I finished reading this last night, and I just can't quite make up my mind about it. I am stuck because I feel like I should have been more emotionallI finished reading this last night, and I just can't quite make up my mind about it. I am stuck because I feel like I should have been more emotionally moved by the novel. Overall, I felt mostly detached from it all. Now, I realize that tragedy can cause fractures and detachment... so perhaps Clegg is a genius for evoking that response in me as I read. I did like the quiet style of the prose, and even highlighted a couple of quotes that were lovely and insightful. And I also liked the premise of the book - showing how people are connected and affected by one another and events reminds us of how small the world really can be. But, I have a theory that this book may be best read in one session. Perhaps some of the impact was lost on me by spreading the reading out over several days. So for that reason, I am going to hang onto this one and give it a re-read -- and I hope to feel this one a bit more deeply next time around. ...more
brooke davis has given readers such an interesting and sensitive book about grief, and how everyone copes with loss so differently.3.5-stars, really.
brooke davis has given readers such an interesting and sensitive book about grief, and how everyone copes with loss so differently. there is no right or wrong way to grieve the deaths of people you love. with hope, you have family and friends who will support you during these times (and if you allow them to do so), and you will find a way through the dwam*.
in davis's novel, we have three people rather undone, having lost their anchors to this world: 7yo millie, 87yo karl, and 82yo agatha. the three characters come together as they work to get millie across australia to her aunt's house, all the while evading the police and children's services. the quirk factor is high in this story, but it feels like a big heart is at the centre of it all so i wasn't too put off by the quirkiness. some moments, though, were a bit far-fetched but i really was just cheering for everything to be okay for millie, who is a wonderful character. the ending of the novel was not very strong for me, so that did take away from the read quite a bit. davis spent so much time building up the characters and situations, only to offer a quick 'flash forward' moment, accompanied by the 'they don't know this yet, but...' set-up. it felt so sudden, disappointing and thin.
overall, i did like the story and i am sure this book will be loved by many readers. ...more
oh boy. file this one, unfortunately, under 'hot mess'; this is such a problematic novel.
it has a great idea at its core, but the book is just not weoh boy. file this one, unfortunately, under 'hot mess'; this is such a problematic novel.
it has a great idea at its core, but the book is just not well realized. i am trying to imagine the wrangling the editor had to do to get it to this state, and even then... it's just so... bad. the main character, clara, is inaccessible. she's aloof as a person - the words come out but there's no emotion or hint of oomph from her - and the author really offers no way into the character for readers. there are a crap-ton of threads in this story... many go nowhere, save for the purpose of 'here was this moment in history, i'm going to mention it in the story and tick off this box'.
the focus and voices in the book are all over the place, as is the structure. and the tone is continually patronizing. i understand the very likely intent was to show openness and progressive thinking of a woman in the 1920s, but instead her words and actions constantly come across as condescending and judgemental. at times, it was outright offensive because it felt so clearly pandering. (which i am fairly certain is the complete opposite intention of the author, who i believe to be a lovely, smart and well-intentioned woman.) i have a list, below, of all the different issues johnston glances past in this book. it's a long one. each of these instances were so ineffective. i am not sure - beyond aforementioned history lesson - of her goal? there were no deep explorations, each issue just felt like a opinion placard being waved about.
E.L. Doctorow said this: "Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” and i was reminded of it several times while i read johnston's book, for what was not being delivered.
anyway, i am sorry to be so critical and negative towards this book, it's not something i enjoy. but i am truly wondering how this book got to press like this? also: holy bad title, batman. sigh.
• oh my gosh - nearly every man in this story is short and stocky. save the one guy who was kind of fit. but still short. we are told about the stature, hair and eyes of every man introduced. it's so weird.
• subjects introduced that go next to nowhere - it's like there's a checklist of issues johnston was working through: ◦ sexual abuse by a priest ◦ botched abortion ◦ terrible relationship between clara and her mother, amelia ◦ amelia's ostracization, and complete break from the family ◦ racism ◦ prohibition ◦ gay men ◦ anorexia ◦ suicide ◦ stress eating = fat; being in love = weight loss ◦ residential school abuse ◦ 1929 market crash ◦ misogyny
• things that should be gotten over because nurse clara says so: ◦ quadruple amputations ◦ phantom limb pain ◦ pregnancy out of wedlock ◦ being abused by a priest
• totally patronizing. continuous tone of condescension throughout the story. ...more
2.5-stars. This book had wonderful potential, but it just never really came together for me in the end. I think the novel is a great outing for a firs2.5-stars. This book had wonderful potential, but it just never really came together for me in the end. I think the novel is a great outing for a first book, and I will definitely pickup Flournoy's next one. My favourite parts were when the focus was on the city of Detroit. It's such a tough place that deserves to thrive again. I am glad Flournoy shines a light by setting her story here. The characters were where I felt things floundered about. I don't need tidy endings, and I am fine with ambiguity. Many of the threads, though, were left very loose and it created a feeling of dissatisfaction for me throughout the reading. Curious to see how this novel fares when the National Book Award is announced....more
so... Etta and Otto and Russell and James. etta and otto. each an interesting character. as are russell and james. but it all felt so surface, like their lives were merely being skimmed. i don't need books to show me everything, or spell everything out. i like ambiguousness in fiction. but i just felt this read to be inconsistent and bumpy. there's a moment when otto is imagining etta and where she is on her walk or what may have happened to her. i feel understand the moment: when we are worried, our minds can think of the craziest things, when all we want is for our loved one(s) to be safe and fine. but on the page, this just didn't translate well. pulling the craziness out of the brain can be hard to represent when written out.
i finished the read last night, and when i closed the book, all i thought was 'well, that was so weird.' but not weird in a good way. just... weird. i am sorry about that. mostly i feel like a huge potential was missed with this novel.
this was a really frustrating read. i could see what mcgregor was trying to do, but it just didn't work for me. there were beautiful moments but the ithis was a really frustrating read. i could see what mcgregor was trying to do, but it just didn't work for me. there were beautiful moments but the inconsistency of the prose and the excessive (and sometimes awful) use of simile and metaphor was distracting and, at times, painful to read. i knew where the story was headed before it got there, so i feel like this device - the slow reveal - wasn't successful. i also felt as though the voices for each of the characters - all residents on one section of a small street - were not distinct enough. the premise was interesting - one day in the life of a street, and its residents. but it is a big idea and i feel as though much was lost by using so may characters and residences.
"This is a novel where the contrived metaphor, the struggling simile, the romantic reference all come first...Yes, this is a novel about how our lives are "paler and poorer" if we don't see "remarkable" things for what they are. And yes, it's a good and true idea. But, though you couldn't say this is a poor novel (there's a writerly energy here that suggests McGregor will go far), it would be hard to imagine a paler one, its lifeblood sucked out by a Virginia Woolfish adherence to the fey, the pretend, the fortuitously elegant."
in the author's notes at the end of the novel, tiphanie yanique references the quote from Derek Walcott, used earlier in the novel to begin a new sectin the author's notes at the end of the novel, tiphanie yanique references the quote from Derek Walcott, used earlier in the novel to begin a new section. when asked “What makes caribbean literature unique?” walcott’s full reply: “It may seem so simple to say that it is sea. But it is the sea”. it's an apt epigraph for this book, a caribbean saga anchored by the sea. also in the author's notes, yanique shares some personal background - her own family history appears to be very present in this, her debut novel. the problem? after reading her brief notes about her family, i wanted to read that book instead of this book.
things i loved about land of love and drowning: * rebekah * the historical importance and power of storytelling * the dabbles of magical realism-light * the setting - the look at st.thomas during this time in its history was great * the way the island paradise was a bubble for a long time, and how that changed when it switched to american ownership - followed by WWII, the korean war, and then the racism and politics of the US getting to the island * the potential of the story
things i disliked about land of love and drowning: * the repetition - how many times do we need to be told, for example, that anette is a history teacher? that even though she teaches it, it is through a limited, censored lens? * the disconnection/flatness of eeona * eeona * this scene: (view spoiler)[eeona gives birth to a stillborn son. this brief mention won't do the scene justice, but quickly: eeona was a peculiar woman. she meets up with the missing-presumed-dead husband of her illegitimate brother's mother, rebekah (got that?). she gets pregnant by this man. the pregnancy is not even acknowledged/discussed between them (kweku, aka benjamin, and eeona) and until her(pre-term) labour begins. he wants to take her to the clinic. she doesn't go. so the baby is born dead. what happens? kweku throws the little body of the baby off of the balcony, and it is noted that neither parent notices if the baby hits the cliffs or hits the water. now... i don't have a problem with difficult subject matter in literature. and eeona had been sexually abused by her father - though throughout the story she is unable to see this as abuse and believes it to be love. she adores her father, wants her mother to die so her father can be all hers. she gets pleasure from the oral sex her father performs on her - she craves times when they will be alone together. she never feel violated. she feels adored and treasured. so, you see, it's a messed up situation that leaves eeona with a crap-ton of issues. but the baby? that whole moment felt so gratuitous to me. /rant (hide spoiler)] * the novel felt bloated, in need of better editing * there was a lot of passivity * oh. and this: (view spoiler)[for the love of... not telling anette and jacob esau that they were half-siblings was completely ridiculous on the parts of rebekah (esau's mother - who had an affair with eeona and anette's father), and eeona (anette's sister, responsible for raising her sister after both parents died). their excuses for not telling were thin and lame. (hide spoiler)]
i was in the mood for a sweeping epic. i had hoped this would be a great read. i am left disappointed, unfortunately. it definitely had interesting moments, this story. but they only served to amp up my feeling bummed, as i slogged through the filler. most of the time, reading this novel felt like a chore, to which i was reluctantly returning just to get it finished. (sorry!!!)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
historically and politically compelling, this is a very good debut novel. set during the 1920s and 30s in revolutionary china,3.5-stars, if we could.
historically and politically compelling, this is a very good debut novel. set during the 1920s and 30s in revolutionary china, chang weaves the threads of family life, domestic routines, and cultural traditions with political and military upheavals as the communist party evolved, challenging nationalist rule. power, position, connections and sons were important in securing a family's legacies and successes. this is very much a patriarchal world. women were just getting away from the custom of foot binding, but their roles were very much relegated to obedience as a daughter, then as a wife and daughter-in-law - though they wielded some power in running their homes. marriages were still arranged, not based on love, but on what the families' names could do for one another. educating girls was okay... to a point. women's dreams were set aside for duty. it was difficult to be a smart young woman during this time in china. and if a young woman thought she was in love, well, this can complicate life ever further. chang conveys all of this so well.
on the very fist page of the novel, we are told leiyin has died. (this is not a spoiler - it's right in the book's description, so i am giving nothing away here.) she is stuck with her three souls (yang soul, yin soul, and hun soul - though chang has taken creative liberties here), unable to move forward to afterlife and reincarnation until she recognizes the reasons for her detention in this place, and somehow figures out a way to atone for her sins. this spiritual dilemma anchors the novel. and while i found it very interesting, i didn't find the interactions with the souls to be particularly strong. chang does connect, abstractly, the role of each of the souls (stern and scholarly yang; impulsive, romantic yin; and wise, shining hun), but because she has taken liberties, i would have liked a bit more... grounding, i suppose (which i realize seems a ridiculous thing to want from three entities not of this world). perhaps context is a better word? the three souls just didn't feel fully realized to me. i also had a bit of an issue with the ending - it was fine, but it felt a bit rushed. but these two criticisms aren't huge.
i very much enjoyed this novel and read through it so quickly because i needed to know what was going to happen next. i think people will make comparisons to Lisa See - i certainly thought back to some of her novels, which i've enjoyed (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love). if you are a fan of see's, i think you will like janie chang's novel. both authors bring to life vivid worlds and dynamic times, and with both writers i have felt engrossed in their stories.
aside: i was quite interested in the early and repeated mentions of Anna Karenina in chang's novel. clearly it must be a beloved work for the author. the fact that bookishness was a part of the story was a bit of a bonus that i quite enjoyed. characters excited and motivated by books, reading, writing and learning - well, i could genuinely feel the enthusiasms in these moments.
sigh - the dreaded 3-star rating. the book was good-ish. good enough. i certainly appreciated the light ruby-sachs shed on the issue of water privatizsigh - the dreaded 3-star rating. the book was good-ish. good enough. i certainly appreciated the light ruby-sachs shed on the issue of water privatization in south africa and the struggles faced by so many. i was quite interested in the characters ruby-sachs created, but they - and the writing - felt stilted, or somehow not fully formed. as a debut, it's impressive enough to make me interested in further fiction from ruby-sachs and, in fact, the ending is left with the potential for certain characters to return in another story. ...more
Boo! I am bummed - I wanted to love this book, it sounded interesting and Sherman is a debut author. I love first novels! Unfortunately, the voice ofBoo! I am bummed - I wanted to love this book, it sounded interesting and Sherman is a debut author. I love first novels! Unfortunately, the voice of the novel was very detached and given the author wants us to be invested in the characters and events - it was hard to muster up much care for any of it. Sorry, Susan Sherman. :(...more
loved this read just as much the second time through. i read it with a bit of a different eye, though, this time around. two books grou07 january 14:
loved this read just as much the second time through. i read it with a bit of a different eye, though, this time around. two books groups i participate in are reading this book - one now, one in march (see below). one of the groups will be focusing on the magical realism within the novel, and so i definitely paid more attention to the MR and the fairy tale qualities within. certainly it is a strong (integral) component of the novel and i very much enjoyed that when i read it in 2013...but, this time around, i did highlight many passages and thought more about the real, the unreal, the magical. and, i thought about how the seemingly magical could be explained rationally. this may sound like i spent a lot of time analyzing the story, which may sound like a fun-suck. but i didn't, really. i am in a bit of a reading slump, so this was a great escape and i didn't mind my brain wandering about, meandering on thoughts or ideas triggered by ivy's novel. it seemed to actually be a fitting way to read the story.
01 jan 2014:
group read for CBC books (jan 14) and convergent read for bookish (mar 14), so re-reading now, in an attempt to blast out of my reading slump!
03 jan 2013:
man -- what a debut novel! it's a magical and sometimes heartbreaking story, perfectly set for a wonderful winter read....more
Yeah...so...wow! (This is my review, as it appeared on Bookbrowse.com, October 5th, 2011.)
First time novelist, Amy Waldman, has created a gut-punch ofYeah...so...wow! (This is my review, as it appeared on Bookbrowse.com, October 5th, 2011.)
First time novelist, Amy Waldman, has created a gut-punch of a novel in The Submission, a tale that wonders: What would happen if the architectural design competition for the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial was won by an American-Muslim?
The story opens two years after the attacks, with a jury deliberating over the two finalists in the Memorial Design competition - The Void and The Garden. The jury, after very tense and prolonged deliberations, finally selects its winner: The Garden. It is at this point the identity of the designer is revealed, an architect named Mohammad (Mo) Khan.
Chaos, of course, ensues as Khan's identity as an American-Muslim, is leaked to the media and citizens. Special interest groups and pundits argue for and against the fitness of both the individual and his design. Claire Burwell, whose husband died on September 11th, is a member of the jury as a representative of the families who lost loved ones in the attacks. Throughout the blind competition (the identities of those who submitted designs were kept secret), Claire was the most vocal champion for The Garden, feeling the concept offered the strongest opportunity for healing and reflection while honoring those who died. She is then thrust into an awkward and precarious position of balancing her belief in the winning design with the emotional and confrontational outbursts from the families she was supposed to be representing.
Waldman has created something I really love when reading fiction - unreliable narrators. Several main characters - Claire Burwell, Mo Khan, and Sean Gallagher - dig their heels in, waver, reevaluate themselves and others, and cause rippling consequences. Claire has long anchored her identity in liberal social thinking but has never really had to examine her convictions. Mo is arrogant and unknowable in his aloofness. He refuses, on the basis of being a free American citizen, to answer questions about his intentions with his design. This avoidance, on principle, leaves many confused and paranoid.
Sean lost his firefighter brother, Patrick, in the attacks and also lost himself. He felt he was never good enough growing up and had never really known his place in the world - until he began speaking out about his brother's death. But is that enough to give his own life meaning? All of these characters are tested and pushed to reassess their ways of thinking. Trying to make a difference in the world - which all three are striving to do - is not something that can be undertaken without fully knowing one's self.
At its heart, The Submission is a tale of caution; if you think you know yourself, please, think again. Readers are taken through a trifecta of large issues: grief, ambition, and prejudice. And early in the novel, a particular quote slapped me in the face: "You couldn't call yourself an American if you hadn't, in solidarity, watched your fellow Americans being pulverized, yet what kind of America did watching create?" It is an inescapable question. The media allowed for interminable full access, nonstop watching and reading at our disposal. Talking heads from television infiltrated our own minds. Special interest groups tore at our heartstrings. Pundits swayed our thinking this way and that. Throughout, there was never any disagreement that 9/11 was a domestic tragedy of global significance. A national embrace brought families who lost loved ones to our collective chest in an effort to support them and keep them safe. And yet. And yet there were so many competing interests fighting and often losing sight of the reason for the heightened passions and positions - the people who lost their lives.
The very title of this novel says a lot. Each character we meet is asked to submit - whether to alter a long-held belief, upend their moral center, or open a door to a stranger. The Submission also represents the architectural design Mohammad submits in hopes of creating an important work. Within a religious context, the word "muslim" means "one who voluntarily submits or surrenders to God's will." Around one simple word, so much turns. And as with Waldman's novel, a world evolves around one simple concept.
The author, a former journalist for The New York Times, and their South Asia Bureau co-chief for over three years, was in Manhattan on the the day of the attacks in 2001, and she spent the following six weeks reporting on the aftermath. Several years ago - while talking with a friend about the controversy Maya Lin endured when, in 1981, her Vietnam Veteran's Memorial design was selected through open competition - Waldman supposed that a Muslim-American planning the WTC Memorial would be a modern equivalent situation. And so, The Submission was born, as was her career as a novelist.
She has stated that in writing a story about 9/11, she "was just interested in looking at the variety of experiences and the grief. To tell the story from multiple perspectives." Waldman succeeds in achieving this goal beautifully with her debut novel; through her gifted prose and fully realized characters, she has created a very powerful reading experience....more
The subtitle, for this work of non-fiction is: A Year in the Life of an Overeducated, Underemployed Twenty-Something Who Moves Back Home. From this, IThe subtitle, for this work of non-fiction is: A Year in the Life of an Overeducated, Underemployed Twenty-Something Who Moves Back Home. From this, I think, people are going to jump one of two ways in assessing a book by its cover. People might think "Oh great! Another indulged kid, under thirty, likely with an arts degree can't get it together in the real world so runs home to mommy and daddy!" Some of this is true. He does have an arts degree (Queen's University) and he is indulged, by his parents. If indulged means a good relationship, love and support of the moral variety. But he kind of does have it together. It might not be in a more traditional manner, but his mom and dad were happy to share the family home with their grown son, and Reid was working part-time for the CBC, in Ottawa, during his reprieve, so who are we to judge, really? Besides, a terrific book emerged from his time living back with his parents. The second path for those who judge a book by its cover could think. "Ha! This Reid is a funny guy!", and he is. He can be self-deprecating, at times, and he has a great gift of observation. The humour is most evident during the scenes featuring his parents. Their conversations are lively and their eccentricities are endearing. That much page space is given to food and the animals on the family's hobby farm makes this book even more irresistible. While reading this memoir, I kept thinking: a) I want to have lunch with the Reid's and become friends with them; and b) I should talk the husband into moving to a hobby farm (which actually wouldn't be that hard to do).
I hope you will read this book. For me, it was un-put-down-able....more
I finished this novel two days ago and it has been in my mind ever since. A friend inquired as to whether the book was good - it is; very, very good -I finished this novel two days ago and it has been in my mind ever since. A friend inquired as to whether the book was good - it is; very, very good - but I feel as though there are not sufficient words to express, in a review, my thoughts about the story or the writer. I need to invent new words to do this novel justice. The book is urgent and raw, and without requesting the readers sympathy, it demands of the reader to be a sentient human being. That Jamison, in this, her first novel, can create and sustain these senses - of urgency, of compassion, of exposed nerves - is to be commended. Her writing elevates the story from being 'another story about a disjointed and struggling family' to being something wholly new. Jamison has given readers a work that is heart-achingly beautiful....more
**spoiler alert** Ugh. I wish this book was so much better for me than it turned out. The threads of the story just did not come together well, and th**spoiler alert** Ugh. I wish this book was so much better for me than it turned out. The threads of the story just did not come together well, and the characters were not well developed. This book felt more like a missed opportunity and it was, unfortunately, a slog to get through. (Sorry!)...more