Five stars on Goodreads for me has come to mean that which is good enough to rise high above whatever inevitable problems there are. If I find a trulyFive stars on Goodreads for me has come to mean that which is good enough to rise high above whatever inevitable problems there are. If I find a truly perfect book, I'll be sure to SAY that it's more than five.
I read Ann Patchett's newer book, State of Wonder first. I gave it five stars as well. It's been a while since I read two books back to back by the same author and was impressed by them both. That happened with these two. I think she's a good writer.
This book didn't grab me the way State of Wonder did. It was a very slow slog until I began to bond with the characters. And yet, bond, I did. This book is different. To appreciate it, you have to take it all metaphorically. Even though the author says she's trying to make it "operatic" and that it is unashamedly "melodramatic, to me, it's not about the action or the drama but about tiny, subtle, day-to-day changes within the boredom of daily life. In this case, the character's daily lives are about being held hostage. But within that, there's very little terror. Kind of like real life. We know terrible things could happen to us any day, but mostly those things don't happen, so we just do not think about them. Change takes place but slowly and subtly and that is how we come to know the characters in Bel Canto.
There are unbelievable things in this plot. Maybe that's what Ms. Patchett is talking about when she calls it operatic. They are devices, used to further the metaphor. I can allow her these because she pulls it off and because this is a book that is still making me think about life lived day to day to day....more
This book has merit, but also problems. The parallel stories worked for me because the premise was a good one and I wanted to find out how they fit toThis book has merit, but also problems. The parallel stories worked for me because the premise was a good one and I wanted to find out how they fit together. However, "how they fit together" ultimately became a disappointment because there were no surprises. We get an emotional reaction and newly-found relationship between the MC and her (formerly minor character) father-in-law, not her husband who remains a 2-D character throughout. Sarah's story was mainly told through use of questions that a small child might have about the horrific times she's living through. Telling through questions. This picked up during the times when she's out of the camp and is discovered by her benefactors. Then we have interesting action as well as suspense. The last third of the book is ridiculous. The pregnancy, the trips to the US and then Italy even though the supposedly smart MC's suffered numerous miscarriages in the past and ultimately the long, drawn-out coming together of Sarah's son and the MC. It's too bad. Several good hard edits could have made this novel stunning. ...more
The first section of this book made me certain that I'd hate the rest of it. More like a personal essay than a novel, it was telling, telling, tellingThe first section of this book made me certain that I'd hate the rest of it. More like a personal essay than a novel, it was telling, telling, telling-all unnecessary backstory. It's still a mystery to me as to why someone somewhere along the line didn't suggest to Terry Fallis that he should weave all that into what turned out to be an excellent, fun, entertaining and satisfying narrative. Once the novel began, it flowed beautifully (with only a few exceptions for-probably necessary-inside politico info).
I should say that I am interested in politics. I don't know if someone who wasn't would like this novel. But if you are at all interested, it's worthwhile. There are no surprises here and there's never any doubt that it's fiction (aka: unbelievable), but the humour with which the story is told and the cast of unusual characters make this a success story on more than one level.
And we can wish for someone even a little bit like Angus McLintock to come along and save us all. ...more
This was my Book Club's selection last month and the best quote of the evening was that this book is "Nancy Drew for grown-ups...or no, maybe for chilThis was my Book Club's selection last month and the best quote of the evening was that this book is "Nancy Drew for grown-ups...or no, maybe for children." The 11-year-old protagonist, Flavia--an expert in chemistry--is entertaining, the plot is engaging on several levels (the stamps mystery/history is fun and unusual) and the breezy writing-style makes the book readable. However, Flavia's superhero-like knowledge and insights are not believable, especially for a child. There are plot holes and factual errors. And, there's a huge amount of the "mystery" that gets TOLD by one character to another 3/4 of the way through the book when the action should be at its peak. Pleasant reading if you don't think about it too much....more
My feeling about this book is that the author is more an academic than a novelist. She can write and seems to know what she's writing about but this bMy feeling about this book is that the author is more an academic than a novelist. She can write and seems to know what she's writing about but this book needed a lot of editing. The story is, for the most part, told for the first 80 pages. I would never have kept reading except for the fact that this is a book club selection. Around page 80, the novel begins to unfold as a story should, through the action...though the plot remains minimal. It's difficult to identify with or care about the protagonist, Lilly, because our introduction to her is distant and unemotional (because of all the telling). Our knowledge of the turbulent times in Ethiopia that Gibbs writes about comes, as it does to Lilly, as unseen, unexperienced, second-or-thirdhand information. We get to know about some of the after-effects through the refugees in London, but it all ends up having little or no impact because of the way it's told. ...more