Baudolino once again shows Eco’s amazing ability to turn what may be a boring pseudo-historical narrative into something hilarious, occasionally cheek...moreBaudolino once again shows Eco’s amazing ability to turn what may be a boring pseudo-historical narrative into something hilarious, occasionally cheeky, and always insightful.
If Baudolino is to be believed, he was single-handedly responsible for the canonization of Charlemagne, was responsible for the propagation of the myth of Prester John, and indirectly fueled Frederick’s ill-fated Third Crusade. The story that Umberto Eco created fits so perfectly behind history as we know it that it’s sometimes easy to forget that Baudolino himself is entirely fictional.
Baudolino, as a character, is also one of the most interesting ever written. He is fundamentally good-hearted and peaceful, yet he is such an accomplished liar that whole countries believe him, and people, without realizing it, bend over backwards to explain away reality to fit with his lies. His down-to-earth nature, quick intelligence and humor make him simply loveable, however, and it’s hard not to sympathize with him, even when his mistakes bring earth-shattering consequences.
Also, the first paragraph of the first chapter made me laugh out loud. In fact, the first chapter left me in fits. It’s the most awesome first chapter ever.(less)
Roberto della Griva abandons his sinking ship only to wash up aboard the mysteriously abandoned Dutch ship, Daphne. Within sight is the island of the...moreRoberto della Griva abandons his sinking ship only to wash up aboard the mysteriously abandoned Dutch ship, Daphne. Within sight is the island of the day before, and if he could only swim, he could reach it, and change the direction of his fate.
Island of the Day Before has a deceptively simple premise, but goes way beyond it. There are actually a LOT of things going on in this book. The book not only chronicles Roberto’s days on board the Daphne, but also most of his life: from his first battle to his first love. It also takes us through early expeditions in the search for the prime meridian, and the competition among nations, explorers and scholars to discover or create the best, most accurate method of determining longitude.
At first glance, Island looks like a tough, slow read. And it is. Despite this, I enjoyed the book. The elaborately poetic prose suited it, and I can see how the translator thought it necessary. Island is a highly descriptive book, and there lies its beauty. Once I got used to the language, I began to appreciate its sense of humor. It’s actually pretty funny sometimes. Roberto is such a strange creature full of contradictions: an educated nobleman with the instincts of a peasant, and somewhat of a philosopher but for the lack of common sense -- then again, he is a nobleman.
It’s also interesting to see the world from the eyes of a 15th century man. The things we take for granted or as a given were rare and mysterious and impossible to understand back then. It might seem funny how they knew so little about the world — scientifically — but it’s also fascinating to see Roberto and his friends reason out the concept of time, multiple worlds, and God. Some of their ideas are patently ridiculous to us, but to them it was brilliant.
The writing is perfectly Eco: it’s in no hurry to get anywhere, and some sentences go on forever, but the prose is finely constructed. The book is full of quotable things, my copy is so dog-eared. And the ending, while it left me hanging, suited it well. Anything else would have been anticlimatic.
Over-all, it’s quite good though - as I said - it’s a bit of a slow read.(less)
I always find it interesting to read young adult/children's books written by non-American authors. They tend to touch in a more direct manner certain...moreI always find it interesting to read young adult/children's books written by non-American authors. They tend to touch in a more direct manner certain topics and events American authors always try to step around or sugarcoat. That's usually the best thing about Cornelia Funke's books.
I didn't enjoy Inkspell as much as her other works, however. I'm not sure if it's because of the writing/translation, which felt a little cold and slow. The action scenes were even strangely boring and not very action-filled. I also found myself unsympathetic with Meggie and Farid. I still like Mo (he was my favorite in Inkheart) and I like Dustfinger better here because he's more fleshed out and less weasel-y than in the first book. Resa is a great character as well. It's just too bad that the book is mostly from Meggie and Farid's POV when I don't particularly like them much. The jumpy nature of the narrative (head-hopping) also made it hard to become immersed in it.
This second installation in the Gentlemen Bastards series is good enough to keep me reading and wanting the next. It's just as witty as the first, and...moreThis second installation in the Gentlemen Bastards series is good enough to keep me reading and wanting the next. It's just as witty as the first, and there were several laugh-out-loud moments for me. The banter between Locke and Jean remains as fun as ever.
However, it's a bit slower-paced than Lies of Locke Lamora, and while a bit heavier on angst, it also felt strangely less dark. Although perhaps the latter can be attributed to the fact that the Verrari are not as cut-throat as the Cammori and their criminal world (and the city at large) makes a grander show at being "civilized". I also far preferred the way the atmosphere had been set in the first novel than in this, but I understand that perhaps Scott Lynch spent more effort trying to make the nautical parts of the book feel authentic than in describing the rest.
Speaking of which, the whole time they were learning about the sea (if this were a film, it would be the perfect place for a training montage), was somewhat boring to me. It took me a long time to get past that part, even during the re-read. The scenes involving ships and pirates were action-packed and interesting, which made up for the slow middle. However, I wasn't too pleased with the way the romance aspect had been written, as it felt to me that Jean was teetering on the edge of being out of character at times. I can only hope love doesn't make Locke as ridiculous soppy and sentimental should he be around Sabetha in the future.
I loved the new characters and would really like it if, someday, Locke can once again meet Requin and Selendri, just as I hope he runs into the Salvaras another time. The way everything fell into place in the end was great and while not as inspired as the heists in the first book, the one here was still quite brilliant -- and surprisingly hilarious.(less)
Maybe I'm just getting tired of Haruki Murakami, but Kafka on the Shore took me a long time to finish because I couldn't quite enjoy it.
The prose is a...moreMaybe I'm just getting tired of Haruki Murakami, but Kafka on the Shore took me a long time to finish because I couldn't quite enjoy it.
The prose is as beautiful as Murakami's prose tends to be, but there's something about the story and the main character (Kafka Tamura) that I simply didn't like. The supporting characters were great. I loved old and "I'm kind of stupid" Nakata, Hoshino, and Oshima (although there was this weird point when Oshima went up against a pair of feminist activists and he was just really ANNOYING). The weird business with Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders I can get over because -- well -- they're not the strangest things to show up in a Murakami novel. But Kafka just annoyed me.
Also, after having read so many Murakami novels, I'm starting to see that the author's weakness is that his voice is too strong for him to actually write in the voice of his character. Kafka doesn't sound 15. Kafka sounds like a lot of other Murakami protagonists. Murakami protagonists are all so self-absorbed.
That said, I really do think the prose is pretty (if a bit slow and boring). My copy has so many Post-it flags on it for all the quotable things it has. But it's not my favorite Murakami novel -- quite the opposite, in fact. I was completely unable to connect with the main character and I found him irritating, which usually ruins books for me (see Bartimaeus Trilogy, Lioness Quartet).
ETA: The occasional jumps to second person were incredibly obnoxious. They were so jarring. And much of the book was gratuitously weird, wordy, and borderline trashy.(less)
One of the most depressing things I have ever read. The ending was kind of hopeful, with the way it was left hanging, but still pretty depressing. The...moreOne of the most depressing things I have ever read. The ending was kind of hopeful, with the way it was left hanging, but still pretty depressing. The main character was incredibly disconnected with the world for most of the book, I felt awful. The book was well written and interesting, but I really don't think I'll read it again.(less)