God this book was awful (and so very cringe-worthy when it comes to gender relations), but sometimes you just need the kind of escapism that only ElizGod this book was awful (and so very cringe-worthy when it comes to gender relations), but sometimes you just need the kind of escapism that only Elizabeth Peters can provide....more
The mystery unravels in a clever way, even if some of it is clear from early on. The film noir style narrative seemed heavy-handed and was something IThe mystery unravels in a clever way, even if some of it is clear from early on. The film noir style narrative seemed heavy-handed and was something I'd tired of by the end, but I did appreciate the depth and richness of the overall story of the environs of New York itself. It felt as though the author was peeling away any modern notions about the city one detail at a time in a way that made the streets come alive for me. I would've enjoyed exploring them more if not for my mixed feelings about the characters themselves (mainly the main character Timothy who seems an impossibly frustrating mix of straight-laced/rebel/prude/experienced-beyond-his-years/egotistical/living in the shadows of self-doubt)....more
The basic premise of this story is good—coded manuscripts and academic thriller style. Easy and indulgent beach read type thing, right?
But that's theThe basic premise of this story is good—coded manuscripts and academic thriller style. Easy and indulgent beach read type thing, right?
But that's the only good thing. The rest of the book is BARF. BAAAARRFFFFF. Yes, that is my mature adult conclusion.
Other reviewers have eloquently touched on the self-preening pretentiousness of the characters and how distracting that becomes. I expected some ivory tower elitism given that the authors miss no chance to mention that this book is set at PRINCETON, but was surprised by just how poorly executed the plot and writing became because of it.
What really struck me though are the privileged white-douchebag-frat-boy expressions that reach hyperbole levels of insipid mansplaining. Between the pathetic Schrodinger's cat reference and cringe-worthy philosophical soliloquies juxtaposed alongside the main character's utter paralysis when confronted with CLEAVAGE, I found myself dumbstruck with laughter and repulsion at this ridiculous "book." Just when you think that can't be topped, you read the bit about the emotional weight of being "old men at 30," due, apparently, to the sheer volatility of this SO TERRIBLE posh potboiler experience of their tumultuous youths. Thankfully, these wealthy boys are able to overcome being baptized in blood and fire and go on to completely privileged/steady/ho-hum jobs. I mean, thank god, I was worried for a minute there that things wouldn't work out for them after being tormented by that tyrannical mistress of a manuscript....more
I found the illustrations and the way the stories were visually crafted was truly incredible and may read this again just to peruse them more. The stoI found the illustrations and the way the stories were visually crafted was truly incredible and may read this again just to peruse them more. The stories were interesting enough, exploring themes of the familiar vs unknown, perceived reality, and the darkness of "what lies beneath." I loved the particular attention to period details and setting, but thought that, overall, the narratives were somewhat underdeveloped. What I assume the author intended as a sense of mystery/horror, often seemed abrupt and vague--too vague to be unsettling in the way that was intended and simply frustrating. I only wish the narratives had as much depth as the artwork itself. Those drawings and the palettes...those are really going to stick with me....more
"Great museums are like great cities: seen from without, their grandeur impresses, from within they are villages, minuscule patches where a personal a"Great museums are like great cities: seen from without, their grandeur impresses, from within they are villages, minuscule patches where a personal adventure can spring up and spread its wings. And I dreamt of this great, intimate adventure in that grand decor." —Durieux
As the reader, you are allowed to be a fly on the wall as a retiring museum director and his muse sneak through the hallowed halls of the museum at night. Dream, reality, past, and present are put into service to illuminate some character development and narrative, but I found myself wishing for a bit more. I appreciated the concept of the book and found it charming, droll, and the melancholy lightheartedness strange and lovely. The foreshadowing provided by the subtext was crucial in elevating the story, but overall, the book just didn't reach its full potential for me....more
I appreciated that in many ways, this was a piece of historical fiction that did not betray the convoluted nature of humanity for the sake of plot. II appreciated that in many ways, this was a piece of historical fiction that did not betray the convoluted nature of humanity for the sake of plot. I have to admit I'm a bit confused by some of the reviews saying this book fizzled out for them and involved too many subplots that didn't quite pan out. On the contrary, I found it to have a nice mix of characters that wove in and out of each other's stories—one placed at each pivotal point of society to round out various perspectives on the larger historical narrative that is unfolding. You really do have to keep reading to see how that works though. Vantrease doesn't try to create perfect heroes, but rather lets the dual nature of individual souls become the case study for her story to play out upon.
The thing is, this WAS a pretty dramatic time. There is a lot at stake for people from all levels of society. And yes, there are some viewpoints in the book that feel more modern, sometimes stretching it a bit in order to connect with the modern lay reader, but I think it's wrong to assume that everyone in "ye olden days" was dowdy/prudish/scary conservative. I mean, there had to have been people who didn't agree with the church and had a more progressive/enlightened view of spirituality or else such a religious/political uprising would not have gained traction. Not everyone who felt that way could/should have put pen to paper, but it feels short-sighted to think they weren't part of the story at all of affected by historical events. In order to crack open such a story with so many moving parts, you're going to need some characters that stand in for basic concepts (the less substantial younger characters for example who tend to only see one version of events/themselves) and those who give voice to a more complex, and sometimes modern, range (Julian/Kathryn/Finn).
This, for me, made for a more truthful, and therefore more meaningful, investigation of how the larger spiritual, religious, and political movements of the 14th century played out in the lives of individuals; how the unfolding of a big historical picture could have actually affected individuals at various levels and pockets of society. The family drama can get a bit soap-operatic at times, but it seems like that's too be expected to a certain extent with historic fiction (and btw, since when were Follet's books NOT like that?!). It's not meant to be non-fiction, so don't read/review it as such.
Not necessarily my favorite book ever, but, for me, the way that the author wove together strong research with very flawed characters and a bit of "salacious" drama, made this story more engaging and complex....more
I wondered if it would be too fluffy when I picked it up at the library, but it really struck just the right mix of playful admiTHIS BOOK WAS AMAZING!
I wondered if it would be too fluffy when I picked it up at the library, but it really struck just the right mix of playful admiration and incredibly well-researched information. The rare photos really added to the text and didn't just feel superfluous; it was meaningful to be able to see the woman RBG became over time alongside her accomplishments and challenges. I laughed-out-loud and cried while reading it, much to my own surprise. I mean, I knew RBG was a super rad lady before, but my respect for her practicality, collegiality, and steadfastness in her personal and professional life now knows no bounds. This book won me over by being both wonderfully informative at every turn and a joy to read as well....more