It hits the same problems I had with Before I Fall and the ten pages of The Time Traveler's Wife I managed to get through: if you're going to have a literary book that hinges on a theory of quantum mechanics (alternate universes and divergent timelines), you need to explain your mechanics. It doesn't need to be rigorous. You just need to acknowledge that yes, you're screwing around with timelines, and that, in the universe of the novel, that is permissible.
And there's the racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, antisemitism, ableism that one is just supposed to expect of a period novel. I'm tired of that. I hate how psychiatry and mental illness is treated in this book. Of course it's going to be awful, it's written to take place between 1910 and 1970! Everything just sucked then!
Sure, but if we're going to go through it ten times in five hundred pages, you better start looking at it more carefully.
The two sets of arc words are at odds. "Practice makes perfect" versus "needs must"? As Ursula is written as being aware of her own narrative weirdness, neither. makes. sense.
It's a cleverly-done trick to explore the different paths available to a woman in interwar Britain, without having to develop more than one character. That's like having four save points for the same Sim that you like, so that one can be a rock star and another can be a scientist and a third can be a politician and another is a housebound novelist who gardens. It's literary cheating. I feel cheated. I never got a narrative out of this; I got a portrait of how much it sucked to be alive for half a century.
Of course, the book is beautifully written, and Atkinson did some very, very smart things when shuffling timelines. She took every opportunity she had to build up the background characters more, so the end result was like this character ensemble portrait where one person just happens to be ten or twelve people in the picture. Her word use is gorgeous and I'm looking forward to reading other books of hers.
I think I'm just cranky because Connie Willis does this right, and seeing it done wrong, or almost right, or fudged so that it'll be swallowed by lit critics, feels like an insult.(less)
This picked up a LOT in the last third, and became super awesome once all identities were revealed and all ladies started being baller as hell, but th...moreThis picked up a LOT in the last third, and became super awesome once all identities were revealed and all ladies started being baller as hell, but the writing throughout is so dull and transparent and bluhhhhhhh and Finnikin is one of my least favorite narrators of ever and fffffffffff but I'll read the others because the scorched-earth kingdom getting back on its feet ruled by ladies who are harder than granite and not gonna deal with anyone's BS is a pretty good story.(less)
I don't know if it was intentional but I like how the story structure and tone reflects the plot - i.e. the bits about a character who feels like she'...moreI don't know if it was intentional but I like how the story structure and tone reflects the plot - i.e. the bits about a character who feels like she's missing a lot were pretty flat-sounding, even though they were well-presented and fairly smooth, and the bits about the roots of the character sounded FAR more organic and like they actually meant something. Which is a really nice way of saying "I wasn't actually convinced this book was worth it until about two-thirds of the way through, but then it paid off".(less)
I spent the entire book wishing Yolen would get to explaining the supernatural element, but the mention of the prophet Elijah who slips through the ce...moreI spent the entire book wishing Yolen would get to explaining the supernatural element, but the mention of the prophet Elijah who slips through the centuries - that saved it, that was enough for me and for the story.
Otherwise - starts off stilted, ends up heartbreaking.(less)
**spoiler alert** I had been really, really looking forward to reading this ever since I'd heard about it (I think from a review on Boingboing), so th...more**spoiler alert** I had been really, really looking forward to reading this ever since I'd heard about it (I think from a review on Boingboing), so those high expectations may have affected my opinion upon reading.
Was really disappointed in this.
Many reasons: co-opting historical people and events as diverse as Jeffrey Dahmer and the Tunguska impact event as evidence of one's fantasy demons seems a denial of the vastness of human experience and the awesomeness of space. Making the psychiatrist the bad guy plays into stigma against mental health care. The wights and hollows seemed slapdash, ill-thought-out - why could wights travel loops, but hollows couldn't? Just because? - the romance was tacked-on and creepy, the family dynamics were utterly screwed, and what rich unpopular suburban kid has EVER heard a pig being gelded?
The concept was lovely, the photos were gorgeous, the plot involved about eighteen of my favorite things to read about (time travel, WWII, strange kids, boarding schools, eerie family history...), but the overall result seemed like it would have benefited from another several months of hard edits.(less)