This was one of the two outstanding books that I've read in the past year or so, along with Cutting for Stone. Beautiful writing, but unlike some book...moreThis was one of the two outstanding books that I've read in the past year or so, along with Cutting for Stone. Beautiful writing, but unlike some books that seem to be focused on great prose, I really enjoyed the story. It built to an extremely emotional ending. I didn't cry, but the room was pretty dusty. (less)
This book is about the most thrilling game that I've ever seen, which was won by my all-time favorite sports team (yes, I'm a Duke fan; please don't h...moreThis book is about the most thrilling game that I've ever seen, which was won by my all-time favorite sports team (yes, I'm a Duke fan; please don't hold that against me). It goes behind the scenes with many characters from the golden days of my sports fandom, focusing on my favorite sport of those golden days. If any book had an easy path to a five star rating, it was this one. Yet I only give it four.
That's right, this is an almost entirely negative four star review. There are a lot of problems with this book. I'll touch on a couple, but really the biggest problem is that the author bit off more than he could chew. Or perhaps, he bit off more than his editor would allow him to chew.
The author sets out to give meaningful background regarding all of the key players, coaches and administrators involved in that game. He also touches on other great teams of that era (most notably, UNLV and Michigan). And he does so in 291 pages. Simply impossible. To do that, he'd need literally twice that number. Or, alternately, he could cut back on much of the extraneous material, including some of Duke's '90 and '91 seasons. I really think the book should have focused much more on just the one game itself.
Second complaint - this book does very little to describe actual basketball. If you had never seen Christian Laettner, Jamal Mashburn or Bobby Hurley play, you'd learn nothing of their playing styles from reading the book (though you would learn a bunch about their personalities/work ethics, etc.).
Third, the book is subtitled "Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball." Yet it did nothing to explain how it changed basketball.
OK, all of those negatives out, this book really took me back. I loved Duke. I really loved watching Bobby Hurley play. And I remember this game vividly. I remember reclining on my family's fuzzy brown lazy boy while my parents were out at a party or dinner. I remember spooning down a near-bottomless bowl of cookies and cream. I remember the intensity of the game being almost overwhelming. I remember being filled with adrenaline. I remember Laettner placing his foot on Timberlake (c'mon, "stomp" is a bit much). I remember Woods's floater pulled straight out of his butt. I remember being utterly despondent. And I remember running like a wild Banshee through my house when the shot went in. I must have re-watched the shot fifty times that night alone. It was truly the best that sports can give. Oh, and I remember Coach K's class throughout. I really loved that.
So in sum, the great game, and the great age of college hoops, redeem the book and help it overcome its inherent flaws. Certainly a recommended read.(less)
As part of my life of semi-literacy, I had never heard of Ruth Rendell until she was mentioned as a favorite of Joe Queenan's in One For The Books. I...moreAs part of my life of semi-literacy, I had never heard of Ruth Rendell until she was mentioned as a favorite of Joe Queenan's in One For The Books. I made a note of her, and picked up a book containing three of her novels the next time I was in the local bedbug factory library. I saw that this book was one of her more popular titles, and gave it a shot. In all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.
As others have noted, it isn't a spoiler to disclose that the illiterate maid kills the family because she is illiterate. Rendell tells you that in the opening line. And while that disclosure does do something to take away from any sort of suspense, the book stands on its enjoyable prose and intriguing characters. To be clear, though, I wouldn't call this a mystery.
First, a note on the prose: Rendell writes in a very lithe, British way (no, I don't really know what I mean when I say that). You feel that you are in England from the start. And while I don't normally get caught up in good writing, the following fairly nondescript paragraph just delighted me:
"'If there's one thing I've taught Eunice,' her mother used to say, 'it's to tell right from wrong.' It was a gabbled cliche, as automatic as the quacking of a duck but less meaningful. The Parchmans were not given to thinking before they spoke, or indeed to thinking much at all."
Don't know why, but that tickled me. And throughout the book, Rendell's turns of phrase made me smile.
The second reason to read the book is for the fantastic character development. Eunice and Joan are both remarkable, and everyone knows a hundred people that share at least some of the characteristics that these two psychopaths display. But the crime victims aren't heroes either - every character shows some level of despicability, usually based at least in part on their varying levels of vanity.
My final comment on the book is that, as an American lawyer (humblebrag, anyone?), I simply couldn't take my eyes of the spelling of "Judgement" in the title. Again, how delightfully British. Cheerio! (less)