This is my first experience of Lukavics, who's apparently gotten high praise for her first novel, Daughters Unto Devils. Judging by her second novel,This is my first experience of Lukavics, who's apparently gotten high praise for her first novel, Daughters Unto Devils. Judging by her second novel, either the first was a fluke or her writing is highly overrated because my reaction upon finishing The Women in the Walls was: Meh. Seriously, I have no idea what Lukavics was trying to express with her story: the physical manifestation of psychological trauma? Genuine paranormal experiences? Neither angle succeeded.
Lucy, the protagonist, through whose first person P.O.V. we watch the story unfold, is a cipher, a bland bowl of oatmeal whom engenders no sympathy from the reader and no interest in her fate. She cuts herself to deal with stress... Ooh, she's damaged goods! We are given no deeper meaning to her behavior, no actual psychological depth as to why she cuts herself beyond the facile and shallow glossy-woman's-magazine-article explanation. As someone who used to cut herself, I was offended reading "Lucy's" thoughts and processes concerning the issue.
A big problem with the novel was the determination to not mention any specific time period. We're given to understand it's set sometime in our current time, but that's the problem: the modern setting doesn't suit the mood Lukavics was trying to set up. I knew exactly what she was trying to mimic, the atmosphere of Roman Polanski, of Rosemary's Baby, the sense of a timeless "now," but by using such anachronistic (and frankly ridiculous) phrases like "watching sitcoms" and asking about "search engines" (things no one, certainly not teenagers today, say) simply highlights the bizarre aspect. Had Lukavics been brave enough to set her story back in, say, 1952, the timeless nature she was trying to achieve would've actually come across.
Even worse, once we get past the endless dinner parties which are meant to be sinister and are the grand setup for the climax, the actual ending is baffling and deflating. The wet rag Lucy, who'd finally developed some courage, reverts back to her earlier, spineless self and it's just so... pointless. Nothing in the first parts of the book explain why the ending is necessary, even after the (what I consider ironic) praise the villain heaps upon Lucy, telling her Lucy's been chosen for her strength. Which I thought was just the biggest hoot considering all Lucy does throughout the book is whine, whimper, hide, look bewildered, and generally act in the opposite manner of a strong person.
In the end, I found the book to be disjointed, poorly plotted, and 100% not scary at all. This is one case where I can say I could write a better horror tale and I suck at writing horror....more
I know which one scared me the most, the movie. Because of it, I was scared to paddle around in the deep end of a swimming pool alone. (I know, stupidI know which one scared me the most, the movie. Because of it, I was scared to paddle around in the deep end of a swimming pool alone. (I know, stupid on so many levels, but there's a reason it's called an irrational fear.)
It took a long time before I could see this kind of thing and think, Yeah, okay!
However, once I got older, once I got past my fear and developed what is clearly becoming a lifelong fascination about the species and a passion to educate myself about one of the most misunderstood creatures on earth, I began to wonder about the source novel. Especially once I started reading and watching interviews with Peter Benchley in which he confessed to a sense of remorse over how he handled the subject of shark attacks. I found it fascinating he advocated for marine and shark conservation in his later years, writing several nonfiction books on the subject to combat the post-Jaws hysteria and help the public better understand "the sea in all its mystery, beauty, and power."*
Putting aside the erroneous portrayal of how a Great White hunts and behaves, Jaws is an amazing and masterfully written novel - dark, layered, and, at its heart, deeply human. Because it's less about the shark and more about the psychology of what the shark represents. As a result, and what was most surprising for me, the characters are quite different from their movie counterparts - grittier, more complex, and definitely more flawed. In the novel, Brody, Matt, and Ellen really aren't very nice people. They're very much a product of their time (thanks to the dregs of the flower child era and the beginnings of the 1970's New Age, navel-gazing, "What is it you want?" pop psychology, all swirled together into one self-centered, free-loving soup) and are much more raw and, well, human.
Okay, maybe this is an extreme version, but you kinda get the idea.
Those coming to the novel expecting a great deal of action as seen in the movie will be disappointed. In that aspect it's not fair to compare the two: Spielberg's film is a master class on how to make a near-perfect movie, even if a lot of the reasons why that happened came down to pure dumb, and even bad, luck. As is the case with most books adapted into films, a great deal of Benchley's novel was stripped down and away out of necessity, to better play up the character of the shark. Reading the book allows you to regain the complex, meaty, and more interconnected story which is absent from the film.
On a side note, I think it sucks rotten eggs that Universal Studios Florida shut down their 'Jaws' ride. Yeah, you knew exactly what was coming, but it didn't remove the thrill you got out of seeing Bruce pop up out of the water at you. Every single time.
This isn't the worst anthology of short stories I've ever read, but it's far from the best. There were only a few which I remotely enjoyed (namely thoThis isn't the worst anthology of short stories I've ever read, but it's far from the best. There were only a few which I remotely enjoyed (namely those by Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Sharyn McCrumb, Kelley Armstrong, and--and I'm admitting this with reluctance--Sherrilyn Kenyon). The rest were unexceptional and trust me, that's a compliment. Sad to say, there were an unhealthy number of really bad stories, as well as a couple which were so horrible, not to mention featuring storylines which to my mind didn't fit the theme of the anthology, they elicited a "WTF?" response as I slogged through them. In fact, towards the middle of the book, I simply skipped a lot of the stories after the first paragraph revealed their mediocrity and went on to those by authors I knew would be fairly decent.
My recommendation? If at all possible, get this from the library first; it's not worth buying on the strength of a few big name authors....more