2 stars only because I was able to finish it, but I didn't like it. It seems like every character represented something, rather than just existing as...more2 stars only because I was able to finish it, but I didn't like it. It seems like every character represented something, rather than just existing as characters in a story. This kept me from engaging with them, and as a result, kept me from engaging with the story.(less)
I have now read all three David Nicholls' novels, in reverse order from that in which they were written. The one constant which has been present from...moreI have now read all three David Nicholls' novels, in reverse order from that in which they were written. The one constant which has been present from the start is an underlying sweetness to his characters, even when they're behaving badly.
Brian Jackson is the goofy kid we all knew (or were) trying to make his way through his first year of college. Despite all his good intentions, and his ill-conceived attempts to become cool (or perhaps because of them), he still manages to offend and anger everyone who cares about him.
Mr. Nicholls makes us alternately laugh and wince as we watch Brian try to overcome his social awkwardness and woo the pretty girl who everyone knows is out of his league. Everyone, that is, except Brian. As painful as it is to watch, you find you just have to know what happens next. And just when you think poor, hapless Brian's situation couldn't possibly get any worse, it does. But he comes through it, hopefully having learned some valuable life lessons along the way.
There isn't anything deep or earth-shattering about this book. It's just a pleasant way to spend a few hours and reminisce about the follies of our own youth. Plus there's the fact that Mr. Nicholls has wonderful taste in music! For nearly every song he mentioned, I mentally cried out, "I love that song!"(less)
While I was reading this book, I was constantly struck by the fact that I was absolutely hating it. Several times I was tempted to abandon it. The cha...moreWhile I was reading this book, I was constantly struck by the fact that I was absolutely hating it. Several times I was tempted to abandon it. The characters were among the most despicable I have ever read: young and middle aged people being immature and self-absorbed, completely oblivious to the pain they cause to everyone around them, particularly those who love them. The few worthwhile, or rather not loathsome, characters that were introduced were fodder for the central characters.
However, I stuck with the book, and something happened toward in the last few chapters. I don't know if the characters grew on me, or if it was the way Ms. Egan had them mature and find some redemption in the end. All I know is that at the moment I finished the book, I no longer hated it. Sasha and Bennie grew and changed, and although I still find their behavior throughout most of the novel absolutely reprehensible, I was unable to work up the same level of dislike for them at the end.
While I disliked the characters, I can find no flaw in Ms. Egan's style. Even while I was hating the story, I found her prose to flow easily and I couldn't help wondering what it would have been like if she had written characters I actually cared about.
I still can't quite say that I liked the book. However, I didn't hate it. (less)
I was all set to give this book a 2 star rating, because I was really not liking it. But about 3/4 of the way through, there was a line about the atta...moreI was all set to give this book a 2 star rating, because I was really not liking it. But about 3/4 of the way through, there was a line about the attainment of wisdom through learning, and for some reason, that paragraph really resonated with me, particularly in light of the fact that 60 Minutes recently did a feature on David McCollough in which he mentioned the dismal state of learning in 21st century America. As I read to the end of the story, I found myself disliking it far less. Yes, Zooey comes across as a horrendously conceited and outspoken individual, but deep down, he truly cares about the well-being of his sister, Franny. It's just that he has such an abrasive personality that he is unable to keep his highly judgmental opinions to himself (the same way Franny was unable to stop herself from saying horrible things to her boyfriend in the opening chapter), and sadly Zooey's inability to censor himself only makes Franny even more distraught. Despite his backhanded way of trying to comfort her, I found their final exchange over the telephone to be quite tender.
Sadly, these two things which I did like did not come until the end of the book.
What I did not like about the book is that it too verbose and sooooo dialogue heavy. It read like a play. I do not like reading plays (yes, that does include Shakespeare). I like reading prose, beautiful, descriptive prose, which can conjure images in my mind. It's ironic that the few descriptions in Franny & Zooey read like lists (describing the contents of a medicine cabinet, as another reviewer pointed out, and listing the contents of a living room).
And now here is were I'm going to raise the ire of many here, but I also feel this book would have benefited from some serious editing. There is no reason for it to be 200 pages long. I don't know anything about Salinger, other than he was a recluse, so I don't know if he had a bullying type of personality who would have cowed an editor who wanted to change something he wrote and actually wanted published. The bathroom scene where Zooey's mother comes in to talk to him (which takes up a good chunk of the book) did not need to be nearly as long as it was. Rather than give the reader a blow by blow of every word they exchanged, I would have preferred a narrative which summed up the gist of what was said and gave us a better idea of what was going on in their heads.
My enjoyment of the last quarter of the book was not enough to completely overcome what I felt were its shortcomings, so 3 stars is all I can give it.(less)
This is probably the saddest book I have ever read. I was so disappointed not only with the sad ending, but with the utter lack of hope. I don't mind...moreThis is probably the saddest book I have ever read. I was so disappointed not only with the sad ending, but with the utter lack of hope. I don't mind books with sad endings, but at least offer me some gleam of hope at the end! I was going to give it a 3-star rating for being such a downer, but it is too beautifully written to warrant 3 stars. So 4 stars for beautiful prose.(less)
Despite its 406 pages, this was a quick and fun read. The dialogue is very witty. My family must have thought I was losing my mind because I kept laug...moreDespite its 406 pages, this was a quick and fun read. The dialogue is very witty. My family must have thought I was losing my mind because I kept laughing out loud. And despite the seeming light tone of the book, there is something deeper too, if you care to dig. It’s a coming of age story, not in the traditional sense of transitioning from youth to adulthood, but in suddenly realizing that you’re in the middle of your adult life, but you have yet to live an adult’s life. Imagine finding a somewhat comfortable place, becoming complacent with it, and waking up one day to find that in your complacency, you completely forgot to look for what you really wanted. And with your life nearly half over, you wonder if you still have time to fix it. The lesson here is that you can’t just sit around and wait for life to happen to you; you have to go and make it happen. And Juliet, Naked manages to convey this message in a way that is not the least bit maudlin. Quite the contrary, it does it in a funny, lighthearted way.