Now, this is why I like being in a book group. This novel has never, ever been on my radar. Never showed up on "recommended" lists, or been in any ofNow, this is why I like being in a book group. This novel has never, ever been on my radar. Never showed up on "recommended" lists, or been in any of my acquaintances' top-tens. So, good ole book group: Alas, Babylon!
I'd say 4.5 of five. Not a book to jump and down and shout about, but I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It holds up remarkably well - published in 1959, there is a lot of opportunity for this book to feel dated. That doesn't happen much, here, though.
Yes, gender roles in this novel are old-fashioned. That said, the women easily contribute as much as the men, perhaps more... women are just not to be called upon for anything that's physically dangerous. And yes, the women defer much too quickly for my 21st century sensibilities. While this novel does not go out of its way to denigrate women, it does reflect the less-than-equal era it was born in.
Similarly, race issues are old-fashioned. Pat Frank does not go along with the idea that races are fundamentally unbalanced or should be segregated; in fact, in several instances the text acknowledges that once survival is the main focus people (good people, at least) must start considering each other for what they contribute, not the color of their skin. I think this is significant, since segregated water fountains were legal until 1964.
The fact that the black characters still defer to Randy after it's clear that they're easily pulling more than their own weight (a fact which the main character notes, appreciates, and attempts to balance), they still use deferential language. Again, my 21st century mind struggled a bit on that - I ended up deciding to view it as a habit; communication styles wouldn't change as quickly as the reality of life - so habitual patterns of deference would hardly change in a day.
This not an overly complex novel; it's a survival story with a moral code. The good guys win. The bad guys don't. There are losses, of course, but in the end the town of Fort Repose creates its own little oasis in the middle of world war, chaos, and nuclear fallout.
When I told my husband I'd finished The Plover, his first comment was, "I bet you're going to give The Plover a lot of stars on Goodreads."
Yup, he knWhen I told my husband I'd finished The Plover, his first comment was, "I bet you're going to give The Plover a lot of stars on Goodreads."
Yup, he knows me well.
This is, quite simply, a marvelous book - I loved it at least as much as I loved Mink River. That's saying quite a bit. Mink River is quite possibly in my top 5 books... ever.
Doyle clearly has a style. I can read a passage (say, an essay in a magazine) and know, within lines, that it's Doyle. The lyrical language, the lists, the asides, all written in this poetical prose that makes me want to read aloud. Reading Doyle's novels put me in a happy place.
What I loved about The Plover:
* The characters. Declan comes from Mink River, but otherwise they're new. None of them are simple - they're complex, and human, and, well... they're good. Nobody is all good or bad - they all have stories, and they've taken paths that have led them to where they are today... and they have choices ahead of them, and somehow, as the pages march on, I just know that even the most dastardly of the bunch has it in him to be good, and bright. That hope for humankind tickles my soul. Heck, in Mink River I didn't care much for Declan; he was a bit of an ass. But here? We see the whys and hows of Declan - more than he sees himself, I think. Oh, and Pipa... I can't stop thinking about Pipa. I especially loved how he wrote her in the first of the novel, all her fluttering and chirps and trills. He honored her shattered, wounded self in a way I've not read before.
* The magic. This is not a world of spells, or mantras, unless you count the odd Irish motto or the simple magic of the world. And in Doyle's world, things are not as simple as we humans see them. The birds speak, the fish have thoughts, gulls tell stories and get offended if we mock them. Warblers have joy and rats make plans. The most wonderful dog in the history of dogs has an island that he intends to thoroughly explore before he dies.
* The world. The world is a dangerous place. Murder, death, war, hate, kidnapping, violence, despair. And yet - magic miraculous things happen every moment. Each being is miraculous, and unique, and deserves to be sung.
* And, the language. I already waxed on about that. ...more
This book is hard for me to talk about; I finished the last page and just kind of sat there for awhile. Then I read the author's notes at the end, andThis book is hard for me to talk about; I finished the last page and just kind of sat there for awhile. Then I read the author's notes at the end, and then I just sat there... again.
Intellectually, I know that there are slums. I know there are slums in Mumbai. But to follow along several families living in Annawadi, pushed up against the Mumbai airport...
I have never read an account of this kind of poverty, and it is a horrific picture. I simply cannot imagine what life would feel like, crammed into tiny spaces up next to other, equally desperate people, squeezed tight with garbage, sewage lakes, and social foulness. Rat bites a common night-time occurrence. Women setting themselves on fire to avenge social slights. Corruption so deep there really is no redemption. Destitution so complete that it is normal to walk past a man, a mere "track picker," who lays dying in the street after being hit by a car.
To not be surprised that no one comes to that man until he is dead, his corpse now an inconvenience.
Compassion in Annawadi seems to be more luxury than way of life. And the goodness just seems to get choked out, no matter how one may wish to hang on to it.
This was a good thing to read, but it didn't improve my opinion of humanity. Not sure what to do about that.
This book is a fine thing. Boo, in four years of close contact and observation, manages to gain a perspective on a group of people that are largely ignored. She ferrets out depth from people who have learned that introspection yields discontent, who can't afford to rehash tragedies....more
Maybe I would have rated this higher if I hadn't come to it expecting something more; as it was, this book was a short-lived disappointment.
Short-livMaybe I would have rated this higher if I hadn't come to it expecting something more; as it was, this book was a short-lived disappointment.
Short-lived because it's a quick read. A few hours.
A disappointment because I was expecting something more... more speculative. More sci-fi, or fantasy. Fantastical.
As it was, this book is okay (hence two stars). The voice is fine, a little flat. The main character is okay, a little flat. His friends were flat, the girl was flat, the story was flat. I never got all that invested. To me, the story unwound in a "and then I did this, and then I did this, and then I did this" sort of way.
Which is a bummer. There are some interesting elements: The Jimmy/Milla story is touching, as is the Sophie story. But it just feels like Ed is taking Valium. He accepts too easily. Or, maybe that's the point: Ed just drifts along with whatever winds come. I don't know.
The Doorman was cool. Maybe the best character in the novel.
Interesting device, flat execution. Probably great fodder for a movie. Not much can get lost in the translation....more
I enjoyed this volume - 3.5 out of 5, really. The stories are good, less grisly than the first two volumes... though an undercurrent of violence stillI enjoyed this volume - 3.5 out of 5, really. The stories are good, less grisly than the first two volumes... though an undercurrent of violence still runs through the entire thing.
It seems to me that The Sandman series is full of sorrow....more
Every year I read a Dickens; Oliver Twist is number four. I continue to be struck by the power of these novels.
It always takes me some time to fall iEvery year I read a Dickens; Oliver Twist is number four. I continue to be struck by the power of these novels.
It always takes me some time to fall into Dickens. Archaic language, references to unfamiliar things both foreign and outdated, social norms no longer appropriate... and yet, somehow, the books remain current.
Oliver Twist is a horrific novel, really. Gory murders, brains dashed out on rocks, abhorrent poverty, intentional starvation, gross disregard of humanity...
It's a study of contrasts. Oliver Twist and Rose are so sweet and pure as to be allegorical, and Fagin and Stiles and yes, even the Bumbles are so dark as to be nightmares. And sometimes, yes, it's wordy. Really wordy. Paid-by-the-word wordy.
And yet: I loved this book.
Not everyone is black and white, though. Nancy was one of my favorite characters, and she wasn't pure by any definition. Charles Bates grows, in the end.
And the description of London... sometimes I felt so soiled, oppressed by the description of the lives the dredges of humanity led. More disturbing than the grittiest fantasy out there, if you read closely. ...more
I am a fan of Murakami. Kafka on the Shore is one of my favorite novels, and I've enjoyed quite a few others as well. This is my first foray into hisI am a fan of Murakami. Kafka on the Shore is one of my favorite novels, and I've enjoyed quite a few others as well. This is my first foray into his short story fiction, though... and I'm not sure what to think about it.
It reads like Murakami. In the novels, I like this "Murakaminess." I've pondered much over the last few days how to describe Murakami's style, and I can't figure out how to put it into words. Sparse. Pragmatic. Something.
The short stories are fine. Some fall flat, others are quite good, but maybe so many stories is a bad thing for me because it really shines a light on how repetitive he can be. Jazz. Adultery. An emotional flatness that seeps into so many of his characters. An "oh well" attitude that just seems, well... empty.
Perhaps these things just don't translate well into English? I don't know. I'll give another short story collection a shot, though.
And his novels? Still working my way through that cannon....more
This book was okay. Maybe better than okay, the writing is pretty good, but heck - I'm not a big mystery/police procedural/investigation kind of readeThis book was okay. Maybe better than okay, the writing is pretty good, but heck - I'm not a big mystery/police procedural/investigation kind of reader. And despite the fact that I read this for my sci fi/fantasy book group, that's all this is.
Yes, the premise is interesting: pre-apocalypse comet drama and the resulting mayhem as everyone looks death in the face. But sci-fi? I just don't think it counts.This is a murder mystery.
I liked the main character, and this was a quick, pleasant-enough read. I'm not interested enough to read further installments, though, even though the idea of what happens to society when it believes it's got a real expiration date is actually pretty interesting. Just not enough to drag me into reading another mystery....more