I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this one and went with the lower score due to the rationalization of the culprit. If it weren't for that, I would'...moreI wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this one and went with the lower score due to the rationalization of the culprit. If it weren't for that, I would've given this a 4. I can't really go into the reasons why without spoiling the end. Otherwise this was a fun little piece, reminded me a bit of the Christmas one, as it took place in a stately home in England, with Georgianna as a guest. At the end of the day, I believe these are meant to be lighthearted romps and the author delivers, so I can't really complain.(less)
I was a little underwhelmed by this one. I've read his tweets before and usually find them amusing with a dash of horror (as in, "did they actually sa...moreI was a little underwhelmed by this one. I've read his tweets before and usually find them amusing with a dash of horror (as in, "did they actually say/think that?") and disbelief thrown in there with an undercurrent of "aren't you effectively publicly stalking these girls?" Though I suppose he means it in all good fun, one can't help but think about how deeply and utterly disturbing this would be if it were happening to oneself.
It's odd that I wasn't too bothered by all this (or at least didn't think too deeply on it) when I was simply reading his tweets but some how, in the context of his life as lived, (or maybe as fictionalized/embellished?) it gets very creepy.
One wonders what will happen if the girls ever found up? What will their parents think?
The term "historical novel" should be used extremely loosely in the case of this book.
I should also note it was no small miracle of will (compulsion)...moreThe term "historical novel" should be used extremely loosely in the case of this book.
I should also note it was no small miracle of will (compulsion) on my part that I was able to grit my teeth and finish this book.
I don't bother with summaries in my reviews as there's always the back/inside cover/sometimes-helpful-blurb-in-the-description-section-on-websites that will likely detail it better. Allow me instead to inform you what this novel is not.
1.) This is not a mystery. We are informed of the killer fairly early on and are dogged with his insipid presence throughout the book through italicized passages. For emphasis, presumably. Being Whitechapel in the year 1889 it should not surprise the reader to find that there is actually more than one murderer afoot. I'll try not to spoil anything (how could I though when they author does it himself so well?) Basically I can only believe that the asinine connection to the Ripper presence was the author's misguided attempt to ride on the Ripper's notorious laurels. It's certainly what drew me in initially when I glanced at the summary of the book.
2.) This ultimately has nothing to do with the Jack the Ripper though boy does the author try. Too hard in my opinion. Why did the author bother? The information he utilized was cursory at best. Maybe he presumed we already knew enough facts about the Ripper (or Saucy Jack as he insisted on calling him, which is fine except it was used like a given name for the Ripper) Except, I'm sorry, I've seen those photographs, I've read the reports, in fact the Ripper interests me greatly so I find I'm unable to suspend my sense of disbelief when you have not one but two characters that have managed to survive (well for a period of time in one case) having their throats slit to the bone. I'll be delving well and deep into the spoiler-y sort of zone if I get too much into it but how does that even make sense? There is so much muscle and sinewy, not to mention, you know, a major artery or two. I understand it is possible to survive having one's throat slit if the cut isn't deep, or isn't both of the major arteries and if the circumstances are right, if help is immediate and stellar. Shall we look at the date again? Shall we look at the district of London this little tale takes place in?
3.) This will not show an accurate picture of Victorian London in 1889. I mean, at this point why even bother setting this in England? I think the author became a little geographically confused, thought himself in New York for all the abundance of brownstones that made their startling appearance. This story, beyond the echoes of the Ripper failure, had no need to be set in London. In fact, I would've been a lot more forgiving if this had been set in say, New York or Boston or Chicago. Certainly the London geography was.... bizarre at best. Not to mention Inspector's wife's obsession with preparing mock turtle soup. Let's not forget the killer commenting on he prefers to abstain from electricity. On his salary it seems unlikely he would ever be able to afford it. Gas lighting I will give.
I think I've warn myself out with all of this griping but I'm sure my point has come across.
As of this moment, I think this will stand as one of the worst, if not the worst books I have read this year. If I could give this a negative 5 star rating I would. A dreary 1-star don't-bother-using-this-book-for-anything-other-than-fire-fodder. Though I only have myself to blame for slogging through this disaster, I hope you will take my advice and read something else.(less)
**spoiler alert** Argh, another review written that was lost. Apparently it's Goodreads little way of telling me that they don't approve of my attempt...more**spoiler alert** Argh, another review written that was lost. Apparently it's Goodreads little way of telling me that they don't approve of my attempts at multitasking. As always we'll accept that what I wrote before was a work of articulation and insight while this is a mere poor, inferior reflection of that lost glory.
To sum up my earlier attempt, I just couldn't relate with the narrator of the story, Mari, who left me feeling disconnected.
While I was reading I couldn't help but hear the niggling literature class/book club discussion questions in the back of my mind like, "the concepts of pretty/ugly are repeated throughout the novel. Explain the significance to the narrator. What does it mean to you and how does that compare?" or "when fish washed up to the beach it impacted the entire community from the locals to the tourists. However when the nephew was questioned he merely said 'the coastline turned dark'. Explain the significance of the rot found on the beaches and contrast that to the island's perspective of the same incident. In what ways can this be compared to the relationships between Mari, the Translator and his Nephew?" Well, maybe that last one wouldn't be a question actually posed to students/club affiliates but on and on it went on the sidelines of my mind. (The entire concept of the Nephew was pretty neat actually)
Now constructive thinking is fine and dandy but usually I like to immerse myself in the story, lose myself to it completely. Yoko Ogawa's writing (or the translation or both) has a wonderful flow that's quick and easy to consume. It has a lovely seamless quality to it which in a lot of ways makes the subject matter all the more disturbing. She's lulling you with the sound of her voice but then you really hear the words and the alarm sets in, the "excuse-me-but-did-I-just-read-that-right-oh?-I-did?-Okay-then." I should clarify and state this novel wasn't putting me to sleep.
I think, for me, the hardest part was for me to read this as I think the author wanted me to. That there are many shapes and forms of love (if one can call it such), that narrator was innocent and the Translator less so. That when Mari said 'no' she was really meaning 'yes'. That last to me is the dangerous portrayal. I've heard men say to me jokingly, "she'll say 'no, no, no' then 'no, don't stop'" but what about the women who do mean, "no" and "stop"? What if writing like this can be used to justify actions like that?
There were so many parts in this novel where I would stop and think, "I'm pretty sure this novel isn't going to go there but in most circumstances something like this would end extremely badly for Mari." (Yes, in a different way, it did) Sure, I read way too many true-crime books, I've been reading a book on Ted Bundy recently and boy, wouldn't all of this be right up his alley? For me, I couldn't help but see it as an extremely dangerous situation uncomfortably romanticized. This book could easily have had all the makings of a serial killer/kidnapper. Perhaps my way of thinking makes me like those on the island at the end of the book.
And there was I, naively thinking this was going to play out like a different version of the Housekeeper and the Professor in those beginning chapters. Boy, was I wrong.
Anyway, I think despite my reservations, I think (with a big question mark at the end of that) I liked the story? No, correction, I liked the writing, the construction of the story though it also made me uncomfortable throughout. I also don't know that this is one I would recommend to my friends. It's definitely left me with something to think about. (less)