One of my presents from AWP! I should have finished this a week ago, but I heard about the leak of the first four episodes of the new Game of ThronesOne of my presents from AWP! I should have finished this a week ago, but I heard about the leak of the first four episodes of the new Game of Thrones season, and spent several of my reading hours meditating on that terrible tragedy, not reading this awesome story collection, planning my month-long G.O.T. hunger-strike, wishing I hadn't done that to myself...
I don't really have a review in me this morning, but I did feel compelled to jump on here and advise you against unquestioningly believing analyses claiming that this whole book is just rape and murder, all hinged on shock-value over artistic merit, and passing on it due to said claims. It is a bit darker than her other stuff, but it's not like she was ever writing Precious Moments copy to begin with. One of the first stories I ever read by her was about a foodie couple chopping off their (well, her) toes for stew. I mean, c'mon. Anyway, she has always managed to be playful in the all-consuming muck of oft-shitty existence, and I find a comforting balance in that, a hopeful practicality which I haven't had sufficient coffee to describe at this juncture. But so yeah, it's Amelia Gray. Recommended for those of you who love Amelia Gray, and also for those of you who like Amelia Gray. And since quite a few of these stories appear to be the product of heartbreak, you hurty-hearts should maybe read it, too.
Oh, and I also wanted to tell anyone interested that the back cover claims she is currently working on another novel, which is exciting for those of you who loved the other one as much as I.
Thanks for that, Goodreads Trending. That was...well, that was something, all right. I especially thank you for adding to my deep-seated fears about hThanks for that, Goodreads Trending. That was...well, that was something, all right. I especially thank you for adding to my deep-seated fears about how everyone is awful to everyone forever and ever and ever. And because I love having even my self-destructive, paranoia-induced cynicism validated? And because it was good? On to the next one!
Oh, and don't be fooled by the cover; I assure you this is not a Pottery Barn catalog....more
I was writing a comment that I realized would probably end up being long enough to qualify as at least a half-assed review-like sumthin-r-nuther, so wI was writing a comment that I realized would probably end up being long enough to qualify as at least a half-assed review-like sumthin-r-nuther, so why not slap those words up here instead of down there? It's not like my new job has internet access like my last one did, and I can barely recall that past life in which I composed oh so many of my epically, awe-inspiringly phoned-in reviews on my lunch break. Do you care? Probably not, but I don't intend to edit this, so here we are, twirling our thumbs at the tail-end of my useless introductory paragraph. Hi.
This is one of those titles that almost certainly wouldn't have flown under my radar if my radar and I were left to our own devices. Like radars. Radars that don't pick up this book. It was the month of March's book club title, and I was feeling a little unsure about it at first, daunted by the length (I thought it was over 600 pages, long story) and all the roooooomance promised in the description. So, yeah, this has romance for about a third of it, but mostly it's a horrifyingly detailed depiction of life mostly among the Australian POW's working on the Burma Death Railway. Working? No, sorry, literally slaving the days away while shitting all over themselves from dysentery and cholera, covered in sores and nectrotic limb-stubs and pests, all while being starved so badly that even the biggest, baddy-assest bushmen more resembled praying mantises than human beings. And then they made them work nights, too.
So yeah, though there is definitely a sizable romantic element anchored to the front of the book, it is mostly about the horrors of war, the triumphs and failings of the human spirit, and how gross, gross, GROSS bodies are. If this were the sum of it, you could probably pass the novel off as War porn or Allied Forces Porn or Macho Man Porn or whatever. Fortunately, in the increasingly common fashion of shifting narrative perspective, we are given not just a third person omniscient perspective of the POW's, but also those of the Japanese officers in Holy Charge of seeing the railroad's construction to its completion for the Emperor, and of the lower ranks of the Korean guards made to watch over (and often brutalize) the prisoners. (Oh, and the love object's perspective, which, meh.) The characters are consistently nuanced and even sympathetic, because shit's just not real simple, now is it? Impressively even-handed.
I will say a couple more things: 1) It's overwritten in parts, namely the romance parts. I mean, her body was an unmemorizable poem? Well, then her body had better be the complete works of Nora Roberts, or you're just being lazy. (Not to say that's poetry, I'm just talking overall word-count here). The lame-o fluffy and often nonsensical love stuff aside, the writing worked for me in all the other scenes, because 10-dollar words and historical events where tens of thousands of people died for a dumb cause just kinda go together. But still, you've been warned. 2) There are two things at the end that should've been edited out. Those who have read it know what I mean when I say a) the fire and b) the coincidence. The a) part made me feel like I was suddenly and unwillingly watching Die Hard, and the b) thing was just sloppy and unnecessary. Why, coincidence, why? Is Tasmania really the size of a shopping mall? Poor choice.
I promise it's good, or even great. It has been my favorite book club selection so far. Hopefully, though, I'll like the book better this month because it's being culled from my selections. Boy, it sure would be depressing if after all these years on gr, I still couldn't come up with five quality books to potentially force on people. We'll see...
This reads like the scripts for Ravenous and May were stiched together by some stony, humorless smartypants. In other words, it's totally insane.This reads like the scripts for Ravenous and May were stiched together by some stony, humorless smartypants. In other words, it's totally insane. I mean, 400 dollars a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan? With a full kitchen? That's just crazy talk.