Easily the best book I've read this year. Extremely ambitious and perfectly executed. Makes me wish Ash and LaMotte were real so I could read more ofEasily the best book I've read this year. Extremely ambitious and perfectly executed. Makes me wish Ash and LaMotte were real so I could read more of their poetry.
Some of the plot twists were not as surprising as they were perhaps supposed to be. But then maybe they weren't really supposed to be surprising. Byatt does call the novel "a romance" and plays with that concept both within the narrative and in some meta moments. She uses it to draw all the elements along in a way that feels so destined. Fight against destiny they may, but her characters all seem to succumb - in interesting ways, at least.
I loved: - Roland and Maud's shared vision of a "white bed" - The Fairy Melusine - Leonora Stern - Blackadder's shame about his TV performance - The hilarious journal of Sabine de Kercoz - The cats (obviously)
This novel was hilarious, thoughtful, and brilliantly arranged.
It's rare that a book makes me laugh out loud, but it happened a lot during Alex's parThis novel was hilarious, thoughtful, and brilliantly arranged.
It's rare that a book makes me laugh out loud, but it happened a lot during Alex's parts in the first half. Especially the potato falling on the floor. The humor gave way to melancholy as the book progressed. It drew me in and moved me - but in a thoughtful way rather than an emotional way. If that makes sense.
The construction of the meta-fiction element was brilliant. As a narrator, Alex acts, writes about his action, discusses how his (and Jonathan's) writing has changed what actually took place, and, throughout, changes as an actor based on this process. We only hear Jonathan's commentary through Alex's letters, but his own narrative changes throughout the process, and his actions (as seen in Alex's narrative) change as well. Thoughtful, meaningful, action-driven meta-fiction. I don't know if I've seen it work this way - or even similarly - in any other book.
I also don't know if I've ever read a book that was more successful in illuminating themes through multiple, varied narratives - not just different narrators, but vastly different styles, tones, characters, and settings that seem to have been selected precisely for their ability to add nuance, contrast, thought, or clarity to the wide range of themes. Memory, artistic liberty, cultural history, truth, the (im)possibility of forgiveness, inheritance, loneliness, and, hugely, love echo and shift through the entire novel, bouncing off the different narrative forms and characters.
I can't believe how long this book sat on my shelf. And I'm looking forward to reading it again. ...more
Brilliant. Charles Arrowby is the perfect sympathetic a--hole. The setting is enchanting, the supporting cast members are interesting and real. I enjoBrilliant. Charles Arrowby is the perfect sympathetic a--hole. The setting is enchanting, the supporting cast members are interesting and real. I enjoyed Charles' searching for literary form in the early part of the novel.
The Hartley plot seems central but somehow isn't. It holds things together, but much more interesting things happen between Charles and James, Charles and Titus, Charles and Peregrine, Charles and Lizzie. This feels intentional. The whole book manages to feel at once spontaneous (even sloppy) and meticulously intentional.
It's about ego (as any fictional memoir is like to be), love, connections, relationships, mystery, aging, change, time, and (of course) the sea.
An absolutely beautiful novel about family, home, predestination, the possibility or impossibility of redemption, and so much more. I suspected afterAn absolutely beautiful novel about family, home, predestination, the possibility or impossibility of redemption, and so much more. I suspected after reading Housekeeping and now know for sure that Marilynne Robinson is my favorite author. There are many moments when her prose seems to reach into me and pull out something I didn't know was there.
While most of the story centers around Jack and Glory's reactions to him, I was drawn to Glory herself. A quiet, sad woman who seems remorsefully obligated to carry the weight of her family. A woman who loves deeply and whose kindness knows no bounds. Her tenderness to her brother was heartbreaking, especially because of her sense of its eternal inefficacy.
I wish Marilynne Robinson wrote more, but if this is the pace she has to work at to produce this kind of brilliance, so be it. My words can't even come close to doing it justice. ...more
This epic spans generations but centers around the life of the fascinating Father Damien. Every aspect of his story is compelling, as are the journeysThis epic spans generations but centers around the life of the fascinating Father Damien. Every aspect of his story is compelling, as are the journeys into the lives of other characters on the reservation. Erdrich deftly balances depth and breadth to create a vast yet intricately detailed and rich web of personalities, relationships, and histories. The tension between Catholicism and traditional Ojibwe spirituality is explored poignantly without demonizing either side.
Erdrich writes with a powerful, vivid clarity and characterizes her subjects with such depth and truth that I cannot wait to read the rest of her novels. I enjoyed Love Medicine a few months ago and was thrilled to see many of the same characters in this novel.
In the end notes, she thanks Paybomibiness (Dennis Jones), who taught at the University of Minnesota while I was a student there and spoke to my American Indian philosophies class about Ojibwe spirituality. He was fascinating and funny....more
Margaret Atwood's Surfacing has long been a favorite, and I decided to read it again as 2013 comes to a close to help me end the year on a good note.
IMargaret Atwood's Surfacing has long been a favorite, and I decided to read it again as 2013 comes to a close to help me end the year on a good note.
I love this book for so many reasons. Here are a few:
- I, too, often feel extremely disconnected from my body and my feelings.
- I totally understand the narrator's hatred of Americans, as representatives of the kind of brutality that human beings should but usually don't grow out of as they become adults.
- The imagery is so vivid. I can see that cabin, and especially its garden.
- Atwood does a perfect job of blending the past and the present. It feels so real, the way one moment sparks a memory - almost like the memory is a transparency laid over the present.
- Misinterpretations abound. There's a lot here about the falseness of narrative, of using words to describe and understand reality. Yet it obviously is a narrative. And a really, really good one.
What struck me this time is how little I know about Canada. I have never even thought about Canada's role in WWII (not that I do a whole lot of thinking about war in specifics - just in general: bad). I had no idea there were actual attacks in Canada during the war. Surfacing doesn't go into this too much, but it's there.
Another thing I focused on this time is the becoming-her-mother theme. Cooking dinner and cleaning up, feeding the jays, observing the others. Her brief break with reality (or maybe brief encounter with actual reality), including her long nap in the afternoon, looks like her mother's down times, out of which she always eventually emerged. That connection then predicts a return rather than a true, final break.
The main thing I love about this book is its richness. You can look at it from any angle, at any time, and it yields so much. It's a compact, perfect thing....more