Anyone thinking that this is a nice cozy English village type of mystery should back off quickly. Agatha Raisin is grumpy without being the least bit...moreAnyone thinking that this is a nice cozy English village type of mystery should back off quickly. Agatha Raisin is grumpy without being the least bit likeable, and the whole book has a sour, unpleasant tone. After I started it I remembered having tried another book in the series once and not liking it, but I decided to give this one a go. That was a mistake.
The only good thing I can say of it is that it centers on a middle-aged woman and deals with the concerns of people aged 50+ without dragging in any young sprites to appeal to a wide audience. But reading two books in a series and disliking both (actually, I don't remember whether I finished the other one) is giving the author the maximum benefit of the doubt. I'll be steering clear of Ms. Raisin again.(less)
Terrific first novel set in New York in 1938. The narrator begins her story in 1966, when she sees two photos of a man called Tinker Grey in an exhibi...moreTerrific first novel set in New York in 1938. The narrator begins her story in 1966, when she sees two photos of a man called Tinker Grey in an exhibition at a museum. In one he looks prosperous, well-fed, and elegant, and in the other he looks poor, gaunt, and shabby. Her husband assumes that the first picture was taken later than the second, and that Grey had recovered from whatever bad times he had been having. No, the narrator says, it was the other way around . . .
From there we go back to 1938 and the first time she met Grey. The action covers the entire year, from New Year's Eve to late December, with postscripts that tell what happened to each of the main characters thereafter. All through the book, I was thinking, "So what happened to Grey? He's rich, handsome, and successful for most of the book. What turned him into the scruffy character he was in the second photo?"
No spoilers, of course. All I'll say is that the story is an interesting twist to the familiar Gatsby tale. It also made me wonder how accurately I saw and understood the things going on in my own life (you'll understand that if you read the book). Towles is a real writer. His is the most elegant prose I've read in quite some time.
So, two thumbs up for this one. The book is, among other things, a love story about New York, so it will help if you're Gotham-friendly. But this is a worthwhile and entertaining novel for anyone.(less)
I'm giving this five stars because it was eventually very compelling, but, unlike the first three HP books, it took a long time to get going.
This is t...moreI'm giving this five stars because it was eventually very compelling, but, unlike the first three HP books, it took a long time to get going.
This is the most Harry-centric of the first four books; we see little of the familiar secondary characters like McGonagall, Neville, and even Hagrid. The new characters introduced in the book drive most of the action.
This is the midpoint of the series--three books before, three books after--so the events in it are (I suppose) critical to the series as a whole. I was surprised that the climax (which lasts a looooooong time, given that the book is 700 pp) was pretty violent--not something I'd have expected in a book aimed at kids.
I think that the last three books in the series will affect the way I think about the earlier books, so I'll have to reserve further judgment until I finish them.(less)
It's odd--the previous Pym I read in my chronological reread is a book (An Unsuitable Attachment) that I remembered liking much more than I did this t...moreIt's odd--the previous Pym I read in my chronological reread is a book (An Unsuitable Attachment) that I remembered liking much more than I did this time around. With The Sweet Dove Died, it's the opposite--I disliked it, and approached this reread with apprehension, but in the end I enjoyed it quite a bit.
The problem with Dove is the heroine (or protagonist), Leonora Eyre. Cold, vain, pretentious, and snobbish, she is completely unlike the leading women in Pym's other books. It may have been the shock of the character so confounding my expectations that lead me to dislike it--perhaps I kept expecting her to show some likeable qualities, and when she didn't, I didn't know how to take the book.
This time, knowing full well that I was going to dislike Leonora, I was able to read the book without constantly trying to fit her into the archtype I usually encounter in Pym's books. In other words, instead of trying to sympathize with her, I saw her as the rather ridiculous character she is, and laughed at her. I think that's what Pym intended.
But underneath the comedy is sadness. Pym's heroines almost never have children and, as they age along with their author, they seem increasingly to fasten on a child-substitute (Sophia Ainger and her cat Faustina in Unsuitable Attachment; Leonora and James in Dove). Something is missing in their lives, and they can't find a way of filling it.(less)
Reread this for the first time in may years. It wasn't as good as my memory of it, largely because the character John was so barely sketched. Although...moreReread this for the first time in may years. It wasn't as good as my memory of it, largely because the character John was so barely sketched. Although Ianthe is the focus, I think we need to know more about the man she comes to love than we get. Still, an enjoyable read.(less)