Who knew that Truman Capote had written Breakfast at Tiffany's? Obviously, lots of people know this, but there were a numberhttp://tinyurl.com/zveeqhv
Who knew that Truman Capote had written Breakfast at Tiffany's? Obviously, lots of people know this, but there were a number in our book club who did not know, including me. It's just that I don't acquaint the person who wrote In Cold Blood with a dashing romp about high society, or at least something playing at being high society.
After finishing, I had to immediately watch the trailer for the movie again, to see how alike they were. They beef up the romance (quite a bit, in fact) but the funniest part is that the movie announcer can't say Capote's last name! You'd think someone in the studio would have noticed that...
I confess to not necessarily understanding all the words in this novella. I would need some education on the time and place to make sense of it all. It also doesn't seem to matter much. It's perfectly clear what kind of a girl our Ms. Holly Golightly is, and what it must have been like to live in her building, meet her friends, go on escapades with her, and then watch as things rather fall apart. I was disappointed at times that the language did not match the times, or at least the times as I think of them (Holly is, after all, a product of her upbringing, but still).
What I appreciate the most about Capote's writing is that he is a premier example of an excellent storyteller: tell us the basics, give us as little description as necessary, build up the mystery with only a few words, and leave us wondering how it all really works out. And if you're lucky enough to get a copy that includes the short story A Christmas Memory, you'll see exactly why Capote is a master....more
This is obviously a super important volume in the history of American imperialism and aggression. I completely understand thhttp://tinyurl.com/l285upk
This is obviously a super important volume in the history of American imperialism and aggression. I completely understand that, and I get that it needed to be written. But... it's bloody tedious.
The novel is written by a professor, and while the writing is absolutely a cut above average, it's once again my least favorite kind of novel. The kind wherein the author chooses an "important subject" and uses the novel to relay all the concerns about that "important subject," creating a plot that sets up the scenarios needed to teach about this "important subject". When you're done reading it, you feel like you've just taken a class and deserve a certificate for having finished it. I think these novels are very hard to write because they take a lot of finesse so that they don't seem like a lecture.
Nguyen gets most of the way there by creating a confused character, a double agent in the post-Vietnam war era, someone with real zeal for doing the right thing but not able to achieve it. However, there's just too much being tried here: the descriptions of the differences between America and Vietnam are overwhelming and repetitive, the objectification of women (especially Vietnamese women) is sadly behind the times, and the necessity of constantly having to remember who "won" that war and thus which side the character is really on is exhausting (and perhaps that was the point).
If the purpose of the book was to teach me about the Vietnamese-American experience, unfortunately, I think it missed its mark. ...more
I can't muster a lot of enthusiasm for this novel of Nagasaki before, during and after the A-bomb. While written from the hehttp://tinyurl.com/jsz7mbu
I can't muster a lot of enthusiasm for this novel of Nagasaki before, during and after the A-bomb. While written from the heart by someone who clearly lived in and loved Japan, this is text engineered to teach, in as palatable a manner as possible, the cultural aspects of a worldwide tragedy.
The problem is, I know this tragedy. You know this tragedy. It's been written of a zillion times. I've been fortunate enough to visit the sister city - Hiroshima - and hear the lessons imparted here in person. Even if you haven't visited Japan, you know enough about the WWII bombings to not want to viscerally re-live that. It wouldn't be possible to ignore what the bomb did to the populace of Nagasaki, but the book tries to enhance the tragedy by putting a doomed romance on top of it. There's nothing I dislike more than a doomed romance. Nobody learns anything worthwhile via that plot device.
Copleton does a decent job creating a twisty plot, which she keeps tweaking until the very end. It just felt vastly artificial - and worse, in many places, superficial - and could not hold my interest....more
It's not even a love-hate relationship with this book. It's a hate-confused-more-confused relationship with the book.
I'm not a big fan of reading about people and relationships that are simply awful. I see and read about plenty of that in real life, and if you're not going to make these folks sympathetic then I just don't see why I should be reading about them. Especially if one of them is borderline sociopathic! I wouldn't have a problem with a book that tries to provide several sides to the development and continued existence of a sociopath - if done delicately - but this book is not that.
In fact, this book is all over the place. At its core, it's attempting to use Swedenborg (philosopher) and Innes (painter) as a backdrop to understanding a situation that seems to involve both ghosts and pretty damn bad marriages. You figure out how that backdrop works; I had enough trouble with it that I'm not going to try and explain it here. It's not that the book didn't keep my interest (for the most part), but it's the kind of interest that is all about waiting to see what happens next in the train wreck. I'd stop reading and want to shake myself physically to get all the bad juju off me.
The ending was both confusing and understandable at the same time, and I don't even want to finish this review. I just want to forget I ever read the book....more
I can still recall how visceral the movie felt to me. How could it not: two stellar actors, both with oodles of history betwhttp://tinyurl.com/gu8uy5r
I can still recall how visceral the movie felt to me. How could it not: two stellar actors, both with oodles of history between them, aging themselves appropriately, working their butts off? It's way more than that, of course, since it's dependent on the strength of this writing. But I couldn't read the play without seeing Taylor and Burton every step of the way.
I do wonder what it was like to see on the stage (veteran actor Uta Hagen said she would play Martha twelve times a week, if given the chance). It must have been unbelievably vital, raw, scarring and despondent when seen in the flesh. Pure gold for theatre actors, and usually very hard to translate to the screen (one-room plays lose vitality as moving pictures).
But the written play! Well, obviously I wouldn't still remember the movie or want to see it on stage if I didn't think the writing was stellar. But it's a hard read - a knock-down dragged-out fight that will have you so uncomfortable you want to go look at unicorns and rainbows for a while. The perfect illusory antidote to a play that rips illusions aside.
A final note... my book club recently got me into reading plays. Almost kicking and screaming, but not quite - I think I expected them to be more like poetry, which I find even more difficult (another friend is working on me in that regard as well). In each case, I've read a play that I've already seen as a movie, and the stage directions in particular are fun to contrast and compare. As are any potential changes I might notice between the two, which are usually surprisingly few....more
I didn't really expect a clone of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Albeit one set in an exotic locale.
It was clear from the get-go that this author has spent a lot of time in Burma (Myanmar) and treats this novel as a way to say what he likes and doesn't like about the country. To do that, he wraps up descriptions of the people, culture, landscape and (apparently terrible) food in a completely unrealistic love story.
I'm really, really okay with the "two people fall in love and struggle with some obstacles to stay together" trope. Because it's mostly realistic, it happens to a lot of us, and putting some good literary chops behind that can make for the best of all novels. But, this guy wants us to believe that his particular love story is the most special of them all, frankly, because it involves one blind person and one crippled person. And that these two have a love that transcends everything and anything. Horsepucky. No one's love is like that. I expect I could have treated this book like a fairy tale, but I live in the real world, and fairy tales only work for me in Fantasy fiction.
And the secret ending that he's hiding from us all along? Might as well yell it from the rooftops at the beginning, it's so obvious....more
While I didn't think this was as stellar as All the Light You Cannot See, it's not really a fair comparison. These are novelhttp://tinyurl.com/hwrjryg
While I didn't think this was as stellar as All the Light You Cannot See, it's not really a fair comparison. These are novels with vastly different approaches.
All the Light You Cannot See is mostly about the similarity of experiences of citizens and soldiers on both the German and French sides. The Nightingale relies on true-life stories of French resistance fighters, those in it from the beginning and those who had resistance thrust upon them. I will completely agree with anyone who says that Hannah knows how to weave stories, because she kept me reading late at night, wondering what the next heart-stopping or unthinkable circumstance would be. I admire how she told parallel stories - both sisters in distinctly different circumstances and how they survived - and brought them together and apart as it befitted the storyline. She has built something wonderfully complex as well as mostly recognizable, and that is worth some kudos (for bravery, if nothing else).
I did wonder at her choice to include the concentration camps towards the end of one of the sister's storylines. This was barely 15 pages long, and that kind of short shrift is surprising in a WWII novel, if it's being told at all. I felt a little like Hannah had run out of steam but that she felt she had to add this in or it wasn't close enough to the truth of WWII, in general.
I also thought it was a bit of a cheat not to let on to which sister was telling the tale from old age, because I don't think that layer of mystery was necessary or added to the plot in any way. It also made me snort that a dying woman would insist on walking around Paris in high heels. But I did live in Italy, and that does seem to be the case on the continent. Nothing would keep you off heels on cobblestones, not even if you were dying!...more
It may be a little bit cheesy and a little bit nerdy, but any book that starts off by mentioning "Old School" by Tobias Wolfhttp://tinyurl.com/q6nr3tn
It may be a little bit cheesy and a little bit nerdy, but any book that starts off by mentioning "Old School" by Tobias Wolff and finishes by mentioning "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell has a million of my votes.
The plot is nothing complex, and I think the author knew she had to keep it that way because her characters are so rich, vibrant and amusing. Summary? Depressed bookseller finds new loves and finally ends up understanding what living is all about.
This book is very, very obviously a book for voracious readers. It reminded me of reading "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" except that I think this one is better written (or at least doesn't have as hysterically wacky a plot-line). Even though there's one big hole in this novel (I'll give you a hint, it's a police matter), it was so enjoyable to read a book by an author who loves to read and who made me remember how important reading is to me (yes, sometimes I actually forget!). Zevin loves to read all over the map in terms of type and genre of novel, she has very specific opinions about her likes and dislikes, and she has channeled those straight into the book. It's just a joy to read. I was smiling, if not laughing, for at least 2/3 of it....more
At first, I was oddly offended by the concept of this book. The stilted manner in which it was written (for a reason, naturahttp://tinyurl.com/na4ckvl
At first, I was oddly offended by the concept of this book. The stilted manner in which it was written (for a reason, naturally), combined with what seemed to be a manner of making fun of our protagonist, was pushing all the wrong buttons in me.
But, about halfway through it grew on me. Probably because the plot takes an amusing turn, and at the same time, our protagonist begins his actual "hero's journey", that of envisioning a potentially better way of surviving in a world that seems mostly strange to him. There are ups and downs in this process, as there should be, and he tries things that simply will not work for a person with his behavioral disorder. I was sufficiently pleased with the ending to believe that the writer is not blowing smoke at us but does understand the difficulties faced by folks on the far side of the autism spectrum.
I think what I enjoyed the most about the book (and these come towards the end) are the following: - Empathy is not the same thing as love. Love is illogical, it defies reason, it doesn't "mean" something in particular. You don't have to cry in movies to feel love. This isn't something the world needs to understand per se, but it is very helpful to understand as an individual. - From the point of view of people with autistic tendencies, the rest of the world looks really weird and people act super weird. In other words, "normal" people think autists act strange, and tit for tat. The world would run a lot smoother if more people recognized that. If nothing else, we'd have... wait for it... more empathy....more
You just couldn't pick a better beach read. Sun, sand, waves, and lots of hot sex. The last bit in the book, of course, nothttp://tinyurl.com/oeend72
You just couldn't pick a better beach read. Sun, sand, waves, and lots of hot sex. The last bit in the book, of course, not literally on the beach.
Which is why I enjoy reading Amos' romances. She adds as much humor (and gravitas, see below) into her romances as sex scenes. Case in point, you will learn what "literally" actually means by the end of the book. Every book should have one lesson, no?
I don't read romances on a regular basis, so I enjoy her world-building as much, if not more, than the lover's quarrels, make-ups, quarrels, make-ups, etcetera etcetera. I admit I missed the interior design aspect of the first book in the series, but this second book provided its own share of fun facts, mostly in the form of motorcycles.
I felt it did skimp a tiny bit on the Knots and Bolts get-togethers (but I can see why) and that it had a surprisingly dire denouement, but that won't keep me from reading the last book in the series. Firefighters? Accountants? Non-profit tutoring centers? Perhaps a slightly mousier protagonist? Count me in. I want to see where she can take all that....more
I like a good zombie story. I especially like one that plays a teeny bit with the rules, which this one does. I guess I don'http://tinyurl.com/o9wmjk3
I like a good zombie story. I especially like one that plays a teeny bit with the rules, which this one does. I guess I don't much like one that has a not-so-hidden agenda that I find boring and obvious.
Whitehead lives in NYC. He loves his town. He describes his town, in both its fantasy and its reality, to all and sundry in this book. He is the master of asides, meaning that there is a plot but it is obscured by description. This is my least favorite thing in books, which is probably why I've never been a fan of Joyce or Faulkner or Melville or novelists of that ilk. Perhaps this is my pragmatic nature coming through, but give me plot over poetry any day. Give me Hemingway and be done with it.
So, I love that he separates the zombies into two different types, that he calls them by names that haven't yet been used, that he channels the world as it would exist after this catastrophe (the hopes, the personalities, the obvious violence). This is all fun and engaging. I just wish he hadn't tacked an overwrought love letter on top of it....more
This book deserves pretty much every kudo it's received (including winning the Pulitzer). Sweeping, detailed, horrifying, myhttp://tinyurl.com/grn5dc3
This book deserves pretty much every kudo it's received (including winning the Pulitzer). Sweeping, detailed, horrifying, mystical, intimate. It's incredible what Doerr's done here.
I'll admit right off the bat that Werner's story was not as captivating to me as Marie-Laure's. I'm sorry, Werner, but it's difficult to compete with a blind girl who's lost so much, living in such pitiful circumstances. Of course, there's no way Doerr could have written the book without opposing nationalities as main characters. He has to tell two sides or he loses credulity, a compelling narrative, and the ability to spin that aforementioned mystical tale.
I'll also admit that it's surprising to still be reading WWII stories and to be reading good ones at that. Yes, of course, one of the most astonishing tragedies of the world will always be re-told and attempted to be re-told with a different light cast upon it (be it fiction, non-fiction, sculpture, poetry, painting, narrative film, documentary, etc., etc.). But at least in film, it seems rare to see something truly original and moving. Visually, we recognize the impact of the setting, but we are often inured to its meaning in that format.
This tale transcends that with a thoughtful structure (both in terms of brevity of chapters and chronological juxtaposition of major parts), a fascinating rumination on the nature of connections (be they radio waves or more nebulous and fragile interactions among people), a way of pinpointing the horror of the war without dwelling on it (the most horrific for me was meeting the elderly Jewess in the elevator), and the general sensitivity to every character he creates (even Volkheimer). This is pretty much a must-read....more
I can really see why folks are in a snit about this book. She's playing both ends against the middle and folks are missing thttp://tinyurl.com/htbujq9
I can really see why folks are in a snit about this book. She's playing both ends against the middle and folks are missing the main point of the novel.
Firstly, she starts with the age-old trope of killing Hitler before he gets a chance to begin the Holocaust. I'm giving nothing away, it happens within 5 pages. That's a dangerous place to begin. Secondly, she's playing on the time-worn subject of the Buddhist "bardo" state aka purgatory aka reincarnation (not all the same things, really). I'll certainly admit to being distressed after the first lengthy loop in time - wait, all of that is now going to be rewritten? For reals?
She seems to be working these both into her novel to make it seem that it's about these two things - and it's these that readers are likely irritated by. But the book really isn't about those, per se. It's about her life as an Englishwoman, someone who clearly loves her country, trying to understand what it was like to live through the days before, during and after WWII. Cases in point - when she describes what she loves about the English countryside, or what London is now missing because of the bombings, or the unenviable task of picking up the pieces after a particularly bad air raid. She also does a commendable job recounting what was to be loved about Germany before the war, as well as the abject misery of its citizenry during the war.
In the end, it moves very quickly for a 500+ page novel that keeps repeating itself, and it's engaging in its description of England and Germany in the 30s and 40s. Reason enough to read?...more
Oof. It's like Raymond Carver has come back and is slightly less grumpy, a little more hip, and a teeny weeny bit less deprehttp://tinyurl.com/nbdr4vk
Oof. It's like Raymond Carver has come back and is slightly less grumpy, a little more hip, and a teeny weeny bit less depressing.
That's a positive review, really it is! Because I love Raymond Carver - in all his spooky, crazy, true, oh-so-real attitude towards life. Saunders writes similarly, focusing on people who are down on their luck, but his focus seems to explain and clarify rather than obscure. That may seem strange to folks who have read Saunders' work before. What I mean is that each intriguing story has a purpose that we understand immediately and have a vague idea of where it is heading. It is not heading there! (In most cases.) But the situation is immediately understandable, and therefore our ride along its path engages us rather than furrows our brows.
Also, he comes up with the worst game-show idea ever. Yes, that is also a positive review....more
This might be the most complex piece of writing I've read. And not just for its florid writing.
On the surface, a social commentary about the mores and dictates of late 19th century New York, it felt like much more than that to me. It's not as if any of the crazy shenanigans surrounding society - and by society, I mean any kind in any place - have disappeared. There are still rules, although they may have become more relaxed. There is still old money and new money and how people are treated if you come from one versus the other. And there are still problems in marrying or courting above or below your station - again, no matter where you come from.
The novel tends to age well, since it tells the story of society in general, not just that of New York in its time. It's as if nothing has changed, and our culture is not more enlightened 100 years further on. For instance, never does Mr. Rosedale appear that his manner and forbearing are not associated with the fact that he is a Jew. For all Wharton's obvious liberal attitudes, she was not able to bridge that cultural divide. Upbringing? Lack of education? We struggle with those to this day.
Far more interesting, though, is Lily herself. You want to whomp Lily over the head, bringing her to some reasonable sense of where her life is going because she cannot be reconciled with her own desires. She wants to be morally upright, but she also abhors anything not beautiful and expensive. That conflict makes it impossible for her to choose the right path, time and again. I understand how that could work in her head, but the ending makes you truly wonder if anyone would choose this path, lacking any foresight about where it can end. That makes her a true innocent, more than anything else, and I think it's likely that Wharton could never have told this moral tale without an innocent at the center....more
At first, I was irritated by this book. I enjoyed the movie, like most people, but in the book you see way, way more of thehttp://tinyurl.com/o4gsubx
At first, I was irritated by this book. I enjoyed the movie, like most people, but in the book you see way, way more of the protagonist's noodling and over-thinking and pointless ruminations and it just gets so tiresome. Especially if you're a woman reading this. And a woman way too late in her game to care about these kinds of ruminations. You can't help shouting at the page: get over yourself and bite the bullet, dude!
However, the novel redeemed itself in two ways:
- It's funny as all get out. It's unfortunate that I can see Jack Black in my mind every time they riff on a top-5 list in the store. I'd like to know if those scenes would "play" as well in my mind without the movie version there in advance. Regardless, and obviously, the discussions of music are integral for both the main character's growth and to provide a lot more than a thought-provoking essay on the state of being a man in the modern era.
- The girlfriend is really well written. She's a mess, but she's a thoughtful, brave, heartfelt mess. You can see why he likes her and you can see why he should be with her. She may teeter a bit on the "fantasy-woman" edge because no one is quite that put together, but this kind of woman is believable.
I doubt I'll be reading his other books. In the end, they're too "male" and I just find that boring. ...more
I grew to like this book more as I went along. In the beginning, I wanted to smack our heroine a lot, but by the end, I undehttp://tinyurl.com/hr2xfhn
I grew to like this book more as I went along. In the beginning, I wanted to smack our heroine a lot, but by the end, I understood more of the point of the novel.
This young girl moves from strange circumstance to stranger circumstance after a number of tragic events. By the time she gets to the state park and "The Indian" I was getting pretty darn tired of the author placing her in a particular situation just to bring the story to closure. The plot devices were just not subtle enough for my taste, and it wasn't like I couldn't see where we were going to end up.
But I did appreciate the tone of Campbell's storytelling. Her writing is particularly good at giving you a visceral understanding of the river environment and the people who feel innately wedded to the river and its life, and who couldn't live apart from it. This is a world I know nothing about, and she made it completely real to me.
I have a feeling that this tale might be best read by someone younger than me who has a hankering to live off-grid. In some ways, it provides a roadmap for those folks, and I can imagine it'd be darn lonely to feel so very different from everyone else. It also might offer some consolation, especially to girls, for having confusing teenager-y feelings and not knowing the right way to turn or the right person to rely on. I wouldn't call this a young-adult novel, but it's likely best read by those in that age group....more
You can know your science and still produce a book that doesn't have anything to do with it. This is one example.
Ozeki did do her homework. If you want to know how tidal effects work, or what Japanese pop culture is like, or later on in the book, what quantum mechanics are all about, she gives you all that. Almost exactly as if she did do her homework. It's that dull and pedantic.
Her being pedantic is not my sole criticism. My bigger criticism is that the book takes a turn about 3/4 of the way through that came smack out of left field. It felt not at all in the same vein as the rest of the book - instead designed only to shock and startle you. Actually, there were two left field turns - one that startles, and the other that bewilders. (For those who've read the book, the bewildering one is more closely related to metaphysics.) Having one come right after the other threw me for a loop. If I hadn't thought she had no business writing a novel about what she was writing about before, that did the job for me.
I know that she at least has experience regarding Buddhist nuns, being one herself. The writing related to that subject seemed forced. Imagine how the rest of it seemed....more
I am probably not quite smart enough to review this book, but I'll give it my best shot.
Clearly, it is a book about perceiving and perceptions of beauty, whether that's body shape, rendered in art, elderly vs. youth, or the natural world (not much of that). But there's so much else in here that I can't fit into that theme. Sure, a book doesn't (and probably shouldn't) have only one theme, but there's a whole separate set of treatises on the role of academia, all kinds of politics, and, of course, race and ethnicity. It's a long book, and it can basically hold all of this, but it means I got lost in the comings and goings of the characters.
So, I read the book and was intrigued by the multiple lives and their method of conversing and communicating with others, but in essence it felt like a set of short stories strung together with a common thread among them. I kept being thrown off the scent into the next story, trying to figure out how it hung with the rest.
Also, most of this felt like an apology. Oh, Levi is acting this way for this reason. And Carl has a different reason for acting as he does. And Kiki. And ridiculous, dumb-ass Howard. Why apologize for how different people think and react? You're telling, not showing, then. Isn't that a cardinal sin of writing?...more
Perhaps no surprise but this book did nada for me.
I am not sentimental. Sure, I can tear up for personal emotionally-heavy moments, but in general I'm not the kind of person who appreciates display of emotion in most venues (I kinda just want the people or the book or the film to rein it in). I guess that makes me hard-hearted, but that's just who I am.
Consequently, having to read about someone's life journey to find personal treasure, which is thwarted at every opportunity, who keeps having to listen to his heart and the wind and the sun and heaven-knows-what tell it what to do or else he's not living correctly as a person made me want to throw the book across the room. It was just such horsepucky. So, if I'm not sentimental enough to listen to my heart, I'm a horrible person who can never feel the Soul of the World (ptooey) and reach my personal treasure? Which, I'm going to ruin it for you, really is actual treasure, ie, money. Yup, that's what matters in life.
I only recently saw this movie, and was worried that I wouldn't be able to read the play without seeing Taylor and Newman inhttp://tinyurl.com/l3lvmqq
I only recently saw this movie, and was worried that I wouldn't be able to read the play without seeing Taylor and Newman in my head the whole time. They lasted through the first act and then faded. Likely that is due to the nonsensical Hays Code making the movie an utterly different experience than reading the play.
It is fascinating to me that Williams was able to write such a loaded screenplay - most definitely and not obliquely about homosexuality - in the 1950s without serious repercussions. (Maybe there were some, but it is as lauded as it was when it came out - heck, it even won a Pulitzer.) I guess I would have expected it to at least do poorly at the theater, and there is no evidence of that. Did it strike a chord with viewers because of its vast spectra of themes? Not just homosexuality - but repression, death, dying, greed, lust, you name it.
My copy of this has two versions of the third act. If you have this in your copy, definitely read both versions (well, read one, and skim the other) after you've read Williams' description of why he changed it. Totally worth it to see how playwrights do what they do....more
As you all know, I rarely read romances, however, in the last 6 months I've read two. The first was a recommendation from thhttp://tinyurl.com/or5u5kn
As you all know, I rarely read romances, however, in the last 6 months I've read two. The first was a recommendation from this very author, and the second is the first foray of this very author in the genre. I feel fortunate to have read the ARC!
Admittedly, I wished the title of the novel was "Interior Design to Build a Dream On" if only because it was more interesting to me than the sex scenes. Granted, those are quite well done! It seems that at my age I'd rather read a great description of a beautifully-created room (recessed lighting! ooh! blue tables with bowls of lemons on them! aah!) than a great description of how folks are getting their rocks off. Hmm.
But that's really the great charm of these books - because I am looking forward to reading the series - that you can enjoy super fun descriptions of all kinds of relationships (friendship being key among them), interesting and heartfelt introspection from the main characters, solid and intriguing plotlines, the aforementioned romantic scenes, and bonus thrills and spills at the end. It's the best of all worlds.
Plus, so you're aware - cheese jokes. Knowing the author, she couldn't write the novel without them. ...more
I'd heard from multiple sources that this was one of those books you either loved or hated. I'd also heard that it was eithehttp://tinyurl.com/p66k2ml
I'd heard from multiple sources that this was one of those books you either loved or hated. I'd also heard that it was either a tough slog (it is rather lengthy) or that you get to a certain part about 2/3 in and throw up your hands. I also had the experience of not enjoying her previous debut novel (The Secret History). This is what I started with.
I agree with all the sentiments. It was definitely a tough slog in places. It's not giving much away to say that there is a lot, lot, lot of druggie and alcoholic and general bad behavior all around in this novel. I don't live my life this way, so it got exasperating. While we understand the reasons why, for the most part, it's hard not to want to reach into the pages, grasp Theo by the shoulders (or the neck!) and try to shake some sense into him. Because it just goes on too lengthily. Or so it feels at the time. When you're done, you understand how all the pieces come together. But that doesn't excuse the deadly dull parts.
I did also get to a certain part and throw up my hands. I was invested enough in the story to not also throw the book across the room and not retrieve it. However, I can see how some would. To them I would say that if you just give it another 75 pages it will pay off for you, and that the final 50 pages are some of the best writing - and the best summary (for lack of a better word) of an entire story - that I've ever read.
Therefore, to everyone I say: stick with it, it will pay off with all sorts of dividends....more
This is a prime example of a well-written and well-researched genre novel.
I was going to say well-written and well-researched trashy novel, but I thought that might be a little too harsh. It isn't trashy per se so much as having an obvious outcome, so a genre novel is a better description. Although I'm not certain what genre this could fit under: mystery? suspense?
The best thing about it was its honesty in describing living with disability, from both the disabled person's and the caregiver's point of view. If nothing else, you will learn tons about how not to treat the disabled (ie, geez, don't stare, okay?).
The worst thing about it was how laboriously the rift between upper-class and lower-class was set up, with a painfully adhered-to need to describe the benefits of both - my family has a lovely garden, but my family laughs a lot, but my family can afford vacations for the disabled, but my family cleans all the time... It got stupid after a while....more
If you're a Jane Austen fan, you'll love this bit of downstairs dish.
IOW, instead of focusing on the gentry, Baker focuses on the servants - how difficult their lives are, what they can and cannot have, how they have to behave. I appreciated the author's research into exactly how you make soap, what chilblains are, how disgusting those dresses were and why. It really brought home to me the reasons why we created the middle class! And what the innovations in technology were for.
As per her writing, Baker creates the English countryside particularly well and gives ample opportunity to describing its charms (well, she lives there herself, why wouldn't she?).
Three things I didn't care for: - The carefree manner in which Sarah visits James whenever, plants kisses on him whereever, etc. If I've read my upstairs/downstairs appropriately, this never happened willy-nilly. And having a relationship or (god forbid) marrying another servant in the household was looked down upon or was grounds for dismissal. - The effort Baker goes to to make sure we understand that James is a good guy. Despite some pretty obvious missteps and foibles! Also, why does he leave the Spanish seaside town again? No good reason given at all. - Oh, and Sarah tramping all over the countryside as a woman on her own? Oops, my book is running long, better not give any details of that. That's a book in and of itself, I would bet. But the lack of details here is patently absurd....more
I gave up reading romance novels in college. But my fave Goodreads reviewer waxed poetic about this one, so I thought I'd gihttp://tinyurl.com/o3msevw
I gave up reading romance novels in college. But my fave Goodreads reviewer waxed poetic about this one, so I thought I'd give it a try. Being a novella, it couldn't be too painful, I assumed.
It's definitely different and a load of fun to read. It suffers from the Shakespearean idiot plot problem, as do all romance novels to varying degrees, but Milan does such a nice job busting up stereotypes that it didn't matter too much to me.
Case in point, she has her Victorian-era protagonists speak to each other about penises and vaginas and French letters and Dutch caps. This sounds ridiculous as I write it, but it completely works in the novella. In fact, the frank exchange of thoughts and ideas and past problems almost made it seem that I was reading a psychoanalytic rendering of the times, but that makes the volume sound far duller than it was.
I may continue to read on in the series when I need something fluffy but different.
[Also, pet peeve. For those who borrow books through their local library for their Kindles. When it takes you only a few hours to read a book (or only a few days), please do the nice thing and return it! Just go to your Manage Your Content & Devices. It's so easy and the rest of us don't have to wait 3 weeks to read it when you've been done for ages! Thanks!]...more
I haven't read any of Rowell's other books, so I don't know if it's common for her to play with time the way she does here.
In this instance, Rowell places the book in a particular time period but through the device noted in the title, adds in the ability to talk to others (or one particular other) in another time period. I'd be surprised if the majority of folks reading this book weren't immediately taken by the idea of being able to contact someone in your past (or future, I suppose). Who would you want to speak to? I'd definitely talk to my Dad when he was still at the beginning of his career (70s & 80s).
At heart, the book is about family, and both families described are definitely "modern families". Rowell has a bit of a pop/hip style, so these descriptions are fun, funny and engaging, and only feel slightly unrealistic (the main character's mom's family has one too many elements of weird). In fact, Rowell's descriptions are by far the best part of this book, from the drawing of a cartoon squirrel, to a child's voicemail to her mom, to what it's like to sit next to an ultra-tense person on an airplane. For that reason alone, I'd read her other novels....more
Alice Munro's collections usually knock me for a loop. They pack so much emotion into such spare, non-emotional phrasings thhttp://tinyurl.com/nmefbfe
Alice Munro's collections usually knock me for a loop. They pack so much emotion into such spare, non-emotional phrasings that you are taken unawares by their power. There's no one else who can write about life - in the definitive slice-of-life mode - and make it seem as if you are living this life at the same time as the character being described. You are almost literally sucked into their world. Then - the chapter ends, and instead of feeling as if you've lost a best friend, you sock that story away in your heart and become immersed in the next one.
Munro writes about people who have made a wrong turn. Those turns are understandable, and the people are sympathetic. You almost don't wince to read about the wrongs they've done, you just become them as they journey - for a while - down the wrong path. And it either makes you feel better about yourself or worse. Either way, it's worth it.
With this collection, I didn't feel this as intensely. The endings of the stories felt more obvious, and I could see them coming for some time. Obviously, that lessens their emotional punch. They still live in my heart - the first story is still rattling around in there - but they aren't supplanting previous story collections.
However! And it's a big however. The last four stories are about her own life. Some perhaps not wholly factual, as she says, but it was clear to me as I started them that I've been dying to know more about her own life, especially her own childhood. Because that simply has to be a large factor in how she perceives the world and the people in it. Her reminiscences of town and country life in the 30s and 40s in Canada, her perceptions of herself at that time, the world as she viewed it then, and in particular her memories of her mother. These last four absolutely pack a special kind of wallop....more
In the end, I understand the reasons people seem to love this book. But I myself am not a fan.
I don't feel as if a void has been filled in my life. Perhaps there are some who were waiting for lesbian erotica that would make it to the mainstream. For those of us who weren't, this novel feels like it's only designed to teach us what it may have been like to be gay in the 1880s. I felt this particularly at the end when we learn more about the social leanings of the group of people our protagonist hangs around with. My ears pricked up - because that was fascinating and well-written and certainly what I expected in a novel about Edwardian England. Not what we got which was a sorry tale of a sorry young person who waited until the very end of the bloody novel to grow.
I suspect my exasperation with this tale may be far larger than others. And that that exasperation was mostly due to the middle section in which Nancy literally flings aside her comfortable life for purely sexual reasons. I just can't fathom such an action, and it pissed me off no end. It also made the inevitable ending feel cheap and flat....more
Oh my, yes. I'm not a slice-of-life fan like some of the folks in my book club, but I appreciate a stellar read when I meethttp://tinyurl.com/nauaovs
Oh my, yes. I'm not a slice-of-life fan like some of the folks in my book club, but I appreciate a stellar read when I meet it.
I'll compare this book with - yet again - "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides. In this case, it truly feels as if the authors of both volumes were writing stream-of-conscious or off-the-cuff. A novel for the sake of telling a story. Not without its own themes, mind you, but created far more to tell a story (with a capital S) than to tell a lesson (unfortunately, very much usually with a capital L).
The difference is that "The Marriage Plot" is shite, and this is brilliance.
This novel plays with its characters - and especially with the 2 main protagonists. But that's completely wrong because Walter excels at taking bit parts and making them come alive after a few paragraphs. More so than any author I can name at this very moment. It's rather breathtaking, in fact.
The other thing the novel plays with is time. It's very likely its central theme. Not just that we jump around from the 60s to the present time and back throughout. But that time is essential to how the characters grow and learn and become who they always should have been.
I did think the ending was a mite bit too pat (haha, for those who have already read it). I forgive Walter because he gave me Richard Burton in a boat off the Italian coast extemporaneously being the genius he truly was....more