Just realized that I called this my "read of the year" in one of my updates. Since such an overly hyped book usually gets its share of negative reviewJust realized that I called this my "read of the year" in one of my updates. Since such an overly hyped book usually gets its share of negative review. I feel that I'll better write one to explain why I gave it 5 stars.
So, full review to follow when I get to my laptop. I wrote the review for Modern Lover on my phone, and it wasn't a great experience....more
This book was recommended to me by my daughter, who works in the book-related industry and gets lots of ARCs (as a full-time student, not that she hasThis book was recommended to me by my daughter, who works in the book-related industry and gets lots of ARCs (as a full-time student, not that she has time to read all of them.) However, this book she finished in one sitting, and found it funny, unique and eloquent. The story's taken place at Oxford University about an English major (like she is currently) does not hurt, either.
The book, strangely, reminded me of An Unnecessary Woman. The female protagonists in both books were intelligent, book-loving, yet reclusive and awkward. Most conversations and thoughts were either book related, or literary related. However, the two were vastly different in age. Although Aaliya in An Unnecessary woman was 72, Sam was only 20 here in this book. Sam was the last living descendant of the Brontes sisters. She started attending college in Oxford a few years after her Dad died a tragic death. She was homeschooled by her Dad all her young life on literatures (especially the ones by their famous ancestors) and hardly met any other human, so Oxford was a strange and intimidating new experience for her. When her Dad was alive, they played these treasure hunting games where her Dad would leave her a clue on a bookmark (hers) leading to other places with clues. The final destination always had a matching bookmark (his) with the treasure (usually a book.) Imagine her shock when the lawyer who took care of his Dad's estate gave her an almost empty shoebox with a "her" bookmark. In her understanding, her family was broke and had no inheritance or treasures left over from the sisters.
So, the story also has a small mystery with a treasure hunt, which I found just okay...although people who definitely needed a plot in their books will find it more intriguing. What I enjoyed about the book were the witty conversations, especially the ones between Sam and her tutor/professor Orville when they analyze literary works. I laughed out loud many times through out the book. This is when they first met:
"Why did you come to Oxford?" "Everyone's got to be somewhere." "Is that supposed to be funny?".... "I came here study English Literature." "And why was that?" "I like books." "You like books." "I'm good at reading?" "I did not ask you whether if you are literate. I asked you why you are studying English Literature. What do you imagine it will provide you?" "Unemployment?".... "English is the study of what makes us human?"... "Human biology is the study of what makes us human,"...."Try again." "English is the study of civilization." "History is the study of civilization," He corrected. "English is the study of art." "ART is the study of art.".....
The rest of the book was sprinkled with conversations like the above. They were more intense and take a bit of thinking to comprehend since they were filled with specific quotes and phrases from the Brontes and other books, as well as analyses of literature and writing. Knowing a little history and work of the Bronte sisters (and other classics) might help, but not necessary, to enjoy this gem of a novel. I also enjoyed how Sam moved from being a reliable narrator, to an unreliable one, and vice versa. It's fun to keep guessing. Watching her navigating her life is also cringe-worthy but enjoyable.
This review is getting out of hand, so I'll end with my favorite short quote from the book -
"It was the sort of library you'd marry a man for."
Bechdel is definitely a writer first and a graphic artist second. Her drawings are excellent but her words were what captivated me the most. The drawiBechdel is definitely a writer first and a graphic artist second. Her drawings are excellent but her words were what captivated me the most. The drawings are bold and the theme was quite provocative so the book is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The many references to books and quotes from books will delight the bibliophile in all of us. A wonderful autobiography, unlike any of the others I have read. Bechdel really bared her all - and this is not a pun....more
My first all time favorite of the year. On par with Bernadette, Where'd You Go, Mr. Penumbra and The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window.My first all time favorite of the year. On par with Bernadette, Where'd You Go, Mr. Penumbra and The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window. Witty yet real and full of laugh-out-loud moments. It also has an unforgettable and unique 9-year old....more
A page-turner. The story happened in 1962-1963, and the author managed to incorporate lots of historical events into the storyline. For example: The CA page-turner. The story happened in 1962-1963, and the author managed to incorporate lots of historical events into the storyline. For example: The Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy's, Giants playing in the World Series, Gone with the Wind, and many books that I've never heard of (after all, she's a bookseller, no?) The reading experience (I couldn't put down the book in the beginning) and the setting are a solid 4, but the plot planning and technique are a 3 - by the middle of the book, everything was a bit forced and predictable. The author carefully used the chapter before to plan what's going to happen in the next. I will still recommend this book to my book-loving friends. Who wouldn't love to read a story about what could have been; would have been? There would always be some regrets and sorrow in whatever life we choose, no?...more
Just realized most people's review on this book is a rant or one star...but the unique heroine herself and her love of reading and books deserve a 4 sJust realized most people's review on this book is a rant or one star...but the unique heroine herself and her love of reading and books deserve a 4 stars already. The world building and characters are quite interesting as well. You'd think the timeline is Medieval in the beginning, but as you read along you'll realize that it's actually post apocalypse in the near future....more
This could easily be a 5 star book. The reason for the 4 star was that, even though AJ loved short stories and found them harder to master, the lengthThis could easily be a 5 star book. The reason for the 4 star was that, even though AJ loved short stories and found them harder to master, the length of this novel is embarrassingly in between - too short for the reader to fully fall in love and feel comfortable with each and all characters, yet a bit too long than a short, precise story. Words and phrases also need more polishing. However, it's still an amazing story for book and bookstore lovers.
P.S. Do read the acknowledgements. She gave away some secrets of growing a writer. ;)...more