Hype is a pernicious thing. I'd been looking forward to MR. PEANUT so much, due largely to the rave reviews the book had got from many bloggers whoseHype is a pernicious thing. I'd been looking forward to MR. PEANUT so much, due largely to the rave reviews the book had got from many bloggers whose taste I usually share. Perhaps it was impossible to live up to my expectations. I don't know. Anyway, I was rather disappointed by this, in the end. The non-linear narrative did not work for me. Many were impressed with his structuring, but I'm afraid I found it a little heavy-handed and it sometimes left me struggling to plough on. Such an approach might have worked better if I had fallen in love with the writing, but I'm afraid I didn't. And there were bits - an extended verbatim report of a university lecture about Albert Hitchcock, for example - that left me pulling my hair out in frustration. It was all very clever, but awfully self-indulgent. There are certainly some great scenes - the one in the airplane will stay with me for a long, long time. And Adam Ross deserves credit for trying something different. I know lots of people loved this - just didn't work for me. But I'll certainly read his next one. He's an interesting writer, no doubt about that....more
Shteyngart is obvious a brilliant writer - that much was clear after a few paragraphs of this book. The sentences are dazzling, and perhaps the book iShteyngart is obvious a brilliant writer - that much was clear after a few paragraphs of this book. The sentences are dazzling, and perhaps the book is worth reading for the prose alone. But the love story of the title seemed little more than a convenient vehicle for the author's dystopian vision near-future, which I found a little tedious (if clever) after a while. I didn't find any of the characters especially engaging, but perhaps that wasn't the point. It's all a little too arch, too knowing, for me. ...more
I absolutely loved Udall's last book, THE MIRACLE LIFE OF EDGAR MINT, and so couldn't wait to read this. At first I had mixed feelings - the novel (whI absolutely loved Udall's last book, THE MIRACLE LIFE OF EDGAR MINT, and so couldn't wait to read this. At first I had mixed feelings - the novel (which is very long) seemed to ramble a little and I found myself wondering where it was all going. But Udall knows what he's doing. He sucks you in to this alien world of religious fundamentalism and polygamy and peels back the layers to reveal the more universal human truths that bind us all together (no matter how many wives we may have.) His hero, Golden Richards, is a huge (in every sense), memorable character, whose problems and neuroses are all too human. The tribe of wives and children who trail after him are less clearly drawn but their amorphous, sprawling presence in the novel works wonderfully well. I do not remember the last time I cried as much as I did at the end of this book. I was, embarrassingly, on a plane, and I blubbed like a baby, so deftly had Udall reeled me in, so cleverly had he orchestrated his story.
If I had one criticism of the book, it was that I felt that for much of the book the author was holding back on his writing. The man can write mesmerizing sentences, but I got the feeling that he was deliberately reining his style in to fit the slightly mundane character of much of the story. This was confirmed during a passage half way through the book when he describes the effect of nuclear testing in the desert - at that point he kicks into full gear, and his writing soars. After that I was left wishing that he had sustained that kind of writing for the rest of the book, but of course that was never his intention. Udall is such a master technician, he uses his skills exactly as he sees fit. I think the guy could write just about anything he chose.
I read this novel in two days. Two busy days, at that. An awful lot of people have observed that this book is nigh impossible to put down once you begI read this novel in two days. Two busy days, at that. An awful lot of people have observed that this book is nigh impossible to put down once you begin reading, and I can confirm that this is indeed the case. The author pulls you in to the story, and then simply doesn’t let go. The narrative drags you along with quiet but inexorable tension. It’s merciless, and quite brilliant.
The story revolves around an ex-pat American couple living in London, and (I don’t think I can be accused of spoiling anything, given the title) the affair that the wife, Georgie, has with the director of a play in which she is starring. If that all sounds somewhat humdrum, don’t be deceived. This is an all-too-human, and utterly gripping story. The author marshals her characters expertly and creates an almost intolerable sense of inevitability about the disintegration of their marriage. Watching this self-absorbed woman’s fall from matrimonial grace was a little like watching a car crash in slow motion. It’s brutal, but one can’t pull one’s eyes away for a moment.
One of the things that makes the book so memorable is that there is a secondary narrative deftly woven in with this very modern fable, the intriguing true story of Dora Jordan, a famous eighteenth century actress. I knew nothing about Dora Jordan before reading the book and her own tragic story provided a telling counterpoint to Georgie’s own trials. It also served to ramp up the tension deliciously.
And then there’s the ending.
I’ve read some very heated debates online about the merits of the ending. I confess I am still in two minds myself. It is awful, shocking. When I finished the book I put it down, numb, and wandered about for a while, trying to make sense of it. At first I felt angry about it. Over time I slowly came to terms with it. It’s difficult to discuss the ending in any meaningful way without giving away what happens, and I certainly don’t want to do that. But it speaks to the power of the novel as a whole and to Nancy Woodruff’s ability as a writer that she was able to make me care so deeply about her characters.
I read, or rather devoured, LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL in a couple of days. It is still haunting me now. The book is filled with an exquisitely mournful sI read, or rather devoured, LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL in a couple of days. It is still haunting me now. The book is filled with an exquisitely mournful sense of lost connections and fleeting, unfulfilled desires. I loved it and was very sorry when it came to its beautifully wrought, unsettling end. Mandel is of those writers who seems incapable of writing a dull sentence. I can’t wait to see what she does next....more
This was one of those rare books that managed to do something completely new. I was constantly being turned about, left in a state of delicious bewildThis was one of those rare books that managed to do something completely new. I was constantly being turned about, left in a state of delicious bewilderment as I was never quite sure what was going on. In the wrong hands this sort of metafiction, reader-teasing stuff can grate hugely, but Egan pulls it off brilliantly. The best comparison I can make is The Magus, by John Fowles (and this is high praise indeed from me.) Highly recommended. ...more
I was so impressed by Jennifer Egan's second book, THE KEEP, that I went straight out and bought her earlier novel, LOOK AT ME. To my pleasure and astI was so impressed by Jennifer Egan's second book, THE KEEP, that I went straight out and bought her earlier novel, LOOK AT ME. To my pleasure and astonishment, this one is even more impressive. Its enigmatic, multilinear story line kept me hypnotized throughout. Egan juggles parallel, complex story lines with total ease. She swaps perspectives and characters with an assured deftness that is beginning to get me down, just a little, it’s so good. And damn, she writes beautifully. Here’s a sentence pulled at random, describing New York traffic: “A clot of yellow cabs had formed, all oozing in a kind of agony toward a single destination.” There’s page after page of this stuff. It’s stupendously good....more
Funny, informative, full of enticing anecdotes, the author's passion for his subject is evident throughout and he deftly manages a complex, detailed hFunny, informative, full of enticing anecdotes, the author's passion for his subject is evident throughout and he deftly manages a complex, detailed history with entertaining aplomb. Bravo. Loved it. ...more