Ok, maybe part of the problem was that it took me forever to read this tiny novella. But that's just a cyclical excuse: it took me forever to read thi...moreOk, maybe part of the problem was that it took me forever to read this tiny novella. But that's just a cyclical excuse: it took me forever to read this tiny novella because I didn't enjoy it all that much.
I understand that "unreliable narrator" is a literary device used in some of the greatest literature of all time. But "unreliable narrator" shouldn't (couldn't/can't!/mustn't!) be confused for "insufferable narrator" or "insensitive, conceded, self-obsessed narrator." Or, ultimately, "unsympathetic narrator." And of course that's probably Barnes' point, really. But what is to keep the reader interested if all you have is this narrator, his ramblings and wanderings, and very little plot?
Ok, the ending packs a one-two punch. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by the twist (although it wasn't so totally surprising, I mean come on: MILF!) and a little happy to have the "unreliable narrator" get slapped out of his head and into reality (although also a little sad cause poor guy, right?).
BUT this is my #1 pet peeve about storytelling (books, movies, whatever): don't try to win me over in the last 5 pages with cleaver plot twists, humanizing your previously-unlikable characters, and well crafted prose that ties the rest of the book together with a nice little bow. If you can only manage 5 pages of driving plot, engaging writing, interesting character exposition (etc.), write short stories. I'm not going to change my vote based on how you bring it home!!
1 2 of 5 stars. Ugh, well ok. Maybe I will a little bit. Damn you Barnes!!(less)
**spoiler alert** Bought this while at a conference in Southampton, apparently right down the road from Nicholls' hometown.
The only surpris...more**spoiler alert** Bought this while at a conference in Southampton, apparently right down the road from Nicholls' hometown.
The only surprising or interesting aspect of this book for me was the revelation that the One Day (15 July) was not significant as an anniversary of Emma and Dexter's meeting, but rather the anniversary of Emma's death. One glimmer of decent writing here: "[Will add next time the book is in front of me.]"
So, one extra star for that little morsel. But otherwise it was only a vaguely entertaining, bit of fluff. Quick reading.
The book was focused on Dexter. Where Emma was discussed, engaged or used as the narrator, she was mainly placed as relative to Dexter. This was unfortunate as I found Dexter to be an unsympathetic, unappealing oaf. Typical RomCom fodder-- attractive but screwed up male lead placed as the ultimate desire of the interesting, dynamic, passionate woman. Emma's willingness to always drop everything for Dexter is pathetic and dispiriting. It makes me crazy when woman are portrayed as the saviors of loser guys.
Ugh, I'm getting riled up... thinking about this anymore will make me really start hate myself for wasting my free time on this one.
I have no interest in the movie. Anne Hathaway only ever seems able to play Anne Hathaway.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book is basically impossible to rate. How do you give a star value to something that assaults you? The downward spiral of menta...more**spoiler alert** This book is basically impossible to rate. How do you give a star value to something that assaults you? The downward spiral of mental and physical health. The brutal racism. The awkwardness and sadness of a woman's failed attempts at emancipation. All physically moving but oh so depressing.
And then there is the problem of under development. While the literary presentation of the "downward spiral" is masterful, I found the development of the characters lacking (usually besides Mary, although even she lacked some depth and a lack of individual awareness at times). In particular, the Dick of chapter 1 isn't aligned with the Dick of chapter 11. Aspects of Charlie seem incongruous and where he is left to narrate motivations and thought processes seem almost schizophrenic. And the you Englishman seemed tacked on, brought in at the last moment of writing as an attempt at explicit moral ambiguity. But in actuality, he doesn't really provide us with much more insight and is really only a passing character.
Moses, on the other had, is masterful (although are we to believe that revenge is enough for him? No other motivations, no desire to live beyond the events of the book? Is he so resigned?). Forget Mary, he is the mystery, he is driving the plot! (And yet he only gets a name 2/3rds of the way through?)
Although, on reflection, Mary is clearly hallucinating by the end... Without the opening chapter, I might have thought it was suicide.
Definitely would classify as "horror."
I still think the pacing was problematic.
Re-reading the quotes at the beginning after finishing was heart-stopping. (less)
Never particularly interested in war novels, picked this up for an upcoming book club. But wow, I was dragged into and through it. Couldn't put it dow...moreNever particularly interested in war novels, picked this up for an upcoming book club. But wow, I was dragged into and through it. Couldn't put it down for days. Awful things happening every 10 pages but somehow, like the characters, you adapt and push on, absorbing the feeling and the emotions of the characters. Demonstrates so clearly the desperation, endlessness, hopelessness of war and how the entire world changes when you become so deeply involved in the day-to-day fighting and surviving. (less)
Quick and enjoyable enough read. Little depth but interesting characters. Was horrified by the fact that just about everyone was cheating on their spo...moreQuick and enjoyable enough read. Little depth but interesting characters. Was horrified by the fact that just about everyone was cheating on their spouse or partner. Totally dysfunctional. This vision if humanity was depressing. Will just assume that these portraits are far from truisms or at least can only be attributed to journalists.
Wish I was more familiar with Rome so I could better picture and appreciate all of the geographical name dropping. (less)
The historical fiction aspects kept me coming back, but the rest? Convoluted, directionless drudgery. And this is meant to be his best? After "Hardboi...moreThe historical fiction aspects kept me coming back, but the rest? Convoluted, directionless drudgery. And this is meant to be his best? After "Hardboiled" I was so excited and now I just need a break.(less)
I pondered what to rate this page turner and decided that the following items should cost one star: 1) The characters don...more3 for 2 at Waterstones. Check.
I pondered what to rate this page turner and decided that the following items should cost one star: 1) The characters don't have much depth. Just because this is a YA novel doesn't excuse this. 2) The characters are def lacking in emotional intelligence and a reasonable sense of human behavior, at least human behavior outside if their own heads. I did wonder if this was, in fact, a strength rather than a weakness-- as I remember during my own teen age years, I definitely came up short on these dimensions. It could be that Collins has nailed writing teenagers! Still, good fiction need not only be a mirror-- it can also teach. 3) I wanted more... and here I mean re: the plot rather than the character development. I felt like Collins barely scraped the surface of the social experiment of the Games. 3b, I guess, but also related to 1, 2) Most of the time we are in Katniss' head as she engages her own actions rather than gaining insight into what all of this means about humanity in the world Collins creates. I was really surprised by how few interactions there were amongst the Tributes both before and during the Games. And Katniss is not a particularly insightful or reliable narrator when it comes to any of the other characters-- the whole book is one big soliloquy and the character Katniss gives us very limited perspective on what is going on around her. It seemed like an opportunity lost. It could have been so much more.
All of that said, I enjoyed the book (hence the 4 stars). The story was driving with rarely a dull moment. The concept is smart and terrifying. And frightened as I was by the Stephanie Meyer quotes praising the book on the front, back and (!)spine(!), the writing wasn't awful! I merely sensed that Collins was capable of more.
We'll see if she steps it up in the sequel. (less)