**spoiler alert** I think this is my favorite in the Harry Potter series. It's much more thoughtful and deep than the three preceding books, while not...more**spoiler alert** I think this is my favorite in the Harry Potter series. It's much more thoughtful and deep than the three preceding books, while not being nearly as dark or depressing as the next three. I'll admit that the next three are more adult in nature than the first four novels, and perhaps I don't enjoy them as much because I liked the tone of these four; I guess I just liked it more when Harry, Ron and Hermione were getting in and out of trouble without ever being in serious danger, whereas the next three novels and the escalation of the Second Wizarding War just seemed too much like Lord of the Rings.
In any case, I remember the first time I read this I was absolutely blown away by the ending...even though I had trained myself at this point to be watchful for the endings of Harry Potter novels, I still didn't see this one coming. There were several scenes (when Harry is stuck in the stair and Snape is feet away) that were masterfully done, and I tore apart this book because I was so anxious to find out what would happen next. In general, a great children's book by Rowling.(less)
**spoiler alert** I have to admit, in spite of myself the ending of this book crept up on me. I could tell where one strand of the story was going, bu...more**spoiler alert** I have to admit, in spite of myself the ending of this book crept up on me. I could tell where one strand of the story was going, but I didn't see how it would all tie itself together. There were a few questions left unanswered here (what happened to Lucy?) and the descriptions were sometimes too lengthy, but overall I enjoyed Chaon's prose here and found several sections that really resonated with me, especially Ryan's story and Miles's yearning.(less)
I think that honestly this book was too wise for me. I really, honestly tried to "get it," but I don't think I did. Maybe when I have a few more years...moreI think that honestly this book was too wise for me. I really, honestly tried to "get it," but I don't think I did. Maybe when I have a few more years on me?(less)
**spoiler alert** I read this for the first time in high school, and perhaps once in college, and I still enjoy it very much. Though the ending is qui...more**spoiler alert** I read this for the first time in high school, and perhaps once in college, and I still enjoy it very much. Though the ending is quite tragic, the gradual change in Frederick Henry from one who doesn't care about much of anything to a man who cares only for Catherine is quite compelling. Hemingway's style of writing is blunt and to the point, and while he is often criticized for creating misogynistic, alcoholic male leads, in this case I feel he has created something of the opposite. Henry cuts down on his drinking, to an extent, because of Catherine, and he also truly loves her. Granted, their relationship seems to be one of Catherine being subordinate to him, but this isn't always the case ("I never felt like a whore before" she says upon being brought into a hotel room in Milan, which Henry feels bad about) and I do believe that Frederick comes to love Catherine for who she is, and not merely because she tries to please him.
But more than the relationship between Frederick and Catherine, this book has always been about the absolute destructiveness and ultimate pointlessness of war to me. From the first chapter ("only 7000 died" from the cholera) to Imo's death to the absurdity of Henry being shot at by the Italians because they believe him to be a German, Hemingway shows again and again that in the time of war, chaos and loss are dominant and death comes for all. There are also numerous references to how war in the end does very little for the common man; Frederick mentions several times about there being only victory or defeat, and how in the end, neither changes all that much.(less)
Incredibly funny and realistic look at the way an office works. I really enjoyed his use of "we" to show that when one person in the office knows some...moreIncredibly funny and realistic look at the way an office works. I really enjoyed his use of "we" to show that when one person in the office knows something, the entire office knows it.(less)
The concept for the book intrigued me, but I felt like the execution was flawed. The author is clearly a gifted writer, as many of the passages were v...moreThe concept for the book intrigued me, but I felt like the execution was flawed. The author is clearly a gifted writer, as many of the passages were very well written, but the characters more or less felt like caricatures rather than real people. There were just too many "types" that I've probably seen over and over again in literature populating this book. And it dragged on for just a little too long...the execution might have been better had this book not been an epic, insofar as it spans the main character's entire life, and had stuck to a few years instead. I can understand that the author was trying to show how the crash influenced the main character's entire life, but honestly, the tone just felt too uneven at points. It's never a good sign when I really don't care what happens to the main character by the last hundred pages or so of the book. Anyway, it gets two stars for being well written, but that's the best I can do.(less)
It took me nearly two months to finish this, and I will say that about seven and a half weeks of it were spent reading the first 200 pages and three d...moreIt took me nearly two months to finish this, and I will say that about seven and a half weeks of it were spent reading the first 200 pages and three days were spent reading the last 180 pages. I think that should tell you everything about my principal criticism of the novel, namely the pacing. I was so dreadfully bored throughout the first half of this book that I actually considered putting it down, but I figured I'd gut it out on the basis of its reputation. In the end, this was a wise decision because the second half of the book was incredible.
Part of the reason for this dissonance between the two halves is that next to nothing occurs in the first half (though the narrator and Maxim seemingly drink all the tea in China), and the second half is jam paced with revelations. But the larger reason is that the narrator is simply so pathetic in the first half that I could not stand her. I am prone to self doubt, and I am certainly one who can understand what it's like to be thrown into a difficult social situation and have no idea what to do. But honestly, I can only take only so much "woe is me" when you are literally living on a glorious estate with an enormous staff and a man who has professed his love for you. I kept waiting for the narrator to stand up to Mrs. Danvers, and it just never happened.
All of that turned around completely in the second half when the narrator suddenly seemed to realize that if she didn't jump into action and become a lot stronger, her entire world might come undone. And this was when I finally started to like the novel. The second half also jumped so quickly from plot point to plot point that it was almost difficult to keep up with it, but the frantic pace made for an incredible story.
I sincerely doubt I'd read this again. I can't imagine having to endure the inner neurotic monologue of the narrator again from the first half. But the second half is just so good that it makes the book worth at least the initial visit.(less)