This one surprised me! I read this before In a Dark, Dark Wood, and at first was wary, as I usually am of superpopular reads (I find they typically doThis one surprised me! I read this before In a Dark, Dark Wood, and at first was wary, as I usually am of superpopular reads (I find they typically don't live up to the hype).
But phew! I lost all my nails reading this one. Great tension that kept me reading even past the nausea of being ultratired. I valued (SO MUCH) that it was written in past rather than present tense, and the first-person perspective worked very well with the periodic (but not too often) interjections of communications between her SO and others as well as news reports (done in a different font between chapters) while she was away. Having them be a bit further ahead in the timeline also served the book well in upping the tension and getting the mind racing.
Sometimes the writing left something to be desired and thus distracted me, and I think I did figure out what was happening near the end, but it didn't spoil anything for me. The good news about this is that Ware wrote this one after In a Dark, Dark Wood; that I found this one more engaging and tighter than her first means she's someone I will continue to watch for as she develops and hones her skill.
At one time, Berg was one of my very favourite writers. I have almost all of her books. This was the first to disappoint me. I did finish it, but I juAt one time, Berg was one of my very favourite writers. I have almost all of her books. This was the first to disappoint me. I did finish it, but I just couldn't buy much of the dialogue and thinking, or the way things ended up, as much as I tried to be empathetic and even as much as I related to the nostalgia regarding high school (in fact, that's why the book appealed to me!).
I'd prefer not to say more, actually, in criticism, except that the warmth I have so loved in Berg's stories was to much for me this time, things were far too neat and manipulated. Admittedly, I've been extremely sensitive about literary or filmic manipulation, to the point of rage (omg, ep. 1 of the new Walking Dead season). But I felt somewhat underestimated reading this and would have liked more from Berg, for her writing and story to have worked harder for her....more
Quite disappointed in this book. The writing left much to be desired, being overly expository for one thing, which, together with the present tense, aQuite disappointed in this book. The writing left much to be desired, being overly expository for one thing, which, together with the present tense, annoyed me and constantly pulled me out of the story. I also found it predictable (one of the claims of the book is that it is not predictable, but that clearly underestimates us readers), and then the finale pushed it too far past the proper ending. No one likes that—not in songs, not in sex, not in books.
That said, I did finish it, so there was something that kept me going, obviously, though I can't put my finger on what, exactly. The Girl on the Train also disappointed me, both the writing and elements of the story, but I finished that as well. I suspect these two books have the same thing that kept me going: enough of a propelling pace. But to me, that's not enough. I don't want to be constantly pulled out of the story by literary shortcomings. There's too much lazy, unskilled writing out there lately. It makes my smile turn upside down.
Having also been disappointed by Gone Girl, The Girls, and The Nest, I'm feeling now somewhat immune to marketing and hyperbole! There is so little time and so many GOOD books, though they're harder to find. Ain't nobody got time—and money—for disappointment. ...more
The rather harsh critiques I've seen of this novel tout it basically as cliché with overwrought "MFA writing." Yes, that's a thing, and it's pretty eaThe rather harsh critiques I've seen of this novel tout it basically as cliché with overwrought "MFA writing." Yes, that's a thing, and it's pretty easily recognizable; it's usually by young writers who want to be taken seriously as "real" writers and reviewed in the NYT.
But while I did have some moments of this kind of distraction from the writing, as well as take issue with how one character is portrayed, I also found this novel a wholly immersive, highly sensory experience with, frankly, excellent writing. Danler's voice is not, to me, cliché; she combines words in original ways and creates an atmosphere of place and character that comes alive—so much so that all of me was engaged till the end. And of course she does; she reached deep in recalling her own experiences as a waitress to make the writing true. When I wasn't reading Sweetbitter, I wanted to be.
And you know, perhaps this story—twenty-something woman leaves small town US to come of age in NYC (these days, confused adults in their 20s and 30s are also coming of age)—is cliché for a reason: the situation is just not uncommon. Why should any writer be told not to write about whatever makes them curious, whatever they've experienced, whatever they want? Can former NYC waitresses not write about the restaurant kitchen and promiscuous staff family of druggies and drinkers because Kitchen Confidential was already written? Pfft. The trick is to make whatever lives, whatever universal experiences, they're writing their own, and I think Danler does. I for one really liked her voice, know it can only get better, and look forward to whatever else she's got coming.
I'm lucky enough to be able to keep coming back to this book, as I hope you'll do too when you read it. Seriously, I can't let it go! I've almost finiI'm lucky enough to be able to keep coming back to this book, as I hope you'll do too when you read it. Seriously, I can't let it go! I've almost finished my second read and while I have questions, they're more of a curious nature, and my enthusiasm reminds me of when I read as a kid.
This novel is fascinating. The writing is captivating. It's funny, relatable even while incorporating sci-fi (it's a time-bendy book!), clever, wondrous, inventive. I marvelled at Favro's ability to imagine things she's not experienced and which I can tell hold a sense of wonder for her too.
There's just so much to love about this novel: the characters, the narrative voice, the creativity, the evocative settings, the time travel (who doesn't love a good mind-fuck? Because when I say bendy, I mean it), the difference between Earth Standard Time and Atomic Mean Time, the creative and also compassionate way Favro handles the archetypal sacrificial lamb's coming of age and her adulthood.
The story of the ultimate sacrifice of one's life for the greater good has always thrown me into chaos. What would I do?? I'd like to think I'd be the heroine, but if you were faced with the possibility of ceasing to exist and losing everything you know and love, and if changing history meant also causing potential disaster, would you go ahead anyway or would you let nature run its course??
This book is begging to be made into a movie. I can't wait to see it.
Simply put, The Girls is about a woman's experience as a young teen in the 1960s, living on and off in a cult led by a confusingly attractive and charSimply put, The Girls is about a woman's experience as a young teen in the 1960s, living on and off in a cult led by a confusingly attractive and charismatic but volatile man named Russell. Years after several of the cult members famously kill four people, Evie reflects on her time and relationships on the ranch and attempts to explain what kept her there, as well as relates how she was affected afterward.
Uncharacteristically, though maybe understandably since I'm on vacation, I read The Girls in only a week or fewer days. It's a testament not quite to the power of time off, I think, but really to the way the prose pulled me through to the end, in spite of its distractions. I picked this book because of my interest in the cult aspect of it (I've read a few comments that say if you can get past that bit, it's a good book, but that to me is ridiculous, as it is intrinsically tied to the story—which is not just what it meant to be a girl in that time. Those books are ubiquitous.
The Girls is one of those novels that possess a strange kind of magic, the kind that keeps you reading even though all along you're conscious of the things you don't like. You're propelled through by imagery—not a bad thing, because it's the imagery that makes things real—and by a desire to find out the whole story. But in this book, that reality was spoiled for me every time I was pulled out of the story by the distraction of the writing.
In my view, The Girls is overwritten—chock-full of descriptive detail that is at first exciting in its reach for truth and in its originality but then unfortunately becomes too much. I felt as though Cline had been taught an excellent thing but in her affinity for it had focused too hard on it. This preoccupation seemed to lead into getting lost in scenes, and I often found myself impatient: get on with the story, I thought, where is the story! Or, I would have cut this; what is the point of this?
The nostalgia, the capturing of the essence of "girlness," though I related and could imagine it well, felt as though it had consumed Cline a little too much.
And even while I marvelled enough at the pinpointedness of some of Cline's descriptions, I also found the writing unpolished, an odd mix of what I consider unskilled (lots of filtering, for example) yet astute, intelligent, and, again, original and well-imagined. Inconsistent, then.
What I would have liked to have seen is a stronger editorial hand by the author, a paring down and focusing of the writing. This, to me, would have allowed me to be taken in solely by the story and it's people, from beginning to end.
Because of her ability to suss out the essence of things and thus place us where she wants us, I look forward to seeing Cline hone her skill as a writer. I hope her next book demonstrates more focus and a confidence in knowing just how much can be said without saying, so that it not only places the reader in her world but also lets her explore and be led without interruption. ...more
I really like the way Eggers puts words together, but not the way he put this novel together. Ultimately, although I enjoyed parts of it, I found it rI really like the way Eggers puts words together, but not the way he put this novel together. Ultimately, although I enjoyed parts of it, I found it rambling and with too many repetitive descriptions (as if he thought them so good the first time, he needed to keep using them, which to my mind is somewhat lazy and spoils the initial pleasure), and I kept wishing he'd get on with the story. For someone who is all over the place herself, this book made me feel like I needed to rein it in and mould it better so I didn't feel so scattered. I actually questioned whether or not to finish it, but to Eggers' credit, the three main characters are compelling enough, and the insight into human nature true and relatable enough, that I did.
Eggers writes well, but he could have revised and tightened better. ...more
If you enjoyed Fates & Furies and The Nest, you'll like this book even more. I did! The writing is lovely and poetic and evocative, and the storyIf you enjoyed Fates & Furies and The Nest, you'll like this book even more. I did! The writing is lovely and poetic and evocative, and the story is not only wonderfully imaginative with a touch of what smacks of magic realism but isn't; it is also beautifully enriched by the varying depths of emotion and intelligence and intuition in the characters, like multilevel drops in an ocean floor.
This is the kind of novel I have to distance myself from to write about, because I'm flooded right now, like an engine that won't operate. So many things to consider: the palpable everything, the fully realized people, the character of money, the yearning of the heart, the need for adventure and freedom but also the sense that being unmoored isn't necessarily what one might imagine or even want.
The jacket tells you what this story is about already: but read it more for the experience of becoming the people in this book wherever they are. I know it sounds weird, but I put the novel on my shelf with two thoughts, when I finished: I've been to this book. And I'm keeping this one. ...more
To be fair, I'm not sure if how I feel about this book has to do with stronger expectations than I thought or just that it wasn't working for me.
I apTo be fair, I'm not sure if how I feel about this book has to do with stronger expectations than I thought or just that it wasn't working for me.
I appreciated the writing: technically, D'Aprix Sweeney has skill! She has a way of pinpointing details and situations that make you take note in a relatable way, that make you appreciate how she chooses and strings her words together. In particular, from the time Steph is standing on a sidewalk purusing a box of discarded books till the end of that chapter (I just am not going to say what happens, okay?), I found myself both grossed out and captivated by the author's ability to dig deep and find the heart of the matter. She does do this throughout, and I think this is what kept me going to the end.
But the way the story was told is another matter for me. I thought it too loose, too spread out among characters (OMG, we have the perspectives of everyone, not only siblings but seemingly peripheral characters as well), and I wasn't quite sure just whose story this was. I had been expecting something tighter: more about the interactions of four siblings who needed The Nest for their own reasons. And they did, but everything seemed to me so disjointed—and I don't mean that in a good way as reflecting that they are not really all those close as a family. I got a sense of the sibling relationships, the dynamic, and of their characters, though I didn't feel I had a good handle on their distinctions. And then we have lesser characters, partners, two twin daughters, Paul, Tommy, etc.; I wasn't sure why we needed the daughters, why Tommy's perspective was given, though I see his role, even why other minor publishing characters' perspectives were included. It was too much for me and pulled me away from what I though the story was about, which really kind of petered out, as did the Leo, who seemed at first to be the main thread of the story.
Also, I felt sometimes that the book suffered from some "info dumping": as if the author let her own experiences intrude, or wanted to cover something she thought might appeal to readers but that I felt the story could have done without. And lastly, the ending, for me, was rather kitschy.
As I told a friend, I wouldn't say don't read this book: I did like the writing itself, and I'm curious to read what else she writes.
In all, I just really would have liked to have seen a more focused, tighter story here in which more significant events take place....more
A sweet and lovely imagining of a man's parents' relationship after WWII, inspired by their letters over the six months they knew each other before geA sweet and lovely imagining of a man's parents' relationship after WWII, inspired by their letters over the six months they knew each other before getting married.
Their lives upended, and separated from their families by distance, death, or the unknown, Miklos and Lili are Holocaust survivors who have just been rescued from the camps and transported to Sweden to convalesce in separate hospitals. Determined to cheat death (M has tuberculosis) and find himself a wife, Miklos asks for the names of Hungarian women in the hospitals and begins to write to them. Lili, among others, writes back—and it is this way that M & L quickly fall in love.
Despite the heaviness of the characters' circumstances, there's quite a bit of humour, which, while I thoroughly enjoyed it, might have contributed to the book's overall feeling of being a bit too insubstantial. Yes, this is a love story, not a story of what it was like to be in the concentration camps, though each one's experience is hinted at, as well as some of their back story. So I understand the focus on the six months of letter writing, the antics of his father in his fervour, the development of the relationship... yet even in these things, I still feel the content could have been a richer, particularly because the author was already taking licence with the story. It's perhaps the way it is because the author is a film director, rather than a novelist.
The nature of the book is a little mixed: the author is himself, relating the story, using the first-person "I" occasionally, and also including an epilogue (or afterword, it seems like), but because his story is only based on the letters his parents wrote each other and the stories they told him and is otherwise imagined, the book is classified as a novel.
I do feel the translation—though I haven't got a clue how to read Hungarian and would thus technically not know if the translation is good—is very good. It's not awkward, the humour comes through perfectly, the right words seem chosen. Nothing in terms of story seems lost.
I've always really enjoyed Anansi's international imprint, and despite my complaints about this book—namely, that I ultimately wish for more depth and content—I still think this book is a good read. The atmosphere of the country, of the hospitals, is palpable; the characters are very good, as individuals and also as groups of convalescing men and women who still manage to function through camaraderie and music despite the unspeakable horrors and near-death experiences they had. Its value lies in compassionately and astutely portraying the resilience and beauty of hope, life, and love in a time of war. ...more
Finally reading what everyone is talking and raving about is what made me a fan of Harry Potter. So I finally jumped on the Ferrante bandwagon, and IFinally reading what everyone is talking and raving about is what made me a fan of Harry Potter. So I finally jumped on the Ferrante bandwagon, and I have to say, while I'm not certain what's made people rave, I found the book compelling enough that I'm more than a hundred pages into the second, and enthusiastically so.
It's not only the setting, the fact that it's translated literature, which I love, the details of low-class village life outside of Naples, and the time (this book begins in the 1950s), but also the perspective. Ferrante choosing to make this series a first-person narrative is ultimately what's won me over. The protagonist, Elena, portrays herself in a way that can only be brutally honest, since she in no way presents herself in a positive light. She's obsessive and does very little of her own initiative, wishing only to keep up with her friend Lila. Everything everyone does seems to have some sort of ulterior motive, not only for survival and personal gain but also, in Elena's case, so as not to be left behind in any way.
It's this obsessive, complex relationship with Lila and the protagonist's recounting of this friendship that has me curious and reading; I remember how my own friendships were growing up: fraught with competition and jealousy and also intense love.
This first book begins in the present with Lila's son calling Elena to say his mother has disappeared. As a result, Elena begins to tell her and Lila's story, and that of the village they grew up in, as a sort of rebellious act: her friend wants to disappear completely, but Elena thwarts that by writing everything. It's a fascinating, detailed, often violent exploration of life there and at that time, but also an immersive, rather universal portrayal of what it means to want to escape one's circumstances but also belong, and how one can be greatly affected by the people around them. ...more