Absolutely adored this novel, Dubois's second book, I believe. It's inspired by the Amanda Knox case (the same way that Curtis SittenfeARC for review.
Absolutely adored this novel, Dubois's second book, I believe. It's inspired by the Amanda Knox case (the same way that Curtis Sittenfeld was inspired by the life of Laura Bush for the wonderful American Wife), and for some that may turn them away from this book, but that would be an incredible shame, as the book stands so solidly on its own.
Dubois's "Amanda" is Lily Hayes, a lovely, smart, middle-class and, ultimately, complicated college student and she and her roommate Katy Kellers are studying in Argentina, not Italy. This is an excellent choice for several reasons - there's the undercurrent of the country's history as well as references to current, mild political unrest, and for those reasons, and many others, I think that Argentina (and likely all South American countries) just feels more "foreign" to most Americans when compared with the countries of Western Europe, which we often except to be offshoots of America with more trains and Euros. Anyway, the setting (and Dubois does a fabulous job with making Buenos Aires seem mysterious, gritty and rather forbidding) adds to the general tone of unease that exists throughout the book. When the story begins, Lily's father and sister are making their way to Buenos Aires to try to make sense of the murder charges levied against Lily and the story is told from three different perspectives in present day (Lily's father, Eduardo Campos, the prosecutor and the "Raffaele Sollecito" stand-in, the fabulous Sebastien LeCompte) and from the recollections of Lily and Sebastien in flashback.
Ah, Sebastien LeCompte - do not confuse this boy with Amanda's pallid boyfriend from Perugia. He's brilliant, haunted, childish and thoroughly intriguing (and often not half so smart as he thinks he is). Lily and Katy live with a host couple in a house next door to the crumbling, Havisham-esque mansion inhabited solely by the orphaned LeCompte. Sebastien's parents (spies or some other type of operative) died in a mysterious plane crash just as he was leaving his American prep school on the way to Harvard; Sebastien returned to the family home and has remained ever since - he hardly ever goes out and sees no one. He's a beautifully drawn character - when interviewed by Eduardo, the prosecutor notes "[he] knew by now that there was no tonal variation between sincerity and irony when Sebastien LeCompte talked, and he could tell that this strange speech characteristic-this sort of semantic monotone-was deep and ubiquitous and actually authentic to him," (3967) and, perhaps, this describes both Sebastien's speech and character.
Eduardo is also an often intriguing, if occasionally maddening character as he wrestles with moral concessions both at work and at home: "He had heard a line once that had stayed with him, both for its elegance and its wrongness: It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that He need not exist in order to save us. Where had Eduardo heard that quote? He did not know, but he knew he did not believe it. The way to assure morality on Earth was not to behave as though there was a God, even if there wasn't-it was to behave as though there was no God, even if there was. We must act as though ours is all the judgment and forgiveness that is ever forthcoming, if we want any hope of getting it right." (4977)
Sebastien meets Lily and Katy and begins to spend time with Lily (likely better suited to him than the tepid, but beautiful Katy, since she's capable of verbally sparring with him in a way that appears to be one of his few entertainments). Lily's life in BA is not always easy - she's often annoyed by Katy, she clashes with her host mother, her classes are uninspiring, and, eventually so is Buenos Aires. And while Sebastien and Eduardo are fascinating characters, the story is also clearly Lily's.
In some ways, the story mirrors that of Knox - Lily gets a job in a bar and a sketchy co-employee may be involved in Katy's murder, but it's more layered, more interesting and incredibly well-presented here. There are a very few issues (it makes sense that Sebastien speaks perfect English, but Eduardo Campos and mainly other characters speak far better English than they should) and they detract not at all from this wonderful book.
Loved this enjoyable look at various aspects of Christian pop culture. Radosh is incredibly witty and if you've ever seen all those "WWJD" bracelets,Loved this enjoyable look at various aspects of Christian pop culture. Radosh is incredibly witty and if you've ever seen all those "WWJD" bracelets, "Saved" t-shirts and the like, you'll be fascinated by this look at the money and the business of tchotkes and junk directed toward fundamentalist Christians (and how it differs, and doesn't, from other segments of the market). Not at all judgmental, just interesting and well-written. I will definitely look for more books from this author.
***Edited to add that I just read a review that my friend Elizabeth, a NYC Catholic posted and she mentioned that much of the subject matter was far from her world-view. I know that the fact I live in a rural, Southern area where there are at least as many Christian bookstores as other types lead to my fascination with the subject. In addition, our community there has been a rise in recent years in the number of people attending "big box" evangelical churches, and with this increase there has definitely been a larger influx of Radosh's "Jesus junk" that I see around town. ...more
I'm only about ten pages in, and I've already enjoyed it more than Mary Ingalls/Melissa Sue Anderson's whole stupid book!
It was interKindle for iPhone
I'm only about ten pages in, and I've already enjoyed it more than Mary Ingalls/Melissa Sue Anderson's whole stupid book!
It was interesting to read this, Melissa Gilbert's book and Melissa Sue Anderson's book in fairly close order. Arngrim hasn't had the career of Gilbert, but she comes across as the one you would most like to have a beer with. I had no knowledge of her abuse story, but she handles it very matter-of-factly (is that a word?) and with class. Her dislike of MSA just cracks me up, especially after slogging through Anderson's abysmal book. Well worth reading for LHotP (TV) fans.
Re-read May 2011 during a marathon of LHOP on the Hallmark Channel while recovering from surgery. ...more
Tough to read, and incredibly depressing - this is a classic of post-apocalyptic fiction and I'm glad to have read it - divided into three parts (likeTough to read, and incredibly depressing - this is a classic of post-apocalyptic fiction and I'm glad to have read it - divided into three parts (like Gaul) and to relate much more would be spoiling (I was quite disappointed that a main character did not reappear at the end). While the themes aren't at all out of date, some of the science is, of course (and the history unless it completely repeated itself, down to location). I also think I might have gotten a bit more out of it were I Catholic or if I knew some Latin.
I'm sure I'll be thinking about it for awhile, and not in a good way. If you enjoyed The Road try this one. If you hated The Road run far, far away.
Definitely NOT an easy read, but it still gets five stars for the beauty of the writing, the ambition of the narrative and(William Weaver translation)
Definitely NOT an easy read, but it still gets five stars for the beauty of the writing, the ambition of the narrative and for making the Reader the protagonist. I marked quotes in this book so many times, and generally they were about reading, why we love it, and why it matters. If you are tempted, know that it is written in the second person, and contains fragments of ten (I think) other books, but all are tied to a primary story in a remarkable way.
I was hooked from the very beginning, with Calvino's classifications of books found at a bookstore:
"In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven't Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn't Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out: the Books You've Been Planning To Read for Ages, the Books You've Been Hunting For Years Without Success, the Books Dealing With Something You're Working On At The Moment, the Books You Want To Own So They'll Be Handy Just In Case, the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer, the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves, the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified. Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time to Reread and the Books You've Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It's Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them. With a zigzag dash you shake them off and leap straight into the citadel of the New Books Whose Author Or Subject Appeals To You. Even inside this stronghold you can make some breaches in the ranks of the defenders, dividing them into New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for you or in general) and New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you), and defining the attraction they have for you on the basis of your desires and needs for the new and the not new (for the new you seek in the not new and for the not new you seek in the new)."
Now, understand that this started on PAGE FIVE. I was in love immediately.
Other quotes I marked along the way:
" 'Reading,' he says, 'is always this: there is a thing that is there, a thing made of writing, a solid, material object, which cannot be changed, and through this thing we measure ourselves against something else that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible world, because it can only be thought, imagined, or because it was once and is no longer, past, lost, unattainable, in the land of the dead....' 'Or that is not present because it does not yet exist, something desired, feared, possible or impossible,' Ludmilla says. 'Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one knows what it will be...'" (p. 72)
"In this thin, transparent air I feel able to perceive in her unmoving form the signs of that invisible movement that reading is, the flow of gaze and breath, but, even more, the journey of the words through the person, their course or their arrest, their spurts, delays, pauses, the attention concentrating or straying, the returns, that journey that seems uniform and on the contrary is always shifting and uneven." (p. 169)
"You fasten your seatbelt. The plane is landing. To fly is the opposite of traveling; you cross a gap in space, you vanish into the void, you accept not being in any place for a duration that is itself a kind of void in time; then you reappear, in a place and in a moment with no relation to the where and the when in which you vanished. Meanwhile, what do you do? How do you occupy this absence of yourself from the world and of the world from you? You read; you do not raise your eyes from the book between one airport and the other, because beyond the page there is the void, and anonymity of stopovers, of the metallic uterus that contains you and nourishes you, of the passing crowd always different and always the same." (p. 210)...more