A little more than halfway into this, I realized that I wasn't enjoying it, I didn't care about any of the characters, and I was much be...moreWell, I tried.
A little more than halfway into this, I realized that I wasn't enjoying it, I didn't care about any of the characters, and I was much better off completely forgetting about this book. So I took the bookmark out and dropped the book off for collection and delivery to the nearest secondhand bookstore and went to read something infinitely more interesting, more well-written, and better.
The book starts out with a gory, disturbing scene of an eleven-year-old girl giving birth. There's a lot of blood and flesh and superfluous, and revolting, detail, the likes of which makes my skin crawl and my stomach feel oddly unsettled. I should have known then that I wasn't going to like this book.
And, ten or twelve chapters later, I still wasn't liking it. I don't like Frieda - she's weird and dull and unpleasant. I don't like Tayeb - he's gritty and unfriendly and strange. And I loathe the characters of 1923 (actually they seem a lot more like Victorian women. Less 1923, more 1889).
Millicent = well, I know we're not supposed to like her, but she's so unpleasant that I really have no inclination to read about her. She's not the kind of unpleasant character who's fun to read about. She's the kind of unpleasant who makes your teeth hurt and your fingernails itch.
I also don't believe in the recent trend of pushing homosexuality on "repressed" people for no good reason. Admittedly, I didn't finish the book, but as far as I know the Millicent/Lizzie relationship had no bearing on much of anything, and in modern writers' attempts to make gay characters more accessible, which should be an excellent idea, they're actually making homosexuality even more of an oddity. But that's a very different argument and I'm not going to go into it here.
This book had no spark. I was two hundred pages in and I DIDN'T CARE. I didn't care whether every single character died in a sandstorm because it made London seem cheap and vile and Kashgar uncivilized and evil.
I didn't finish the book. I don't care I didn't finish - normally I have leftover guilt but not here. This just sucked.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book wasn't only pretty boring all the way through (and I have almost no respect for Nancy Mitford as a writer because having r...more**spoiler alert** This book wasn't only pretty boring all the way through (and I have almost no respect for Nancy Mitford as a writer because having read her sister Jessica's memoir, I know that Nancy lifted almost the entirety of The Pursuit of Love from her family life as a child), it has the most universally god-awful ending I have ever read in my life.
It's all going strong until literally THE VERY LAST PAGE and then in a few words both the protagonists are killed off, without undue emotion. It's ridiculous.
I'm not even reading Love in a Cold Climate because Pursuit of Love was so obnoxiously stupid and redundant and superfluous that there's on earthly reason to read another such disgusting novel.(less)
This book thought it was a huge sweeping love story with incredible characters and a strong mother-daughter element and wonderful writing full of beau...moreThis book thought it was a huge sweeping love story with incredible characters and a strong mother-daughter element and wonderful writing full of beauty and humanity and tenderness and tragedy.
This book sucks.
If you hold it up to that standard, it would fall flat on its face. It's also a close copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - the premise itself is startlingly similar and though it goes on to differ a lot, it's too close for perfect comfort.
This book is a love story - an unconvincing one. There's all this talk of falling in love through the letters Davey (GOD! a romantic hero named DAVEY! Davey is a name for eleven-year-olds with freckles. I don't THINK so!) and Elspeth write to each other, but don't forget that we, the reader, have read those letters and it's a pretty feeble falling-in-love. It's not convincing enough.
And I don't like Elspeth and her daughter, Margaret, is unbelievably dull and Davey's not my favorite. And it's NOT a big sweeping love story and it's NOT written that well and it's not really very good at all.
It's okay. It's not great. It is absolutely not a huge sweeping romance full of beauty and humanity and heartbreak.(less)
Of all the books I've read about teenagers - narrated by teenagers, involving teenagers, mentioning teenagers - some really understand them, others ki...moreOf all the books I've read about teenagers - narrated by teenagers, involving teenagers, mentioning teenagers - some really understand them, others kind of remember what it was like to be them, others couldn't care less about them and really only need them as plot devices. This book is narrated by a teenager and about a teenager, and here's the thing.
I have no idea if J. D. Salinger understands teenagers or not. His idea of a sixteen-year-old isn't mine - but then Holden is a boy in the fifties, and I'm a girl in the second decade of the next century. He might be dead by now if he'd existed.
J. D. Salinger might understand one kind of teenager, but he didn't get the essence of teenagerhood which would have made this book a knock-out. Being a teenager is about transitioning, about finding who you are and deciding who you want to be, and Holden is too weak or indecisive or confused to know any of that. J. D. Salinger doesn't seem to have gotten that either.
Prep schools like the ones he attends are different now. Teenagers are definitely different. But for a book toted as really getting what it's like to be a sixteen-year-old, this one didn't do it. I'm a teenager. I should know.(less)
That's kind of strange, because I don't normally love YA novels aimed at teenage girls, even though I fall squarely in that tar...moreThis book blew me away.
That's kind of strange, because I don't normally love YA novels aimed at teenage girls, even though I fall squarely in that target audience. Of the several I've read, I've liked most of them - The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball springs to mind, or the million interchangeable Sarah Dessens, or Saving Juliet or Enthusiasm. I like these books. I enjoy them. But I don't normally recommend them to anyone; they're private guilty pleasures, the kind of novel you pull out on a sunny day and read with a Snickers bar and some lemonade. I read them, I smile, I put them back on the shelf and move on.
Not this book. It's short, not even 250 pages, but in that short span it made me laugh, cry, cry some more, and eventually look up from the last page beaming, shivering, gulping down strangling tears and wishing I could find Melina Marchetta and hug her.
It's funny, but it's not a funny book. It's wrenching, and it deals with dark situations, but it's not, it's never, depressing. It's uplifting and inspiring, but it's not an "inspirational" book.
It's just about teenagers, and their families, and their friends, and how really tough it is to figure out who you are and who you want to be and where you want to go and how you want to live. But it's not full of obnoxious teenage angst and sweaty parties and beer. It's about being who you want to be, and finding out who that is.
Whoever Melina Marchetta is, wherever she lives, thank god for her. This is the kind of book that makes being a teenager possible.(less)
This book is weird. And I don't really know what to think about it.
UPDATE (which starts with some pretty big spoilers) (view spoiler)[Okay, well, I fee...moreThis book is weird. And I don't really know what to think about it.
UPDATE (which starts with some pretty big spoilers) (view spoiler)[Okay, well, I feel stupid.
I didn't realize, until my mother actually told me, that Charlie Traversham-Beechers and all the other train victims were actually ghosts. I didn't get it AT ALL. That really makes the book much more understandable, and looking back I think I'd like it more on rereading.
But I have lingering questions, even knowing that all of the titular "guests" were actually dead. Why did they come to Magna? Why were they ghosts at all? How does that work? Is this a novel of the supernatural or a novel of society in which the supernatural happens to intrude? Is it supposed to be supernatural? Help me, Sadie Jones, I don't understand.
Here's the other thing. John Buchanan and Florence?? What was that? It was superfluous and strange, that's what it was. I don't know why it was necessary to the plot - it wasn't. (hide spoiler)]
With that out of the way, I can move on to the rest of the book, which I liked, I guess. Some of it seemed desperately literary, as if Ms. Jones was trying just a little too hard to be clever, but some of it was perfect. For example, the love scene towards the end which begins in the mud, is interrupted, and ends in the attic. That was perfect - sweet and tender and a little painful to read because of the clumsiness of the characters. But it really was about perfect.
The rest of the book was somewhat forgettable. I didn't really like Smudge and I thought her Great Undertaking was stupid. As for Charlotte, she drove me nuts. But I liked Emerald, I tolerated Clovis (I can put some of his unlikability down to his having such a truly abysmal name) and all in all I did like this book.
I'd like it more if I'd understood the first time who the guests and C T-B were, and more still if I understood now why they existed.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)