I seem to be at odds with the other reviewers but this is not my favorite Chris Bohjalian book, not by a longshot. I enjoyed it, and it certainly wasI seem to be at odds with the other reviewers but this is not my favorite Chris Bohjalian book, not by a longshot. I enjoyed it, and it certainly was informative. Like most readers, I knew nothing of the genocide prior to reading. But somehow the characters lacked depth or never got developed enough...and the backdrop of Aleppo, the square, the hospital sort of intermittently faded in their significance. As usual for Bohjalian, there were the contrivances, the unlikely synchronies that make the stories themselves seem like, well...stories. I've nothing against romance, or coincidence, for that matter, but I felt somehow this novel lacked the heft it should have had in dealing with the subject, and that surprises me since Bohjalian is dealing with something so close to his heart. Still definitely worth the read, though!...more
**spoiler alert** Gregory's books are a weakness of mine when I am looking for an absorbing diversion, and this book was no exception. I am getting ti**spoiler alert** Gregory's books are a weakness of mine when I am looking for an absorbing diversion, and this book was no exception. I am getting tired of the constant open straining against convention and expectation of gender commentary, which is constant in this book, and grating. It also makes the heroine feel very modern. In the end, of course, after she saves her beloved, she still winds up a contented wife and mother. Historically I felt this was perfectly consistent with every other piece of fiction or history i have read concerning Mary's reign and the transition to Elizabeth but I found it difficult to believe Hannah would have been so devoted or sympathetic toward the histrionic, heretic-burning monarch. I didn't quite buy the more sympathetic portrait of Mary, either. But as always and as promised, the story, while silly, kept me engaged and I was sorry to see it end.
I'd give this a 3.5 if I could, somewhere between "I liked it," and "I really liked it." I LOVED some of the concepts she explored in this novel...theI'd give this a 3.5 if I could, somewhere between "I liked it," and "I really liked it." I LOVED some of the concepts she explored in this novel...the idea that once something or someone becomes visible, by being seen, it is changed, or it changes itself because it is being watched; and the idea of viewing appearance as a sort of commodity. And I connected with most of it, although I did get bogged down time to time with the fact that the characters REALLY don't communicate with one another. Apparently the idea that we tend to hide or withhold ourselves from one another is also a big theme here. But I still struggle with that. And many times I wanted to scream "Tell your mom! or Tell your best friend!" The character of Moose was well developed and realistic and maybe I related a little too well to his psychosis but I still found Moose's story grating and I struggled to get through the Moose parts because I found them irritating. Not my favorite Jennifer Egan. Definitely third behind the Goon Squad and The Keep; but a very deft undertaking of some pretty fascinating concepts and well worth the read, or in my case, the listen....more
Good story but writing was mediocre and straightforward. I would've liked it better if more time had been spent exploring how Sarah coped with the eveGood story but writing was mediocre and straightforward. I would've liked it better if more time had been spent exploring how Sarah coped with the events from her past. Definitely could have done without the distraction of the narrator's disintegrating marriage and pregnancy. There was a great opportunity for depth that was missed and the novel felt insubstantial, despite the seriousness of the subject matter. I downloaded on a whim because I needed something to read on a flight, and it was perfect for that. I got halfway through on the plane and finished it the next night in bed. ...more
I have been trying to remember the title and/or author of this book. I kept thinking there was something about four corners in the title. In reading aI have been trying to remember the title and/or author of this book. I kept thinking there was something about four corners in the title. In reading a review for The Secret History i kept thinking this is that book...no...maybe not..and luckily somebody mentioned the similarity between that and this book, and I went, "Oh yeah." I don't recall being blown away..I remember thinking it was fun and I recall feeling disappointed at the ending a bit. So there it is and I can add it to my library, which pleases me. It's been like a teeny tooth missing in an otherwise mostly perfectly row. I have a couple of other gaps but not many. At any rate, if you are thinking that you read The Secret History but you aren't sure...maybe you read this book instead....more
So much fun! What a ride! All of the fun and imagination of a pulpy spooky thriller, and all the wonderful writing, thorough research, and attention tSo much fun! What a ride! All of the fun and imagination of a pulpy spooky thriller, and all the wonderful writing, thorough research, and attention to detail that is typical of Bohjalian. Read by Mark Bramhall who is always great, and Alison Fraser who had about 20 distinctive voices, both male and female. She really outdid herself, finding a fine balance of being "witchy" enough to be distinctive without being too cliched. The one thing, in terms of the construction, that I didn't like (and I never do) is that the entire length of the novel builds and builds to one climactic scene, and then the ends get neatly and quickly wrapped up. It's a contrivance, a device of the genre, and thus is totally appropriate here; but I still wanted more time with the characters after the climax. ...more
I admire Jordan's skill as a writer, the visceral way she has of describing physical details and making them important. And there's a compelling storyI admire Jordan's skill as a writer, the visceral way she has of describing physical details and making them important. And there's a compelling story here, or at least the potential for one. The book moves fast and the main character moves through several places and relationships rapidly, which means the other characters never get fully developed, or aren't sufficiently complicated to be interesting. The result is a story with a didactic or allegorical feel, which i am sure the author intended; but that doesn't leave much room for the reader to interpret the big themes and puzzle them out..she spells it out for you in a way that i found mundane when it wasn't irritating.
It's obvious this is an homage to the Scarlet Letter, and I guess because of the religious dystopian setting and the systematic subjugation of women, comparisons to The Handmaid's Tale are unavoidable. But this book diverges significantly from the themes of both of those novels and is mostly about how Hannah rediscovers her faith in God while ridding herself of the prejudices and dogma of her evangelical upbringing. This quasi-spiritual actualization personal growth crap never ceases to produce a tremendous yawn and sour burp from me. The scene about 3/4 through the novel where Hannah has a fireside chat with a twinkling little female sexually unthreatening Episcopal priest who had felt mysteriously compelled to leave her home and drive through a blizzard to the sanctuary and so just happens to be there when Hannah needed her..if i had the book in my hands instead of my bluetooth i would've thrown it across the room. I was listening to the audio version; and the narrator has a very young and feminine voice (why does the person reading the story have to sound like the main character, i don't get that) which doesn't help the lack of gravitas.
Wow, this review sounds like I hated this book and I certainly did not. It's just that there were so many wonderful and creative elements in place, such potential for a really thought-provoking and powerful novel..but instead of trying to understand the complexities of the values and ethics of her society, Jordan's Hannah becomes preoccupied with her own personal empowerment and the worn out navel gazing, who is god and does he/she love me, can I still have faith without my dogma. For those of us who AREN'T struggling with those issues, the whole story just seems hollow and silly. There is an overall weightlessness to this book that is really unfortunate when you consider the potential of the premise.
I am STILL waiting for the man's version in novels like the Handmaid's Tale and When She Woke. ..The character of Aidan, the father of Hannah's aborted child, has lots of authority and struggles with his own moral convictions...i am still waiting for the perspective of the perpetrators in these novels, how an essentially well intentioned or goodhearted person can reconcile their participation in and even mastery of systematic cruelty and injustice.
As a young adult novel, this book isn't bad. Definitely taking things up a notch from the Sweet Dreams paperbacks I read when I was a kid. And I thougAs a young adult novel, this book isn't bad. Definitely taking things up a notch from the Sweet Dreams paperbacks I read when I was a kid. And I thought it was sort of a sly way to introduce the revolution in France to young readers. But this definitely is NOT one of those young adult novels that transcends genre and becomes a classic for all ages (like The Book Thief). I'm a sucker for the time travel device, which is what drew me in to begin with. And it works here very well. But Andi just wore me out with her melodrama. And Alexandrine wasn't much better. The whole fixation on the great tragedy of Louis Charles was underwhelming, although it did work as a means of tethering the present to the past. I had trouble figuring out who the target audience for this book was. Any girl old enough to read about teenage sex, drugs, and suicide is mature enough to read grander stuff than this. It felt like a history lesson disguised as a Nora Roberts novel. ...more
When i was younger, and considered myself deep and ponderous and seeking to become "ed-u-cated" i probably would have fallen absolutely in love with tWhen i was younger, and considered myself deep and ponderous and seeking to become "ed-u-cated" i probably would have fallen absolutely in love with this book. I think I am a lot like Tony, maybe, in having managed to manage my passion and be satisfied and feel quite accomplished in having accomplished such a feat. And I have had ample opportunity, though not so ambiguously as Tony, to be confronted with the fact that i was at times a tremendous asshole on a few occasions during my early adulthood. I often compare memories of shared experiences with one of my friends and finding startling differences among our remembered details. But at this point i find all of this preoccupation with what it means to have become ordinary even more silly than the embarrassing grandiosity of my adolescent aspirations and my contempt for anything less than utterly profound.
It's a beautifully written book and wonderful to listen to. And yeah, i guess it's a bit of a jolt to consider that we can, in service to our own fragile ego, manage to remember and forget things in such a way that we can live with ourselves without really setting them right. And the secondary, or maybe the primary theme here is that everyone is the protagonist in his or her own narrative..so even events that involve you aren't really ABOUT you in the scheme of someone else's subjective experience..and yes, aren't we all so vain as to think that what we THINK plays any role at all in someone else s inner dialogue or that we've got the whole story. But it's impossible to test out whether anyone knows what we think or whether they really are thinking what we think they are thinking based on anything less than outright admission and even then..well..people lie. I liked best the parts where Tony very liberally interprets Jack's opinions of him based on slight visual cues, and thus assumes him to still be the cad he had unjustifiably if not inaccurately cast him as decades before. But in the end, this is Tony telling us a story about how he is earnestly struggling to make sense of the behaviors of others toward him and around him and it is a compelling enough story that we want to know the answers too.. but he manages to live with his curiosity and confusion and still avoid asking any direct questions or confronting anything head on. And I am not young enough or profound enough or otherwise freethinking or philosophical enough not to think the best way to find out anything is to ask everyone involved a lot of questions. And if Tony had asked enough questions and the right questions he would have had all of his answers by page 15 rather than 150, and Barnes would not have himself a book on the Man Booker short list. Navel-gazing, especially the self-recriminating kind, while captivating, is still a frivolous pastime....more
Hard not to love this one..even though the main character is a child, which usually really turns me off. I have been some reading some pretty cynicalHard not to love this one..even though the main character is a child, which usually really turns me off. I have been some reading some pretty cynical and depressing fiction lately and I needed a break, but I was afraid this was going to be too precious. It wasn't..The warmth and depth of understanding between the characters and especially the love between the foster father and the book thief brought me back from my brink of contempt and utter despair for humanity. Would have given it 5 stars except for, unlike most reviewers, i thought the death as the narrator thing was gimmicky and sort of silly and some of the analogies and metaphors felt very contrived. I felt the story was so strong that the wordy color and taste-related descriptiveness came across as forced, rather than brilliant. This was distracting. I could almost see the 8th grade English class test questions being written as I listened. Another thing (and this could be because I was listening to the audiobook) were the chapter headings or section headings or whatever, where there was a list of seemingly unrelated objects..which were then featured and developed in that chapter. Those were annoying but I might not have noticed them at all if i was reading instead of listening. ...more
It is sick and twisted yet austere, fatalistic, stoic, and beautiful, psychotic but not frenzied, and incredibly brilliantly vivid. Not sure if enjoymIt is sick and twisted yet austere, fatalistic, stoic, and beautiful, psychotic but not frenzied, and incredibly brilliantly vivid. Not sure if enjoyment is the right word for what I experienced listening to this, but I couldn't stop. And since finishing, the tone has permeated my mood and my own perspective. I'll be walking around in Pollock's world in my head for the next few days. You know a book is special if you don't want to start something new because you haven't let go of the world you inhabited in the one you just finished. I was less stunned by the violence and perversity than some of the other reviewers; in fact I found it less pervasive than I expected based on the other comments; but if the only way you can tolerate depravity is within a context of redemption, retribution, or atonement, this isn't the book for you. ...more