You know that moment when you realize that the book you started hoping for escapism, romance, and fun turns out to have a one hundred page long, histoYou know that moment when you realize that the book you started hoping for escapism, romance, and fun turns out to have a one hundred page long, historically accurate, minute by minute account of the Battle of Waterloo?
I think it's funny that this book is in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. When I wasn't enjoying this as a silly, trashy, mystery novel, I wasI think it's funny that this book is in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. When I wasn't enjoying this as a silly, trashy, mystery novel, I was wondering what great insights into 1920s British culture and the development of the mystery genre I was gaining by reading this novel.
Going beyond the whodunnit aspect, which is actually a bit weak in this novel, I think the most culturally interesting aspect of this book is its vivid description of the advertising business - full of whimsical word play, slogans, persuasion, and let's face it, semi-truths (otherwise known as lies). Apparently Dorothy Sayers was a copywriter in her past. It is the best aspect of the book, by far.
The novel starts off at a good clip, although our hero detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, is a bit hard to get a grasp on. Like James Bond, he is magically good at everything, and has no apparent flaws whatsoever. He is clever, wealthy, aristocratic, good looking, an amazing athlete and cricketer, a great driver, and a bit cruel to the women who fawn all over him and cause "awkwardness" for him.
I like his character much better in the later Harriet Vane novels (e.g. Strong Poison, etc.). By that time, he has developed vulnerabilities and is no longer The Perfect Man (TM).
Unfortunately, the book really petered out (Petered out, hehe) at the end.
This is not exactly a spoiler, but turn away if you plan to read this next week: Just when you get really excited to see the resolution of the novel, there is a 10 page long cricket game, wherein Lord Peter performs admirably (or so I'm told, I have no idea how cricket actually works), but the plot is advanced hardly at all. In fact, the plot screeched to a sudden halt, from which it was never to completely recover. I was reading it - well, actually, skimming it - thinking, "Why? Whhhhyyyyyy?"
And then the very end ... well, meh. It's fine, but this is no Agatha Christie novel. However, kudos for the intelligent woman character who pops up at the end to remind us that while Lord Peter may be a tiny bit of a chauvinist, this book was written by a woman who has a higher opinion of female intelligence than he does.
Not the very best mystery novel, but a fun foray into advertising in a British, pre-Mad Men world....more
Teetering between three and four stars here. I can see why this is a classic - it is jam packed with interesting ideas and political insights. It is aTeetering between three and four stars here. I can see why this is a classic - it is jam packed with interesting ideas and political insights. It is a daring piece of speculative science fiction, comparing a decentralized, non-authoritarian, anarchist regime (which reminded me a little of a kibbutz) with a capitalist society that looks creepily like 19th England (minus its conscience) to me.
What's great about it is that both societies are deeply flawed, hence "An Ambiguous Utopia." And they are flawed in ways that the reader recognizes as familiar on a small and large scale from any human organization.
But am I the only one to find the book, despite the interesting ideas, kind of boring? Perhaps there was a little too much discussion of philosophy and physics and not enough forward momentum? At various points, I felt that I could put it down and forget all about it. Even in the last 20 pages, I found myself wishing it would move forward at a faster pace! From everything I've heard about Le Guin, I expected a fun and fast-paced novel. This was not that.
Still, it's a fascinating and ambitious take on government and economy; a book that I know I will think about a lot in coming months....more
May 25, 2011: I really need to reread this. Last night Joe refused ICE CREAM and picked the BREAD CRUMBS off his macaroni and cheese. It seems we haveMay 25, 2011: I really need to reread this. Last night Joe refused ICE CREAM and picked the BREAD CRUMBS off his macaroni and cheese. It seems we have arrived in the land of extremely picky toddler eating, and I vaguely recall that this book may have been my first warning that this would occur. Why, oh why, do I blithely (and naively) assume that these phases won't affect me and my cute little chubbles?
September 22, 2009: Fun, fun, fun. This is a bit meat-centric (okay, a lot meat-centric), but super light, interesting, tasty-sounding, and funny. There is also a surprising amount of substance here on how to deal with picky eating (answer: laugh it off)....more
This book has fun moments, but Horatio Hornblower's inner monologues drove me crazy:
"He was dancing with rage, he observed with some curiosity."
And thThis book has fun moments, but Horatio Hornblower's inner monologues drove me crazy:
"He was dancing with rage, he observed with some curiosity."
And the next sentence:
"But with his fighting madness at the boil there was no chance of his yielding without a struggle, and his mental convulsions resulted in producing a scheme for action."
That Horatio Hornblower, unlike normal mortals, can curiously observe himself dancing with rage, or produce a scheme for action out of fighting madness and mental convulsions does not impress me. Instead, it just looks like sloppy writing....more
I read this in the middle of the night while feeding my baby and while stranded in San Diego with my husband and baby, trying to claw my way home. AsI read this in the middle of the night while feeding my baby and while stranded in San Diego with my husband and baby, trying to claw my way home. As far as middle of the night feeding books go, this was too exciting, and I often found myself unable to put it down, even at 4 a.m. (that's saying something, isn't it?). But it was the perfect book for being stranded in San Diego for two days trying to make my way back to Northern California. Because while I was stranded in San Diego, Toby and Jack were shipwrecked off the coast of Chile, starving to death amongst very unfriendly natives. This really helped me keep things in perspective.
So. This is great fun. Dryly funny and, once it gets going, the action never stops. I have only read one of the Aubrey/Maturin novels, and while I really enjoyed it, I think I was overwhelmed by the prospect of a 27 (or whatever) volume series. I mean, I have a to-read list a mile long, if I get stuck on Patrick O'Brian, I'll never get to it! But reading this "prequel" was so much fun, I may have to sneak a few more O'Brians into my life.
My only criticism is the portrayal of the Chilean natives, which was colonialist and based on terrible stereotypes. However, this perfectly fits the 18th century (colonialist) tone of the novel, so it wasn't as offensive as it could have been. Also, since this is a fictionalized account of a real life shipwreck, it could be that the Englishmen really did find the natives to be this unfriendly and "savage." Still, it could have been just a little more enlightened, especially when you consider how impeccably researched the rest of the novel was....more
So. So. Bad. Also - incredibly, over-the-top offensive. Bond wants the somewhat-withholding Vesper because he knows that making love to her will alwaySo. So. Bad. Also - incredibly, over-the-top offensive. Bond wants the somewhat-withholding Vesper because he knows that making love to her will always "have the sweet tang of rape"??
Misogynist zingers aside, it's at least 70 pages too long. When it wasn't repulsive and offensive, it was really boring. I'm not saying it didn't have its fun moments, but they were surprisingly few and far between.
Raymond Chandler is quoted on the back as saying, "Bond is what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets." What I find sad is that Bond does represent a certain ideal manhood - brutal, misogynist, macho, emotionally distant, disrespectful towards and distrustful of women. Disturbing, to say the least.
Fun, fun, fun. Definitely "quality" young adult fiction here. Fast-paced, great adventure, and somehow quite morally challenging too. The only problemFun, fun, fun. Definitely "quality" young adult fiction here. Fast-paced, great adventure, and somehow quite morally challenging too. The only problem was that I read it in three hours, tops....more
Now, whenever I guffaw on public transportation, I will think of Nami. Okay, so this may not be David Sedaris' best work, but David Sedaris is like piNow, whenever I guffaw on public transportation, I will think of Nami. Okay, so this may not be David Sedaris' best work, but David Sedaris is like pizza (but not like sex) - even bad David Sedaris is pretty dang good. And this isn't bad at all - it has moments of intense brilliance, dark humor, and guffawing, and only a few slower parts. Absolutely recommended (although if you've never read any Sedaris, start with an earlier work). _____________________________________
I valiantly tried to reason with myself, telling myself that I could wait for this to come out in paperback (or for the audio version to present itself at the library - the only thing better than David Sedaris is David Sedaris read aloud by David Sedaris).
But the rationalization was in vain, and I now own this, in hardcover. Oops. Now let's watch it catapult to the top of my reading list....more
This is my favorite Agatha Christie novel. Don't ask why - I can't say without spoiling it. Just read it.
Sad to say, I think I've read almost every noThis is my favorite Agatha Christie novel. Don't ask why - I can't say without spoiling it. Just read it.
Sad to say, I think I've read almost every novel Dame Agatha wrote. Most when I was in high school. They are trashy, full of stereotypes, irritatingly formulaic, and ... damn her if she doesn't surprise me every time!
I've even been surprised upon rereading her books, having forgotten whodunnit, and getting sucked into her tissue of lies again. But some you never forget: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. I still get shivers just thinking about them....more
Another amazing memoir! One third poem, one third fable, and one third memoir. Terrifyingly dark, Maxine Hong Kingston spares no one, least of all herAnother amazing memoir! One third poem, one third fable, and one third memoir. Terrifyingly dark, Maxine Hong Kingston spares no one, least of all herself, in her portrayal of female strength and betrayal in Chinese and Chinese-American culture. This was flat-out uncomfortable to read at times, and kept me squirming in my seat throughout. Disturbing and gorgeous. What did the NYT blurb say about it on the back? "Dizzying." Yep....more
**spoiler alert** My goodness, the ending of this book was terrible. What a let-down. Stupid, embarrassing, and extremely frustrating. The heroine doe**spoiler alert** My goodness, the ending of this book was terrible. What a let-down. Stupid, embarrassing, and extremely frustrating. The heroine doesn't deserve her happy ending - she behaved like a complete idiot. I might have actually liked this book if the ending had been different. But I put it down feeling like I had just read an inane, bodice-ripping, romance novel I would be ashamed to be seen with on public transportation....more
*** This review contains spoilers for the book Jane Eyre, and because Wide Sargasso Sea is based on Jane Eyre, there are some spoilers for this book a*** This review contains spoilers for the book Jane Eyre, and because Wide Sargasso Sea is based on Jane Eyre, there are some spoilers for this book as well. However, I imagine that most readers, like me, know the basic premise of both books before they start reading. Thus, I am not hiding my review.***
Haunting and lovely and very dark. A troubling book about passion, obsession, lust, and deep loneliness, written by a woman who ought to know. This is "Caribbean gothic," and gorgeously done. However (and this may sound cold, but the best part of this book is the intellectual experiment), I was more interested by the political/historical aspect of the novel ...
This should be required reading for anyone who has read (and especially, like me - loved) Jane Eyre. And to a lesser extent, for all lovers of 19th century English literature.
I have read Jane Eyre at least twice, and I have always had mixed feelings about Mr. Rochester and his mad wife in the attic. I could never completely trust Mr. Rochester, who is not only extremely grumpy and authoritarian, but shuts his wife up in the attic while seducing Jane as well as some rich girl, and then knowingly commits bigamy ... Not exactly great husband material, right?
Also, who isn't disturbed by Bronte's easy equation between "creole" and "insane"? Implicitly, the humanity of the mad woman in the attic can be dismissed, because she is alien, uncivilized, and "other." It's downright creepy, even if taken at face value (but especially when read in connection with St. John's missionary zeal).
Jane is such a feminist character, but her choice of husand belies deeply internalized patriarchy - she goes for a man who, at best, is deeply troubled and needs to be taken care of, nurtured, and soothed like a petulant child, and at worst, is an untrustworthy and controlling megalomaniac. The novel's "happy" ending never felt that happy to me. Don't get me wrong - I love the novel all the more for that dark and ambivalent ending. But it's disturbing.
Wide Sargasso Sea attempts to grapple with the questions about colonialism and patriarchy that Jane Eyre never fully addresses, skillfully exposing the dark underbelly of 19th century English prosperity and power. In this way, it is a necessary companion to all my favorite gothic and Victorian British novels, as well as being a beautiful novel in its own right.
Through this novel, the subaltern woman, firmly outside the hegemonic power systems of her day, driven to insanity and reduced to arson and suicide, literally speaks....more
A word of advice to people considering reading this book: Avoid reviews of this book. This is one that is better enjoyed without spoilers!
Me being meA word of advice to people considering reading this book: Avoid reviews of this book. This is one that is better enjoyed without spoilers!
Me being me, I didn't quite achieve this, but I wish I had. Thus, I'll try to review this without giving anything away.
Never Let Me Go is a creepy, atmospheric novel that fills the reader with a sense of dread. A lot of this has to do with the voice of the narrator, Kathy H., which is meticulous, cold, distant, and infuriatingly implacable at times (Elizabeth - some attachment disorder symptoms here). Kathy tells the story of her childhood at an English boarding school, Hailsham. But Hailsham, and its students, are not what they seem. Then: Twisty, twisty, twisty.
I listened to this on audio and found it extraordinarily tense - if I had had the book instead, I probably would have read it in a day. Extremely compelling, suspenseful writing.
In the end, this is a book about growing up, mortality, loss, and whether one should fight or be resigned to one's fate (is it even possible to fight one's fate?), issues that we all have to address, repeatedly, in our lifetimes. Some very heavy themes, to be sure. Definitely not a cheerful book - rather, chilly and frightening. Nonetheless, I also felt that it was deeply profound and powerful.
Because its outlook was so cynical, this may never be a "favorite" of mine, but I'm very glad I read it nonetheless. I can tell I'll be thinking of this for some time to come....more
**spoiler alert** Another absolutely amazing premise from Lethem - an American road-trip ala "On the Road" or "Lolita" set in a post-apocalyptic/nucle**spoiler alert** Another absolutely amazing premise from Lethem - an American road-trip ala "On the Road" or "Lolita" set in a post-apocalyptic/nuclear war (it's never exactly clear what happened) Western United States.
But unfortunately, this one failed to deliver in some pretty significant ways - basically, the ending is baffling to the point of throw-up-your-hands-in-despair. Still, the first 100 pages was worth the cost of the book....more
This book has one of the coolest premises ever (Lethem is really, really good at cool premises) - a Western Sci Fi, set on an alien planet. A very evoThis book has one of the coolest premises ever (Lethem is really, really good at cool premises) - a Western Sci Fi, set on an alien planet. A very evocative and disturbing book on many levels, the ending was pure Western, but a bit disappointing to me nonetheless. If you like Westerns, mind you, you might like the ending....more