okay, so wow. this book did not work for me at all. i feel that i get what koch was trying to do with this novel...but it really fell flat. i am a hug...moreokay, so wow. this book did not work for me at all. i feel that i get what koch was trying to do with this novel...but it really fell flat. i am a huge fan of unreliable narrators, and paul is definitely that...i am also a huge fan of interesting characters, and i really don't care whether or not a character is likeable. to me, unlikeable characters have more character, they are more interesting and, when done well, are more nuanced and layered. the dinner is populated almost entirely by unlikeable characters. unfortunately, i did not find them interesting. the highlight of the novel, for me, was the opening sentence of anna karenina being quoted: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"
the dinner can be boiled down to a very simple premise but sometimes a simple premise is just not enough upon which to hang an entire novel. and if the threads you are using to tie it all together are frayed...then you likely won't be left with much, will you - something that had potential but now is only full of holes.
what a fun book! i had a great time with this read and loved sloane's humour and style. i am a bit waver-y between 3- and 4-stars because of some plot...morewhat a fun book! i had a great time with this read and loved sloane's humour and style. i am a bit waver-y between 3- and 4-stars because of some plot wobbles and the use of convenience. (i am just not a fan of convenience as a plot device), but the total meta-bookishness of the novel, it's quirk-factor and charm won me over.
it's not a book i would recommend for everyone but it was the exact right book i needed to read right now.(less)
In his debut novel, Aravind Adiga takes on some very big issues: the division of social classes into haves and have-nots, th...moreI rate this novel 4 Stars.
In his debut novel, Aravind Adiga takes on some very big issues: the division of social classes into haves and have-nots, the cultural imperialism of the First World, the powder-kegged anger that seethes among the world's dispossessed, and entrapment. Adiga has crafted an excellent novel that is entertaining but the story also causes you to pause and think about these big issues and the impossibility faced by those caught in a corrupt and impoverished life.
***Potential spoilers follow***
From The New Yorker ~ In this darkly comic début novel set in India, Balram, a chauffeur, murders his employer, justifying his crime as the act of a "social entrepreneur." In a series of letters to the Premier of China, in anticipation of the leader’s upcoming visit to Balram’s homeland, the chauffeur recounts his transformation from an honest, hardworking boy growing up in "the Darkness"—those areas of rural India where education and electricity are equally scarce, and where villagers banter about local elections "like eunuchs discussing the Kama Sutra"—to a determined killer. He places the blame for his rage squarely on the avarice of the Indian élite, among whom bribes are commonplace, and who perpetuate a system in which many are sacrificed to the whims of a few. Adiga’s message isn’t subtle or novel, but Balram’s appealingly sardonic voice and acute observations of the social order are both winning and unsettling.
I liked this novel a lot and would highly recommend it. I think it would make for a great book group (F2F) read as there is so much to discuss.(less)
I re-read this book for the book group I belong to. I read this novel when it first came out, in 2005, and the last words of this haunting story still...moreI re-read this book for the book group I belong to. I read this novel when it first came out, in 2005, and the last words of this haunting story still resonate like a pealing bell. “He fell in love. It was his life.”
This is the unofficial obituary of octogenarian Leo Gursky, a character whose mordant wit, gallows humor and searching heart create an unforgettable portrait. Born in Poland and a WWII refugee in New York, Leo has become invisible to the world. When he leaves his tiny apartment, he deliberately draws attention to himself to be sure he exists. What’s really missing in his life is the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn’t know that Leo is his father, and his lost novel, called The History of Love, which, unbeknownst to Leo, was published years ago in Chile under a different man’s name. Another family in New York has also been truncated by loss.
Teenager Alma Singer, who was named after the heroine of The History of Love, is trying to ease the loneliness of her widowed mother, Charlotte. When a stranger asks Charlotte to translate The History of Love from Spanish for an exorbitant sum, the mysteries within the story deepen.
Krauss ties these and other plot strands together through twists and turns, chronicling the survival of the human spirit against all odds. Writing with tenderness about eccentric characters, she uses earthy humor to mask pain and to question the universe. Her distinctive voice is both plangent and wry, and her imagination encompasses many worlds.(less)
I was mostly annoyed with the main character in this book. The concept is something I am sure many people consider - just taking off - but this novel...moreI was mostly annoyed with the main character in this book. The concept is something I am sure many people consider - just taking off - but this novel just wasn't that strong to hold my attention and make me like it.(less)
Sadly, I loathed this book. I found it predictable and formulaic. We did the novel at the book group I belong to and I was looking forward to the stor...moreSadly, I loathed this book. I found it predictable and formulaic. We did the novel at the book group I belong to and I was looking forward to the story but I was quite disappointed.(less)
I give this novel 4.5 stars. (International Title Someone Knows My Name)
Hill has created an incredible story and an incredible character in Aminata Di...moreI give this novel 4.5 stars. (International Title Someone Knows My Name)
Hill has created an incredible story and an incredible character in Aminata Diallo. The strength, endurance and perseverance she possesses are remarkable and I was engrossed from the very beginning of the book. I read this book two years ago and it has stayed with me ever since.
The book description reads as follows: "Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle - a string of slaves - Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic "Book of Negroes". This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata's eventual return to Sierra Leone - passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America - is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey. Lawrence Hill is a master at transforming the neglected corners of history into brilliant imaginings, as engaging and revealing as only the best historical fiction can be. A sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London, The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex."
Hill did enormous research and based much of the novel on extracts from diaries, letters and memoirs he uncovered. The story is so well woven and cause one who thinks their eyes are already open to open them even wider. I highly recommend it to everyone.(less)
**spoiler alert** Oh my word...this book was too much (in a bad way). Too many metaphors, too many similes, too many examples spelling things out for...more**spoiler alert** Oh my word...this book was too much (in a bad way). Too many metaphors, too many similes, too many examples spelling things out for us. As a character, the narrator was detached. Therefore I was detached. I really didn't care about him. I found Marianne much more interesting and thought the secondary characters were done well.There are a couple of characters and sections I feel could make for interesting books in their own right.I found the 'back-in-time' sequences dealing with examples of eternal love to be repetitive. The fact the author felt the need to explain his book - rather, his main character's 'redemption' - to us on pages 370 & 371 (the hardcover edition I read) irked me; did he think the readers were not thoughtful enough to know that for themselves? I didn't feel the book or Davidson's writing style to be spectacular - as has been hyped for so long. Perhaps the hype is/was the problem? Overall, I feel Davidson had an interesting idea and then tried to cram everything he learned into the book. I know I am in the minority when I say I did not like this book.(less)
The book group I belong to did this book 2 years and I could not get into it at all. I thought, since everyone loved it and I have heard many people r...moreThe book group I belong to did this book 2 years and I could not get into it at all. I thought, since everyone loved it and I have heard many people rave about it since, I would try again. Well try again I did with the same result - I was left wondering what the big deal was about this book. I found it monotonous and a chore.(less)
From Publishers Weekly: Brooks's luminous second novel, after 2001's acclaimed Year of Wonders, imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the a...moreFrom Publishers Weekly: Brooks's luminous second novel, after 2001's acclaimed Year of Wonders, imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. An idealistic Concord cleric, March becomes a Union chaplain and later finds himself assigned to be a teacher on a cotton plantation that employs freed slaves, or "contraband." His narrative begins with cheerful letters home, but March gradually reveals to the reader what he does not to his family: the cruelty and racism of Northern and Southern soldiers, the violence and suffering he is powerless to prevent and his reunion with Grace, a beautiful, educated slave whom he met years earlier as a Connecticut peddler to the plantations. In between, we learn of March's earlier life: his whirlwind courtship of quick-tempered Marmee, his friendship with Emerson and Thoreau and the surprising cause of his family's genteel poverty. When a Confederate attack on the contraband farm lands March in a Washington hospital, sick with fever and guilt, the first-person narrative switches to Marmee, who describes a different version of the years past and an agonized reaction to the truth she uncovers about her husband's life. Brooks, who based the character of March on Alcott's transcendentalist father, Bronson, relies heavily on primary sources for both the Concord and wartime scenes; her characters speak with a convincing 19th-century formality, yet the narrative is always accessible. Through the shattered dreamer March, the passion and rage of Marmee and a host of achingly human minor characters, Brooks's affecting, beautifully written novel drives home the intimate horrors and ironies of the Civil War and the difficulty of living honestly with the knowledge of human suffering.
This was a wonderful book that will stay with me for some time.(less)
Boyden is a natural storyteller. Both the Native tales of the north and the grim accounts of the war in France and Belgium have the ring of truth. His...moreBoyden is a natural storyteller. Both the Native tales of the north and the grim accounts of the war in France and Belgium have the ring of truth. His images can be subtly appropriate--raiders who go over the top are "eaten by the night"--and his characterizations are excellent, especially the three main players and Xavier's Canadian trenchmates. Eventually, Elijah seems to feed on the death all around him, becoming a "windigo," while Xavier begins to question the sanity of the war and his friend's growing madness, realizing "we all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy." Not for the squeamish reader, this is a powerful novel that takes a new angle on a popular subject, "the war to end all wars."
spoilers may follow...be warned, :)
**Review Below From Books in Canada**
"In 1919, Niska, an old medicine woman, ventures into civilization to retrieve one of the two boys she reluctantly sent to war. She speaks of the townspeople: "I must look a thin and wild old woman to them, an Indian animal straight out of the bush." She expects Elijah Whiskeyjack to return, but is it Xavier Bird who gets off the train. He is a mere shadow of his former self; he is without a leg, addicted to morphine, and near death. The three-day road is a journey between life and death. Niska, the medicine woman, paddles Xavier in her canoe, and as they travel, in an attempt to keep him alive, she tells him her life story. In return he tells her of his and Elijah's terrible experiences in the First World War. As they travel, hovering over them like a dark cloud is the "Windigo", a terrible Indian spirit monster. A Windigo is what a man becomes after eating human flesh. Niska's father bravely killed a Windigo, but was tried by white men and died in captivity. Xavier and Elijah grow up together, become fine hunters, and without understanding the consequences, enlist in the Canadian Army. They are sent to France where both boys, because of their extraordinary marksmanship, become snipers. They are eerily successful at what they do and become heroes of sorts, and legends among both the Allies and the Germans. "Elijah has reached 356 kills as of today, and these are only the ones of which he is quite positive. Today is a new personal record for one day and he says as much to the others . . . They offer congratulations . . . stare at the thin Indian with the sharp nose and blackened face."
The war scenes are some of the most violent and terrible ever put to the page, more shocking than most WWI writing, but authentic and realistic. While Xavier considers sniping a dirty job that must be done, Elijah revels in it, makes wild forays into enemy territory, risks his life repeatedly, and always comes away unscathed-at least physically. Like Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, Elijah descends into madness, and flirts dangerously with the legend of the Windigo. Eventually, Xavier is witness to soul-shattering events and has to make a terrible choice. The language is clear, the characters sympathetic, and only occasionally do Niska or Xavier use a word or two that seem out of place in their natural world. The descriptions of nature are brilliantly done: "I listen to the sounds of the night animals not far away. I hear the fox and the marten chasing mice. I hear the whoosh of great wings as an Arctic owl sweeps close by, and after that the almost silent step of a bigger animal, a lynx perhaps, keeping watch with her yellow eyes."
Three Day Road is as fine a novel as I have seen during the five years I have been reading first novels. My prediction is that it will win every award for which it is nominated, and that it will become a Canadian and international classic."(less)
3rd read: beginning 03 september 13, for GR group read @ CBC Books - 5* rating (YAY!!)
man, this is a great book and i am so thrilled it held up during...more3rd read: beginning 03 september 13, for GR group read @ CBC Books - 5* rating (YAY!!)
man, this is a great book and i am so thrilled it held up during this third read for me. gibb is a fantastic storyteller and through her prose i could truly see, hear, smell and touch the places she created in this book - lilly's life in harare, her life in london were both so vivid.
this subject - ethiopia in the 70s, the government and it's abuses and deaths caused, the truth behind the famines - is something not truly well understood. through this novel. gibb brings us into a world we may not otherwise have been able to know or experience.
2nd read: for in-person book group, 2007 - 5* rating
1st read: @ time of publication, 2005 - 5* rating(less)