I love any book that involves any form of needlework, I used to do quite a lot many years ago and I am drawn to books that incorporate these skills inI love any book that involves any form of needlework, I used to do quite a lot many years ago and I am drawn to books that incorporate these skills into a story. When I saw the title of this book and the large number of 4 and 5 star reviews I picked it up. Unfortunately I was underwhelmed with the storyline.
Told in a dual-narrative, in two different time periods, this is the story of Marie, a seamstress in the court of King George V. It is also the story of Caroline in present times. While helping her mother to clean up her home pending some construction Caroline comes upon an old hand stitched quilt that was her grandmother’s. The story of the quilt is the center of the book.
The writing in this book was good, the problem for me was the believability of the story told and the abundance of coincidences that made me think – well that’s convenient. Although I found Marie an interesting character, with an incredible (if improbable) story to tell, Caroline was not nearly as interesting and was more of annoyance every time she came back into the narrative. Marie was a more fully developed character, Caroline was a 38 year old career woman who often acted like she was 20. I found her behavior on several occasions laughable.
The story of the quilt was interesting, but the secret of how the quilt came into Caroline’s family wasn’t that hard to figure out, so the big reveal felt like a letdown. It was too perfect and coincidental and implausible.
Had this book been only about Maria, without the current day storyline I think it would have made for a much more satisfying story. I also appear to be in the minority in terms of my rating, most reviews rated it much higher, but it just did not work for me. ...more
A haunting book about the devastation caused by the Georgia Flu, which manages to wipe out most of the population of the world in just a few days. A lA haunting book about the devastation caused by the Georgia Flu, which manages to wipe out most of the population of the world in just a few days. A little spooky to be reading while the news frenzy over Ebola runs 24 hours a day.
The book is structured in two parts, before the flu and 20 years after. The story opens on the opening night of a production of King Lear. The lead actor, Arthur Leander has a fatal heart attack on stage. It is also the first night that the flu epidemic takes hold. We then go back and forth in time, and learn more about Arthur’s past and the post-apocalyptic present. In the present world there are no real societies. There is no power, electric or otherwise; no laws; none of the niceties people had become accustomed to in their ‘old’ lives. In this story line we follow The Traveling Symphony, as they move around the few known ‘towns’ performing Shakespearean plays and giving music concerts. The major character is Kirsten, who was a child actor on stage that fateful night 20 years earlier when Arthur Leander died. Little by little interconnections between the past and present are revealed.
I loved this book; it was quite different from more of the recent dystopian fiction I have read. There is hardship and death, but it is all quite realistic and often terribly sad. It does paint a picture of a bleak world; it also infuses the story with hope and above all art. Art that still has meaning and beauty in a world that is often bleak. The caravan of travelers has a motto; “Survival is insufficient”, which sums up why they do what they do. It is a believable future, driven as much by the characters as it is by the plot. And those characters felt like people I could know, both those in the past and those in the present; people with flaws yet also sympathetic.
There is so much to love about this book. It is written quite simply, yet it is elegant in its simplicity. It is a book about hope, love, memory, friendship, and fear. It is a book that still resonates with me days later. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but if you are looking for a ‘quieter’ dystopian novel, I would recommend Station Eleven.
Three of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Twenty-third Street wasn’t busy – a little early for the lunch crowd – but he kept getting trapped behind iPhone zombies, people half his age who wandered in a dream with their eyes fixed on their screens.”
“What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”
“Hell is the absence of people you long for.”
Also I totally loved the shout out Mandel gave to one of my other favorite dystopian novels – The Passage by Justin Cronin, I recognized the reference immediately. ...more
Let me preface this by saying this is my first book by Murakami. I had of course heard about him for years, but for whatever reason this is the firstLet me preface this by saying this is my first book by Murakami. I had of course heard about him for years, but for whatever reason this is the first time I picked up one of his books. I was expecting it to be surreal or phantasmagoric, things I don’t usually like. While it did have some hallucinatory scenes it was actually a fairly straightforward novel about loss and finding love and closure. I enjoyed it very much.
As a teen Tsukuru is part of a group of five friends’ they are all very close and do everything together. His four friends each have names that translate into a color; his name does not, so they sometimes call him ‘colorless’. When Tsukuru goes away to college his friends inexplicably cut him off, refusing to have anything to do with him. This rejection leaves him suicidal; it takes him a long time to start up his life again. He goes on to pursue his dream of designing railway stations. He has a good life, but a rather empty one, with few friends and a few short-lived relationships with women. When he meets a woman he believes he can love, she convinces him that he must confront his past before they can move forward. And so Tsukuru goes back to his past in order to create a future.
I liked the author’s writing style. It was often sparse, yet full of meaning and depth. There seemed to be a lot of symbolism in the story, I’m not sure I got it all, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the book.
A few things dropped the rating a little. There was the introduction of a new friend and they seem to form a strong bond, yet he also cuts Tsukuru off and there didn’t seem a logical reason for it. Also two dream scenes that were a little graphic and I’m sure had meaning, but I didn’t get them and they didn’t further the story at all.
The ending was open ended, but I didn’t have a problem with it, I thought it was actually the right ending.
One more thing, throughout the book mention is made of Franz Liszt's Le mal du pays, played by Lazar Berman. I found it online and listened to it while reading the book. It suited the story perfectly. ...more