First of all, I'm going to commend Jodi Picoult for writing this novel--she took a significant, brave departure from her usual brand of storytelling,First of all, I'm going to commend Jodi Picoult for writing this novel--she took a significant, brave departure from her usual brand of storytelling, and I was quite surprised by the direction this took.
Because writing from the perspective of an infertile woman who desperately craves children isn't new for Picoult.
Because writing from the perspective of a couple who divorce after their infertility drives a wedge between them isn't new, either. The paths they lead afterwards aren't new either-- alcoholism and healing are all old hat.
Because writing from the perspective of a divorced woman who discovers that she's a lesbian at the age of forty? That's new for her.
This novel is brave in a lot of ways-- but it isn't bold. The dissection of a society that still insists on being resolutely affected by the existence of homosexuality by bigotry and religious fundamentalism is certainly laudable, but it isn't new. I found it readable. I found it at times sweet, readable, and very occasionally inspired. But never really groundbreaking.
However, I think that it's important for a book like this to exist. I think it's amazing that we have a very mainstream author tackling this issue, especially one of the issues she's claimed in the literary world as her own for the better part of two decades, the logistics of family, It's a novel that can sometimes be mundane, eventually falling into step with medical/legal drama that mirrors Picoult's past works, but it's worth existing. If you're a book-club type in need of a gradual introduction to gay perspectives, then this is for you. ...more
It's a final installment that's essentially meant to wrap up loose ends-- the set pieces aren't as creative or well-engineered as its predecessors butIt's a final installment that's essentially meant to wrap up loose ends-- the set pieces aren't as creative or well-engineered as its predecessors but they're still exciting, still full of myths and magic (although I still maintain that House of Hades was the emotional and epic acme of this second Greek demigod series).
Probably the children's series I've stuck around for the longest, so a little emotional with it being over, having been so invested in these characters for the last six years... especially Nico. Oh my god, Nico, the thrumming pulse of these last two books.
Final set piece, Leo, gods, guts, gold, glory-- breathtaking. Fitting end to what has to be the best post-Potter fantasy I've read. As I've always said, I spend my school year at Hogwarts-- but even if the journey has been a little bumpy with this second series, I'll still always be happy to spend my summers at Camp Half-Blood, quirks, pop-culture-infused humor, heart, and all. ...more
Pulpy, kinetic, and compulsively readable, but lacking a bit on the brain side and one two many deus (dei?) ex machina. But really fun, and the true sPulpy, kinetic, and compulsively readable, but lacking a bit on the brain side and one two many deus (dei?) ex machina. But really fun, and the true story behind it is surprising. ...more
“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaption.”
The fact that this definition is found“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaption.”
The fact that this definition is found between the flippantly perused pages of an old medical text by a character late into Anthony Marra’s brilliant, stirring, Constellation perfectly captures the spirit of the novel in a nutshell. Raw, unalloyed humanity observed in the most clinical of places—a hospital in post-Soviet Chechnya, a refugee home run by a man with fewer fingers than beds, the space between epitaphs in the clay of a pit laden with prisoners, joy amidst desolation in a name, a single name.
It’s startling just how poetic this novel can be, given how uncontrived and unpretentious it is. The beauty in this novel is as natural as language—“for months they’d run their fingers around the hem of their affection without once acknowledging the fabric” or else “he was losing her incrementally… As a web is no more than holes woven together, they were bonded by what was no longer there.”
But Marra isn't gratuitous in his poetry. The moments for the deepest introspection are far and few between in what is essentially a chronicle of life in a small rural village in Chechnya, coping with the fall of the Soviet Union and attempting to achieve autonomy. The Soviet Union is compared to a boulder, from which autonomous republics “fell like pebbles.” Deceptively light at around 400 pages, the novel is dense with reasonably obscure post-Soviet history, offering neither the excuses nor apologies of mainstream historical fiction; it’s all the life and humanity of a Khaled Hosseini read without any of the factual patronizing or blatant emotional manipulation.
The separation of eight-year-old Havaa from her father, abducted by Russian soldiers, sets off a chain of events that involve the attempts of their neighbor, Akhmed, to hide her before the soldiers notice her absence, attempts that usher in the involvement of Sonja, the brilliant head surgeon at an abandoned hospital. Connected to these individuals are a web of others dealing with their own battles, Khassan, who has become a pariah after his son becomes an informant for the Russians, Natasha, Sonja’s sister, who disappears without a trace, Dokka, from whom his friends hide duplicity, and even Havaa herself, clinging to her father’s last memories as tightly as her mysteriously guarded suitcase.
The density and slow pacing of the novel are hard to surmount, especially given how spoiled contemporary fiction has made us, but it’s worth overcoming, as there’s a breathtaking, organic beauty to this book. The nature of the adaptability of life resonates between the pages (pages that cleverly weave between separate years and decades), and Marra’s brilliant at subtly making his points clear. Even more fascinating is how he uses the stage of post-Soviet Chechnya to demonstrate terribly complex ideas, such as the nature of morality to be twisted and shaped by the political climate. Towards the close of the novel, we’re treated to what is one of the most authentic depictions of the constitution of hope amongst devastation that I’ve ever read. The last few pages are viscerally captivating.
Propelled by quiet narrative power and sophistication, Anthony’s Marra’s Constellation elevates itself a tier above most other historical fiction with uncommon resonance and complexity.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review....more
A silently wrenching novel that fostered a dull ache in my heart. Lovingly and tragically describes the complicated, embarrassing mess that being in lA silently wrenching novel that fostered a dull ache in my heart. Lovingly and tragically describes the complicated, embarrassing mess that being in love is. Brunt doesn't sugarcoat her characters, and the honesty captivated me in a way that contemporary novels have difficulty doing....more
I don't really have time to write a full review (in fact, I'm waiting until I finish reading another book--Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn--because I tI don't really have time to write a full review (in fact, I'm waiting until I finish reading another book--Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn--because I think it'll make an excellent joint comparison), but here are some stray thoughts.
So I was pleasantly surprised by "A Thousand Splendid Suns." Hosseini sidesteps and even irons out a lot of the faults that were so glaringly evident in his renowned "Kite Runner." The melodrama that plagued "Runner" vanishes here, for the most part, and not only does that do justice to the incredibly important story he has on his hands, but increases the realism and effectiveness of it. His sporadic tonal shifts in "Runner," were incredibly jarring for me, especially as they grew more frequent towards the falling action. But "Suns" is nearly seamless in that regard, flowing well.
"Kite Runner" has actually grown on me over time... I'll get to that, too.
The relationship between two women in this novel anchors it, the heart of the story. Miriam was the standout character of the group.
Hosseini has a gift for prose-- it sparkles. He also brings Middle Eastern culture into the literary mainstream, which is a powerful thing.
The theme of home settles over the pages with deft, poignant, grace... an especially meaningful thing for readers with immigrant parents. ...more
Cute. Really, really cute. Very realistically depicts coming into your own, eliminating fear as you gravitate into adulthood, and the fandom-friendlyCute. Really, really cute. Very realistically depicts coming into your own, eliminating fear as you gravitate into adulthood, and the fandom-friendly core should prove really appealing to millenials... I found the Harry Potter-esque Simon Snow to be hilarious, right down to the "homoerotic subtext." One tiny thing that irked me was that Harry Potter itself was mentioned, even in passing... because Simon Snow wouldn't survive in a Harry Potter world; in fact, it would probably have been sued for plagiarism. My favorite part of the book is its dismissal of several YA/NA (if NA is still even a thing) tropes. For one thing, it doesn't succumb to the whole virginal heroine/bad boy/evil succubus cast of characters. It was likewise pleasant to see strong female characters who are simultaneously unabashed in their vulnerabilities; very refreshing. I found Eleanor and Park, Rowell's previous novel, slightly overrated, and the same might be said for Fangirl-- but it's a pleasant, unoffensive, and fairly enjoyable read. ...more
I love The Oatmeal and was mildly amused by this. It lacked the poignancy of "The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distance" and the infoI love The Oatmeal and was mildly amused by this. It lacked the poignancy of "The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distance" and the informativeness of "Why the mantis shrimp is my favorite animal," but it was funny. ...more
Lockhart's style is extremely lyrical and takes considerable narrative license with a style that borders on free-verse poetry--the execution works outLockhart's style is extremely lyrical and takes considerable narrative license with a style that borders on free-verse poetry--the execution works out in that it creates a haze-like atmosphere that suits the narrator, but it didn't so much engage me as it does detach. What else? Lockhart's statements about wealth aren't exactly bold, but those about tragedy, especially those towards the end, were fascinating. She kept me turning pages, and alright, I swallowed the twist at the end. I'll buy it, although I couldn't help feeling like she cheats with her narrative at some points to make the twist feel more surprising. It's interesting, and other than the typical teenage characters who think they know everything, I'd say it's on the highbrow side of YA-lit. My biggest problem with the novel is that I never really cared about the characters I was reading about, and while it's hard to care for characters in a book that deals with greed so heavily, it's not impossible, and it was hard to become emotionally invested in any of them.
Overall, a smart, readable novel for the YA set. ...more