I probably would've given this five stars had I been English, but many of the people mentioned and politics discussed were unfamiliar to me, which hin...moreI probably would've given this five stars had I been English, but many of the people mentioned and politics discussed were unfamiliar to me, which hindered my understanding a little.
Alan Bennett is a genius. I've thought this before, and still think so after reading this book.(less)
This was a difficult read for someone without a science background, but I couldn't put this book down. I might've read it in one sitting had it been a...moreThis was a difficult read for someone without a science background, but I couldn't put this book down. I might've read it in one sitting had it been a novel.
I can't possibly give it a rating, though, until I've done a little self-experimentation.(less)
I hear it took Franzen 10 years to write this brick and I feared it'd take me another 10 to read it. In reality, it consumed 3 weeks, and I may not ha...moreI hear it took Franzen 10 years to write this brick and I feared it'd take me another 10 to read it. In reality, it consumed 3 weeks, and I may not have ploughed through had it not been a book club book, with a deadline of tomorrow.
The problem with novels in which we follow multiple characters is simply that we're likely to enjoy reading about some more than others. I found Patty's parts interesting, despite that weird talking about herself in the third person thing that she did. (I've read some of Jonathan Franzen's advice to authors, and one of his nuggets of advice is to write in third person unless a strong first person voice presents itself. There are limits, Jon. Limits.)
Strangely, while I empathasised with Walter Berglund (as I was surely meant to), I found his story the least interesting.
Joey was a little shit if ever I saw one, and although we were *told* that he came good, we aren't sufficiently shown it. For some strange reason we never hear much about Walter and Patty's daughter, Jessica. Perhaps good people just aren't that interesting.
The ending was pure cheese. Manipulative, on Patty's part, and reminiscent of a teenager's unimaginative fantasy scene -- needing to warm someone up so that they don't die of hypothermia and then falling heavily in love after looking into each other's eyes. This was disappointing because until that point I'd thought the author artful in his portrayal of heavily emotional scenes, including arguments and sex scenes.
Franzen likes his long-winded sentences, and first sentences (of the book, and of each section) were particularly convoluted. I think he's good at writing dialogue though.
Due to the slightly unusual structure of the book (is this what makes it 'literary'?) I was alternately interested and bored stiff all the way through. This is why I struggled through it in the end, knowing on Monday that if I didn't read 50 pages a day then I wouldn't get the darn thing finished in time to discuss it tomorrow night.
I'm sure that's not the mark of an enjoyable book, but I suppose it was an achievement.
Unusually for me, I'm going to steer clear of commenting on Jonathan Franzen's 'woman problem' because I really can't make up my mind on that from reading just one book. And I've no intention of reading another.(less)
The first half of the book didn't interest me much. I wanted the story of Cal, not the story of Cal's grandparents and parents as appetizer. The next...moreThe first half of the book didn't interest me much. I wanted the story of Cal, not the story of Cal's grandparents and parents as appetizer. The next three eighths were very engaging and the final eighth became a chore again. In sum, I liked three eigths of Middlesex.
I'd been looking forward to reading a book with an intersex narrator. I wanted to know more about Julie Kikuchi, because I found her to be a really engaging character, possibly because she was mostly absent and therefore mysterious. I'm glad this book wasn't a simple love story though, focusing like a transgender documentary only on the most obvious and crude aspects of being neither male nor female, so I appreciate that about it.
But I had hoped this book would move me more. Perhaps the author's very literary way of jumping omnisciently in and out of heads despite writing from first person POV meant that I couldn't quite identify with Cal. At least Eugenides has proven that there are no POV writing rules. At least, not if you're Jeffrey Eugenides there aren't.
I now want to read an intersex biography I heard of a while ago, except I have to remember the title of it first. I think intersex people are in a unique position to understand how gender works in our society. I'm not sure Middlesex offered me all that much insight, since the author himself can only but guess, like most of the rest of us.
Bill Bryson has a talent for finding the most bizarre, ironic and ridiculous facts from history and presenting them in a snigger-inducing read, and th...moreBill Bryson has a talent for finding the most bizarre, ironic and ridiculous facts from history and presenting them in a snigger-inducing read, and this one is one of the best of his that I've read so far.
'At Home' defied my expectations, because I thought it was going to take place mainly inside the house, but the author seems to have surprised himself by how expansive a view of recent history he managed to cover by structuring this book according to rooms of a house. He answered many questions I had (why Crystal Palace is called Crystal Palace, why it's called 'bank holiday') and many, many more questions I'd never have thought to ask in a million years.
I managed to annoy my family by insisting on sharing the most amusing parts of the book, even as they tried to read their own historical fiction, eventually needing to set theirs aside for all the interruptions. I can assure you we're all much better informed on the subject of bed bugs and nits.(less)