I may come back later and bump this up to 5 stars -- I really enjoyed the story and Winterson's gorgeous writing.
Well, describing this one is going to...moreI may come back later and bump this up to 5 stars -- I really enjoyed the story and Winterson's gorgeous writing.
Well, describing this one is going to take some doing . . .
Set in England, the story jumps back and forth between the 1600s and the 1990s (or thereabouts). We see moments in the lives of various characters: the Dog Woman, a coarse giant of a woman who is continually reforming her murderous ways; Jordan, her son, who she found floating in the Thames; Nicholas Jordan, a naval cadet; as well as various characters from myths and fairy tales.
The story is structured so that it moves back and forth through time, sometimes with the characters meeting and interacting in ways that would be impossible in reality. The narrative skips from one person to the next, and the reader needs to pay close attention in order to tell which character is narrating.
The main themes seem to be time and love -- there is a lot of heartbreak in this book, people who are unable to express the love they feel, as well as people who turn their backs on the love they've been given.
From the book:
As I drew my ship out of London I knew I would never go there again. For a time I felt only sadness, and then, for no reason, I was filled with hope. The future lies ahead like a glittering city, but like the cities of the desert disappears when approached. In certain lights it is easy to see the towers and the domes, even the people going to and fro. We speak of it with longing and with love. The future. But the city is a fake. The future and the present and the past exist only in our minds, and from a distance the borders of each shrink and fade like the borders of hostile countries seen from a floating city in the sky. The river runs from one country to another without stopping. And even the most solid of things and the most real, the best-loved and the well-known, are only hand-shadows on the wall. Empty space and points of light.
My favorite character -- not just here, but in all of the recent books I've read -- is the Dog Woman. She is so authentically herself, even though she is completely aware of being unlike anyone else. She isn't ashamed of her massive size -- she views herself as strong and powerful. There is a funny scene towards the end of the book where she relates the only time she slept with a man -- it's vulgar and hysterical, especially because she finds herself bemused by the man's assertion that she is just too LARGE; to her, she is exactly the right size and she has absolutely no idea what he's talking about.
I'm not really sure what to make of this book. I found it lighter and funnier than A Handful of Dust, but I didn't enjoy it quite as well. I think mos...moreI'm not really sure what to make of this book. I found it lighter and funnier than A Handful of Dust, but I didn't enjoy it quite as well. I think most of the satire just went right over my head; I really am pure American -- although I usually enjoy British humour, I identified more easily with the overly sincere and gauche American characters than with the British ones. Too bad, because I have the sense that it's probably riotously funny if you "get" it.(less)
This is probably more like a 3.5 star book for me, but the writing was very good and the story interesting enough to round it up rather than down.
On i...moreThis is probably more like a 3.5 star book for me, but the writing was very good and the story interesting enough to round it up rather than down.
On it's surface, this is the story of Henry Walker (view spoiler)[ -- raised with wealth, but living in poverty; born white, but living as a black man during the 1950s; a brilliant magician who cannot do any magic tricks; a man who has lost everyone he ever loved, but who is surrounded by those who love him . . . (hide spoiler)] Henry is a study in contrasts and contradictions.
Henry's story is told by those who know and love him, but their recollections are based solely on what Henry himself has told them. This makes for a very intricate narration, which doles out just a bit of information at a time. We don't really know the truth of Henry's life until the end of the book,(view spoiler)[ and even then we can't be completely sure about what has actually happened. (hide spoiler)]
This really isn't the kind of book where you start at point A, then continue until you reach point B, etc. It's more like immersing yourself in someone else's life, experiencing the events as dreams rather than as facts. This could be frustrating if you prefer a more linear narrative.
I felt the style of the book worked well with the theme of magic -- it works to misdirect our attention and lead us to believe we know something, when all along it was something else.
More than anything, this is a story of loss -- the loss of family, love, even the loss of self. Henry's loss is profound, and defines who he is. All in all, a haunting book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I LOVED this book -- loved it, loved it, loved it.
Got this from a GR friend, then took nearly a year (or more?) to get around to reading...moreOh. My. Gosh.
I LOVED this book -- loved it, loved it, loved it.
Got this from a GR friend, then took nearly a year (or more?) to get around to reading it -- better late than never, right?
It's hard to categorize this book (or even to know who would really enjoy it) -- it isn't funny in the way most people would enjoy; most of the characters are unconventional, even unlikable; and the story meanders quite a bit. In short, it definitely isn't the sort of thing you read every day -- but I'm a big fan of weird, so the odder it got, the more I enjoyed it.
Jerome Coe is like the Angel of Death for any woman he falls in love with (and, boy, does he fall in love easy -- he doesn't even have to know the girl, he can fall in love with just the idea of her -- and we're talking obsessive stalkery love, here).
He has debilitating mental issues -- hallucinations and breaks with reality -- that keep him rotating in and out of mental institutions. For whatever reason -- and I don't think it's ever made clear -- Jerome is just emotionally fragile, and completely unable to cope with life.
Despite his ongoing problems, Jerome has a certain amount of charm -- he's sweet, even if he is unstable, and he constantly struggles to do what he feels is the right thing. Unfortunately, Jerome's compulsion to do the right thing perpetually backfires, hurting those he cares about.
Most of the book takes place in New Orleans, where Jerome goes to make a fresh start. He falls in and out of love/obsession, and in and out of sanity, but the book really starts to gel when people from his past re-enter his life -- he also develops a new crush, which will affect his life in a very profound way.
Part of the story does seem unnecessary, although it sets a mood and helps reinforce Jerome as an ineffectual and doomed person. Some of what seems unnecessary does come into play later in the book, some of it doesn't. That's probably my only complaint with the book.
For me, the strongest part of the book was (view spoiler)[ the description of Jerome's stay in an institution in New Orleans. This part was bleak and brutal -- it was difficult to read, and I felt it might be an accurate depiction of life for disenfranchised patients. Jerome's abuse at the hands of his doctor was chilling, and I felt sick at the revelation that the doctor had been transferred to a juvenile ward. Although a small part of the book, I felt it was extremely powerful. (hide spoiler)]
I've seen this compared to A Confederacy of Dunces -- it's been a while since I've read it, but I think both books have that same gritty, sweaty, N.O. vibe. So if you enjoyed one, you just might like the other, too.
I have to say up front, I was initially charmed, then skeeved, by this book -- I really didn't think I could fini...moreHoo boy! This book is one crazy ride!
I have to say up front, I was initially charmed, then skeeved, by this book -- I really didn't think I could finish it. But I just wasn't going to let this book intimidate me, no sir. And you know what? I ended up LOVING it!
I read all these glowing reviews, and I just couldn't understand -- did these people read the same book I was reading?? Well, yeah, but they had pushed past the part that I got hung up on. And once I got past it, I could see what all the rave reviews were talking about.
Ohime is utterly adorable as the mutated starfish girl. She's naive and sweet, and she's got a secret that just might save the world. Timbre is an anemone badass who hasn't lost her faith in others -- she never had any faith to begin with. This pair is a definite odd couple, but you know that they will somehow manage to come to an understanding, and work together to save themselves.
This book reads like an action movie -- actually, anime would be more suitable. With a little tweaking, I could see this as a Miyazaki film -- and I would LOVE it!
Here's my sticking point -- which comes fairly early in the story. We're introduced to Ohime, and the tone is very playful, even though she finds herself in danger practically from the get go. Before too long, though, Ohime is in SERIOUS danger, and the descriptions here are just awful. I was really upset about the things that were going on, and I was very concerned for Ohime (even though I suspected she would be okay eventually). Why the extreme reaction? I'm not sure. Possibly the subject matter, which had a lot of graphic sexuality. Which is really my problem, not the author's.
But I mention it because I was honestly considering not finishing the book, due to my feelings about this one part. And I would encourage anyone who hits this point and has the same reaction to just stick with it! I promise it will be fine!
Once again, the Bizarro genre surprises me with the wonderful quality of the writing, and the inventiveness of the story and characters. I'm not sure where these hyper intelligent folks are coming from, but I'm just thrilled to be able to reap the benefits of their creative little brains.
Highly recommend, especially for fans of anime.(less)
How can you not like a story like this -- a bunch of middle class guys pool their resources to buy a racehorse. They're not rich, they're not used to...moreHow can you not like a story like this -- a bunch of middle class guys pool their resources to buy a racehorse. They're not rich, they're not used to the finer things in life, they just want the thrill of betting on their own horse, and maybe winning a buck or two while they're at it.
Add to the mix a trainer and jockey who both have come near but not quite made it to the top in long careers, and a horse with mediocre breeding and a few medical issues, and you've got the stuff of legend.
Funny Cide went on to do things no one imagined he could, and throughout it all his owners, trainers and jockey remained as down to earth and centered as they were when it all began.
This book is in-freakin-sane. In the best possible way. It's one of those...more**spoiler alert** (view spoiler)[
I got this on the bookswap -- thanks, Stef!
This book is in-freakin-sane. In the best possible way. It's one of those -- rare -- books that keeps you off kilter, almost from the first page. It starts off simply enough. We see Jenny, a 10 year old girl, exploring her neighborhood on a typical weekend or summer day, kind of like how things were when I grew up -- wake up, pack up your seriously unhealthy lunch of coke and slim jims (what can I say, it was the 70s), and take off for parts unknown on your bike, out on your own till dinner time or when the streetlights came on.
Very simple, very sweet.
But then you start to notice little details that seem . . . not quite right. Nothing big, at first. Just little things that made me wonder what the heck her parents were thinking. Maybe they were dealing with some bigger issues that prevented them from spending a little more time with their daughter or paying more attention to her?
Let me stop right there, because this story is really skillful at doling out the information, and that was one thing I liked so much about it.
There are two other story lines (possibly three, but one is kind of a throwaway) that eventually come together, and both of those have squirm inducing moments. I wouldn't say gratuitious, but definitely unpleasant, and not my usual subject matter. The other characters in the book are a serial killer and a bounty hunter, so you can imagine the twists this story takes.
Okay, so what didn't I like about it? Hmmmm . . . Well, for one, I suspect this is an uncorrected advance copy -- numerous spelling errors, and a few other minor issues. No big deal if you're buying this after it's been through final edits.
There were a few times when Jenny acts slightly younger than I would expect of a 10 year old -- my middle daughter is 9, and I can't imagine her or her friends wearing Hanna Montana sneakers or carrying an iCarly backpack. This could be a writer who isn't overly familiar with this age group -- unless the 10 year olds he or she knows are vastly different from the ones around here -- or it could be explained by the events in the book. Either way, it isn't terrible -- just something I noticed because I have kids around that age.
I didn't care at all for the serial killer character -- but I doubt I'm supposed to like him, so, again, not a big problem. Although I will say that there are brief flashes of charm that give you a glimpse into the sociopath's ability to disarm his victims.
Truthfully, though, it's down to nitpicking tiny details, because I really really liked this book. It's suspenseful and I couldn't predict what was going to happen next. I cared about the characters -- and what more can you ask from a book?
I'd love to see a sequel to this book, just to see where the characters end up later. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This kind of thing is right up my alley, so I knew going into it that I'd probably enjoy it. I didn't expect it to be so funny!
Christopher Dawes gets...moreThis kind of thing is right up my alley, so I knew going into it that I'd probably enjoy it. I didn't expect it to be so funny!
Christopher Dawes gets drawn into the mystery of Berenger Sauniere and Rennes-le-Chateau (for those who aren't familiar with the story, there's supposed to be a treasure -- possibly even the HOLY GRAIL ITSELF! -- hidden somewhere in Renne-le-Chateau in France) by his neighbor, former drummer for The Damned, Rat Scabies.
Scabies himself seems like either the greatest neighbor EVER . . . or possibly the neighbor from hell. Or possibly both, on alternating days. He invites himself over, refuses to take "no" for an answer, and generally stirs shit up, while Dawes just sits back and goes along for the ride.
And what a ride it is. The pair wander about England, Scotland and France in their quest to solve the mystery, making friends, wreaking havoc, and drinking lots and lots of wine.
And for not being professional researchers (well, okay, Dawes IS a writer, so I'm sure he knows a thing or two about research) or treasure hunters, they come up with some very interesting ideas and new information. Their conclusions are interesting, as well, and actually make a lot of sense.
Another reviewer mentions that having some illustrations would have added to the book, overall. I agree completely. I would have liked to have seen pictures of the guys and the friends they made along the way, photos of the various sites they visited, and maps of the routes they took. It really would have added to the story.
The only real quibble I have with the book was the ending. Something like this can never really be "finished", of course -- the mystery, not the solution, is the point. But there were so many questions that were raised and then left unanswered -- the author wrote at length about the crossroads he was at in his life, and how searching for his personal holy grail while outwardly seeking THE holy grail was a way for him to determine what he wanted out of life and where he was headed, but he never really reaches any conclusions.
I found this book to be surprisingly simple, even for a children's or young adult book. The writing is very straightforward, which is normally a plus...more
I found this book to be surprisingly simple, even for a children's or young adult book. The writing is very straightforward, which is normally a plus for me, but the ideas and themes have no complexity at all. There was one brief instant where one of the main characters, Eddie, stumbles upon a fairly profound idea -- this is emphasized in that moment, but, on the whole, that sort of reaching for a larger theme is disregarded. I did enjoy the framework of the story, which brings the reader full circle in a pretty nifty way, but the author doesn't use many interesting techniques like this.
As a book for adults, I would rate this 2 stars. As a kids' book, I'd probably give it 4 stars -- so I'm splitting the difference and giving it 3 stars. Even as a kids' book, it's still not as complex as I would have liked.(less)