I have finished The Quickening Maze. It was an excellent read. Easily 4 stars and possibly the best book of the three Booker finalist I've read.
Spoil...moreI have finished The Quickening Maze. It was an excellent read. Easily 4 stars and possibly the best book of the three Booker finalist I've read.
This book also had a dizzying array of characters much like Wolf Hall and yet was not as confusing. This book also skipped around from one persons story to another, but again was somehow less bothersome than it was in Wolf Hall. There were about 10 characters that could be considered main characters. The only criticism I have is I feel the description of this book was misleading as far as the focus of the book. If I picked out this book because I was a John Clare fan I would have been extremely disapointed. The first and last 10 pages were about him, but in 258 pages he was only in less than 100 of those pages and I wouldn't have guessed him to be the main character. Hannah, Matthew Alen and Alfred Tennyson all seemed more important than John Clare in this book.
I did find the John Clare portions interesting. He seemed perfectly sane for the first third of the book, until he suddenly wakes up thinking he's a famous gypsy fighter and then later thinking he's Lord Byron. Interesting that witnessing Margaret/Mary's abuse forces him to be himself again for her sake. (less)
I have finished The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I considered giving it a wide variety of ratings(2,3 or 4),but in the end I will give it 4 stars....moreI have finished The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I considered giving it a wide variety of ratings(2,3 or 4),but in the end I will give it 4 stars. It was incredibly well written. The subtlety of her writing and the depth of the characters were wonderful. Makes me think how different it is to read this kind of book, rather than a fluffy romance novel. I am struggling to deside if I would rate it higher than Wolf Hall(for a book group). I'm affaid if I don't, it's just because I didn't like the story as much as I liked the story of Wolf Hall. I can't say more without the warning.
I don't really have any critiques of the style or quality of writing. It was wonderful. It was just such a depressing ending that I can't deside what I think of this book.
It reminds me of the movie Premonition. Movie spoiler in this paragraph. The most depressing movie I ever saw. The ability of the wife to experience days out of order, causes her husbands death in the end. Incredibly well done as well, but in the end I'm not sure I was happy to have seen it and that's how I feel about The Little Stranger.
An evaluation of the story; I eventually grew tired of Faraday's need to make everything logical and disregard all supernatural posibilities. I think Waters wanted the readers to feel this way and start rooting for Caroline to break free. During the trial at the end I so badly wanted him to say, "no, there was something going on in that house that science cannot explain, so I can not say with any certainty that her death was either a suicide or the result of an unsound mind." But alas, he said yes to a suicide whilst of unsound mind. If Faraday would have demonstrated enough growth to at least consider the unexplainble I might have given this book 5 stars. I believe books are much better when the writer creates characters that demonstrate growth and those in this book do not. I guess I do have that one critique of the writing. I further would have liked Faraday to say goodbye to Hundreds and taken that job in the hospital of the bigger town, rather than continuing his deadend job. And what's with wandering through Hundreds at the end as if daring the Little Stranger to appear and shatter his tired assumptions of how things are. I would have liked that ending better too. The only one to demonstrate any growth was Caroline, when she told Faraday the wedding was off. She finally threw off Faraday's scientifically limited explinations, but then she was killed before she could leave. Her death was the most disapointing event in the book. I guess Betty was the only one to escape and perhaps grow up a little bit.
One theory I found interesting was put forward by Doctor Seeley. That a severely disturbed mind might have the ability to create something like a spirit, unintentionally coming out of the subconscious mind. A theory I have not heard before and found quite intriguing.
I find the idea of ghost, spirits and supernatural stuff to be quite interesting and would have found this book much more enjoyable if just one of the people had escaped the influence of The Little Stranger.
Additional thoughts on who the little stranger could be.
My first inclination would be to go with the ghost of the dead child, but if I agreed with the disturbed mind theory(and the more i think about it I might) Faraday would be the third choice on my list at best. He's too set in his logical ways to be involved in such a thing, even unconsciously. The obvious choice is Rod, already being damaged goods from his war injuries and failure to live up to family expectations. He's certainly disturbed enough to cause it, but I like a less obvious choice. The one person who was never hurt by any of this(just scared herself), showed her deviousness in her first meeting with Doctor Faraday faking that illness and got her dream job in the end. She was the only one in the whole book to show the cleverness this ploy would take. Betty! The dumb country bumpkin thing is just a cover. You can't help where or who raised you. She could be a mensa candidate that was just never in a position to show the depth of her mind. Her unconscious self dreamed up a way to get out of a place and job she didn't like. Doctor Faraday showed himself to be playable going along with her "illness." Betty was always there seeing who was struggling and therefore susceptible to being scared by the Little Stranger. The most desturbing possibility is that Betty could have knowingly been involved in helping the Little Stranger, just finishing them off with her conscious and unconscious minds coming together in the end or maybe it was all unconscious. Being there to hang the mother and push Caroline over the railing. Setting the fire in Rod's room is really a compelling case. She was there when everything happened. The perfect psychopath. She just wanted a factory job and everybody that got in her way died. Doctor Faraday wasn't in her way since he wasn't in line to own Hundreds so she didn't waist her time killing him. Then at the end scaring Caroline into leaving and therefore leaving the shakey engagement was much easier than killing the doctor. The last pages of the book indict her the most. If I had experienced half of what she experienced at Hundreds I'd be in a mental ward. That's what happened to Rod. He lived through the horrors of war, but not this? It was that bad to deal with. This explains why Betty stayed long past when any other servant would. Their long time servant fled, but not Betty who is new and doesn't like the job anyway? And Betty comes out of it so well adjusted she gets within view of the house without breaking a sweat? And with no counciling?That only makes sense if she's behind it all. Freaky! (less)
Being out of school 15+ years my history was really rusty so I really liked the details that reminded you of the overall situation. She...moreSpoilers ahead.
Being out of school 15+ years my history was really rusty so I really liked the details that reminded you of the overall situation. She made these characters from history really come alive. Made me want to look up Tyndale and others. I didn't remember that the divorce flap with Rome happened so close to Luther and Tyndale. I found it amusing that King Henry did not embrace them. Was Thomas More really that cruel, Anne Boelyn that cold and demanding and was Cromwell really that good and influential? Makes me want to look up their history. It amazed me that it took 3 years from deciding to "no longer bow to Rome," and the King marrying Anne Boelyn. The process of those three years was really well detailed.
Critiques; I was not bothered by the "he" once I got used to it. The two things that bothered me interrupted flow of the story, which getting into the story is the point of reading for me. 1)Not identifying who was talking bothered me. Often a two person conversation would banter back and forth where each new paragraph or line was the next person. By the time I got to the end of the conversation it would be obvious that someone had talked twice and I was trying to assign a comment to the wrong person and I would have to go back and reread it to see where I missed the change. 2)Skipping from one story to another unrelated story and then back to the original for no reason. This seems to be a literary devise used by many of the best writers, but I just don't like it. There was more of this in the beginning of the book, which was why I liked the last third of the book best. However, the best example was at the beginning of Part 5 when Mantel inserted a random story about a widow in the middle of the story of their time in Calais. I realize the widow had some importance later, but she had nothing to do with Calais and distracted from that part of the story. 3)There were too many people to keep track of so I could have used to cast of characters at the beginning of each Part, rather than the long list at the beginning.
I found the writing about Liz's sudden illness and death to be quite profound. Two spots stood out to me. One when he was talking to Mercy and the other when he was thinking of the prospect of sleeping. Here are those two spots.
"She doesn't expect to make sense of it. He never expects to make any better sense of it than it makes now. He knows the whole of the New Testament by heart, but find a text: find a text for this."
"He feels he could almost sleep, but when he sleeps Liz Wykys comes back, cheerful and brisk, and when he wakes he has to learn the lack of her all over again."
**spoiler alert** I finished Silence Among the Weapons a few days ago. It was a good read, although not nearly as consistant as An Ice-cream War. Real...more**spoiler alert** I finished Silence Among the Weapons a few days ago. It was a good read, although not nearly as consistant as An Ice-cream War. Really got bogged down in the middle. I will give it 3 stars. In the middle I was quite sure it would not rise above 2 stars, but it finished strong. The main thing that gives An Ice-cream War the edge over Silence is believe-ability and a clear consistant plot. I don't expect complete realism in a novel, but holy cow!
Spoiler alert! I can't explain further without giving things away.
The idea that Ivory, Irene and their various assistants in the theatre would become involved in so many events and happen to be in the right place at the right time is just obsurd. Irene being able to pull off sleeping with the three major military generals of the known world? Nobody is that lucky and atractive, no matter how cunning. She remains loyal to Strychnine the whole time. And nobody figures this out? Her asistant is an invinceable warrior who ends up being the personal gaurd and saving the life of mule-drivers. Even though he hates him and wants to kill him for Irene, but doesn't for no good reason. Horsefury is entirely too skilled a fighter to be believeable. And how does Cuttlefish become the fortune teller for Mule-Driver?
My real issue though is with Ivory. He was way too weak a main charictor when he was in the shadow of Irene and Cuttlefish. I would like to see this story rewriten from Irene's perspective. The novel gained some strength when he got out from under their control. Then the strong part of the novel was plagued by crazy connections. Ivory gets captured by pirates that just happen to remember him from their Ephesus escape and then the pirates just happen to be in the right place to help Mule-Driver. Later he comes to Lanuvium destitute and just happens to find Roscius.
And those are just the biggest convenient happenings. Don't even get me started on the notched penny people. Here's an idea. Take a penny, hammer, sharp object and make your own dammed notched penny. And if these notched penny people are everywhere and everybody knows about them and wants to be part of them, why can't they take over the world?
I did find it interesting where this fits in history. Several hundred years after the Democratic Spartins, Thermopilia etc. And just 100 years before Jesus. As well as all the overt sexuality and violence as part of every day life. There were a lot of compeling stories in this book and I fear my review focuses mainly on the negative. In the end it was certainly worth reading. Especially, if you can suspend reality more than I.
1. It is a very well writen book and easily gets 5 stars for that and many other reasons. A book everybody should read.
2. The first third of this book was the creepiest thing I've ever read. Nobody in the book yet knows about the final solution, but I do. They just think, ok Germany has concured Poland so we expect some hardship. Then at various times they say ok, this is as bad as it will get. The writer does an excellent job of making it feel as creepy as it should.
3.This might be just me, but I can't help thinking of this book in religious terms. Schindler does not sound like a religous man, so Keneally rightly does not focus on this, but I must. It reminds me of a message I hear often in church. That God calls us all to be his hands and feet. He uses fallible, imperfect human beings. Here is an unremarkable man who is an adulterer throughout his life, bribes people to get his way and drinks to excess every day. And yet this non-practicing Catholic between 1939 and 1945, this very flawed human being saves over 1200 lives, risking his own life and squandering his fortune. For his trouble he is jailed four times, including once by the French while fleeing for his life after the war is over. Imagine what could have happened if more people had listened to their conscious(Gods still small voice) and not the Nazi party line. (less)
Spoilers ahead. Looking back at it I think the writer wanted to show the real effects of war on normal people. Nobody gets what they want, if you don'...moreSpoilers ahead. Looking back at it I think the writer wanted to show the real effects of war on normal people. Nobody gets what they want, if you don't die you know somebody who does and things just arn't fair. The end is especially sad when one brother dies needlessly, right before he could have been rescued and the other brother is denied his revenge when a man dies of the flu, before the revenge can take place.
The main characters were; Two English brothers, one had a wife. An American with a farm in Africa and a family, A German with a farm in Africa and a family. It should not have taken half the book to get these 5 charicters developed and on their way to the war in Africa. Of these 5, 3 die and the remaining 2 generally go through many hardships, none of them brought about by their own doing. At least a dozen other important supporting charicters die along the way.
The author had one annoying habit. When it comes to the most important events of the book he just flat out skips them. An affair, brothers death, suicide, death by flu when the guy was healthy the page before. Then sometimes he spends the next 20 pages with a charicter describing what big event we missed, so sometimes you find out what happened. It was annoying and I never got the point of writing things that way. (less)
(spoilers) First, it was well written to the point where it felt like they were real people, not fictional. Second, why do so many writers tell you wh...more(spoilers) First, it was well written to the point where it felt like they were real people, not fictional. Second, why do so many writers tell you what should be the biggest event of the book on the first page? I would have liked to find out Olivia was going to run off with the Nawab as it unfolded. Tessie could have been going to India to find out what happened to her Grandfathers first wife without disclosing so much.
More thoughts... I would have liked to know a lot more about what Olivia was thinking. She described the Nawab as a force of nature and yet told her husband she loved him and was happy. One impersonal account of crying by a statue doesn't cut it. If she was writing this from Olivia's diary/letters then there should be more details. Was she torn between desire and love, or did she not have a problem with lying to her husband(morality anyone)? Did she regret her choice's or not? Or was she just unhappy that the doctor caught her? I realize she didn't have info after Olivia ran back to the Nawab, but before that surely she would have writen something down about her feelings. Her passing on of the information from Olivia's papers seemed oddly impersonal, like Olivia was emotionally disconnected from her own situation or is not a good narrator. That's why I didn't give this book a higher rating. (less)