 30 seconds or so he went right into singing a propaganda song (I think? I need to listen to this interview again in full now) from his childhood that he never forgot, living just those seven short years in the Soviet Union. I only heard him for a few minutes but the way he spoke about his family and his homeland really drew me in and made me chuckle even though I knew nothing about him beforehand.
So that's how I had this book in mind and got it on a whim. I trusted it to have that same voice that I was inexplicably drawn to, and it did. Shteyngart writes about his childhood in both Soviet Russia and the US as such an outsider that inevitably a lot of humour comes through, but above all that humour is a desire to belong. I didn't have nearly the same childhood as he did but I could definitely relate to struggling with the English language and not being on the same wavelength as other kids. Most of all, his relationships with his grandmothers in particular made me think of mine. Our family works in very much the same way - grandparents play a huge role in raising the kids - and I was very touched by the tender moments he had with his. The spoiling, the overfeeding, the utter paranoia that something will happen from the distance between school and home, all that rang true.
On the other hand, I really can't relate to having parents like his but I could've read another full-length memoir on them alone. On the surface, there are a lot of struggles and the relationships he has with them as a pair and as individuals are difficult, but underneath all that is a lot of affection. I understood all of it completely. There's a heavy burden of hope for an only child to carry but at the same time, a lot of fear for the parents too because they've only got the one. The love isn't shown in the typical sense but it doesn't make it any less real. 'Little son' may have broken my heart a bit each and every time his father said it, by the way.
And all this is just me talking about him talking about his family! There's still his memories about Russia, and oh, there are plenty of his memories about Russia. The influence this homeland has on him is a strong one. I loved all the stories he made up as a kid - frighteningly sharp - and seeing his imagination run wild. It can be hit or miss when I read about writers writing about writing (whether about them struggling or being successful or whatever), but this was nearly as interesting for me as when he wrote about his family, which were the best parts of the book. Shteyngart has this knack of making everything funny or sad or tender or a combination of all three, which I really gravitated to.
One of those classics I was so excited to finally start reading and it was so disappointing. The premise had potential, it's practically required read...moreOne of those classics I was so excited to finally start reading and it was so disappointing. The premise had potential, it's practically required reading because I've heard about it everywhere, and it's got a special 50th anniversary edition to boot! Gah.
So many things added up to me not liking this novel. On a whole I could've dealt with one or two of them but not all at once, especially in such a short novel. I find the stakes higher with fewer pages because you have less time to flesh out characters and make your readers care. Of course, the simplicity and vagueness at times can work to the author's advantage, but it's a tricky balance. I just couldn't get engaged in this one. Every once in a while the writing would flow for me but it didn't happen often enough. My eyes constantly drifted with the stilted prose and constant repetitions of certain names and descriptions. At a certain point there just needs to be confidence in the reader that they know who the character is and how they relate to this or that character.
Now, the main character, Okonkwo, was so unlikable. I know, I don't have to like the character or even be able to relate to him - obviously I can't in this case - to enjoy a novel but I found myself not really caring about his well-being. I guess there's enough backstory to explain his behaviour but the lashes of brutality are still so sudden and almost dismissed. This isn't referring to his actions towards outsiders but mainly those directed at his family. Honestly, I would much rather read a novel about his family. Any other person but Okonkwo. I was interested to know more about Nwoye, in particular. Or have more about his wives. Ezinma would've also provided a better viewpoint.
For me, the highlights of the novel had to do with Ikemefuna and how he grew up and blended into the family. I enjoyed the tidbits of his brotherly relationship with Nwoye. The surprising [somewhat] soft side Okonkwo showed towards Ezinma was something rare to behold. It made me hope with something more with his character but eventually I realized that was it. The various traditions upheld by the village like the harvests and festivals and justice system always held my attention as well.
The cultural aspect of this novel is certainly fascinating and very important to learn about, with this work making a mark as a classic, but I just didn't enjoy reading it. (less)
I've only seen Mindy Kaling in The Office - haven't checked out The Mindy Project yet - but I find the Kelly Kapoor character...moreA quick, enjoyable read!
I've only seen Mindy Kaling in The Office - haven't checked out The Mindy Project yet - but I find the Kelly Kapoor character pretty hilarious. I had an idea of what I was hoping this memoir would be and it met up precisely with my expectations.
I think I enjoyed the childhood stories best, probably because I can relate [the most] to them. Her fears, in particular, hit pretty close to home. That one bit about getting up on the diving board and being terrified was me every time I got into the pool. Actually, I'm still scared to this day. Stories about friends from long ago or school were fun to read to read too. I seemed to like the pre-success stories best or the failures the most because they were more interesting and had more potential for comedy, but it was nice to get some material re: The Office.
Mindy Kaling's voice in this was quite endearing to me and I read this in one sitting. I think it would probably only be worth checking out if you're a fan of hers. There isn't much to convince you to become a fan if you're not familiar with her work or don't like her work, if I'm being completely honest. It isn't a spectacular memoir but something on the light side, which is perfectly okay!(less)