Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You is fun. It's well constructed and easy to read. But, this is definitely a book that would be better as a...moreJonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You is fun. It's well constructed and easy to read. But, this is definitely a book that would be better as a film, and lucky for us the film releases in the US in September 2014.
After reading the synopsis, I had expected more substance to the book than it really delivered. That's disappointing, as my Book Club voted to read it based on my pitch!!
The book promises the breakdown of a man whose wife has an affair with his boss (and she's pregnant!), and other awkward family discord as the estranged siblings are requested to sit shiva together following the death of their father. They're somewhat lapsed Jews, so that should make things more interesting.
It doesn't. The fact that they're sitting shiva is almost an after-write, a plausible reason to get the family to stay in the same house for a week without actually leaving. Though, I'm sure the low shiva chairs and visit to the synagogue will make for some great visual humour on screen, moreso than would have come from being snowed in or otherwise trapped.
Some of the comedy is painfully overdone. The scene at the synagogue was great until (view spoiler)[the sprinklers came on (hide spoiler)], and I would have preferred a different ending for the scene later that day when Judd's sister-in-law (view spoiler)[effectively rapes him (hide spoiler)]. Did anyone really need to (view spoiler)[fall off the roof (hide spoiler)]? I think not. The only thing missing was mass food-poisoning, a food fight, or someone burning the house down.
Okay, so what should you really expect? Expect a damaged family, damaged people, damaged relationships. Expect drugs, alcohol, sex, infidelity, homosexuality, and rekindled youth romance. Expect slapstick "hilarity". Don't expect a lot of shiva. Don't expect a climax or anyone coming to any life-changing realisations. Don't expect resolutions.
Each member of the family seems to finish the week as broken as they were to start with, the only difference is that it's all out in the open now.
I swayed between a two-star/three-star rating. I wouldn't say it had enough meat to be called a 'drama', it's an easy read but I didn't lose any sleep in my eagerness to get through another chapter. Overall I still enjoyed it enough to warrant 2.5 stars, and so I bumped it up to 3. I'm sure the film won't fail to delight.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Dina Nayeri is a talented and ambitious writer. Unfortunately, her first novel is somewhat unremarkable.
The story itself seemed so promising; young tw...moreDina Nayeri is a talented and ambitious writer. Unfortunately, her first novel is somewhat unremarkable.
The story itself seemed so promising; young twins from a wealthy Iranian family are separated when one twin and their mother 'disappear', the remaining child believes they fled to America, and her 'same blood' relationship with her twin means that their lives will remain intertwined regardless of the separation and the space between them.
The story itself has many stories written in, many voices, and many relationships. But none of them is strong enough to support the novel as a whole. There is the story of the three friends, the story of the three old women, and of course there is the story of Saba and her lost twin sister. Every time one of the characters starts to tell their story, it lapses back and all you really hear is Saba's voice. As a character, Saba herself isn't particularly interesting, so she doesn't command the reader's attention. It's like Nayeri initially wrote six or seven subplots, and in her indecision to choose one strong theme she has combined the subplots without creating anything to tie them together properly. I kept wishing Nayeri had chosen one relationship to focus on, and explored that more. I wish that she had developed the life of the twin sister, Mahtab, more thoroughly and explored it as domino or a metaphor. I was left with a complete lack of caring for the outcome of any of the characters, and think that is a shame.
My other main criticism is that Saba's everyday life before and after the revolution seem almost indistinguishable from eachother. She seems 'inconvenienced' by the revolution, having to get her American videos, music, books, and beauty products at inflated prices from a Tehrani man. There is one extreme incident with the pasdars and one execution, but overall you don't get the impression that village life has changed much. I still don't understand how the wealthy Christian Hafezi family are so easily accepted into Cheshmeh. Nayeri explains Agha Hafezi's way with the locals, but I'm not truly convinced why the locals don't stick together for their own safety.
Nayeri is a wonderful writer, and had she been able to storyboard her ideas with a good editor before starting to write, I believe she would have achieved exactly what she set out to do. A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea shows great promise, but on the whole it fails to deliver. I look forward to her second novel.(less)
Absurd and disturbingly poignant, reading Pelevin's 'Omon Ra' feels akin to taking LSD and staring at a child's mobile of the solar system as the drug...moreAbsurd and disturbingly poignant, reading Pelevin's 'Omon Ra' feels akin to taking LSD and staring at a child's mobile of the solar system as the drug wears off (possibly while suspended in a harness, wearing full SCUBA gear and after several months of eating only star-shaped noodles in a bland chicken and cabbage broth as your sole form of sustenance).
It runs the full course of: normality - LSD - coming down from LSD - becoming aware of new surroundings - questioning new surroundings - questioning everything - carrying on as normal. Of course, the tale itself contains no LSD, but reading it certainly feels that way.
I'm torn in that I can't say that I "liked" it, but I still liked it. It made me question the passive nature of man, and our acceptance of subterfuge when we can reconcile it with our own dreams. I was reminded, perhaps unduly, of Philip K Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly' crossed between the film 'Waking Life'. I can't explain that, maybe it's just the drugs.
There is a veiled dark humour behind the absurdity. Something I think was made more clear by the particular translation I read (thank you Yuri Machkasov and your glorious footnotes!). Otherwise the reader might be confused, or simply oblivious, to certain culturally specific references. I can imagine this book is hilariously on par with Orwell's '1984' when read in it's original text, but without a lot of the background history you'd be almost forgiven for missing the punchline.
Overall - a bleak and hilarious look at Russian space flight from the perspective of a dreamer who became an 'insider'. Explored through the eyes of a willingly unwilling cosmonaut, the setup is glaringly analogous to that of the American moon-landing "conspiracy". Anyone who scrutinised and relished that idea will no doubt enjoy Victor Pelevin's 'Oman Ra' as well.(less)
**spoiler alert** I warmed to Shriver's novel about as much as Kevin warmed to his mother. I don't care that other people love it, because it's just n...more**spoiler alert** I warmed to Shriver's novel about as much as Kevin warmed to his mother. I don't care that other people love it, because it's just not very good.
I will start, however, by conceding that this is a fantastic book for group discussion and would be excellent reading for your reading group, but perhaps not ideal for high school reading.
People tend to love it because they say it's heartrendingly honest. I can see how that perception comes about, but I believe it is only a superficial aspect to the story and used as a crutch to gloss over the fact that it's poorly written and ill-conceived.
The book fails on many levels, the largest of which is the construction of the narrative. Written as a series of letters from Eva (mother) to her husband, the reader is supposed to assume that the couple are separated after Kevin (the son) goes on a bit of a killing spree at school. I didn't buy into that at all. No part of me could conceive that her lengthy word-for-word recounts of dialogue they'd shared as a young couple was in any way 'honest' content for letters to an estranged partner. There is also no rational motivation for her to describe in detail the events that he had participated in. That's simply not how couples communicate. I also had a hard time believing that she was a competent and lyrical writer. Her command of the verbose hand-written letter just doesn't assimilate with her profession as a writer of travel guides. A few chapters in I realised that the only way I could reconcile the narrative as 'plausible' was if her husband was dead and she was partially confabulating her history. Indeed, that is the only reason I was able to continue reading the book without shouting something obscene and hurling it at the wall. Finding out halfway through that her husband and daughter were "together" just infuriated me.
What else is there to say? It's poorly organised, unbelievable, and goes on far too long. I don't believe that Kevin dressed the way he did (or that he started a fashion trend…), that the husband was some kind of simpleton, that Eva was able to bond with her daughter so easily as if to prove that Kevin was truly evil from birth, and I don't believe the family talked about school shootings casually in the lounge-room and didn't see a damn thing coming!! The whole thing is nonsense.
I literally skimmed the last twenty or thirty pages because I had to finish it for book club, and I got as much out of that cursory passing as I did reading the rest of the book properly. A waste of my reading time.
**After much angst with respect to the Star Rating System, I'm convinced to give it 2 Stars because it's not completely awful. However, rest assured that I did not indeed 'like' the book.(less)
I have an inkling that this book might actually be brilliant, but I couldn't get through it all the same.
Can't tell you what it's about because I did...moreI have an inkling that this book might actually be brilliant, but I couldn't get through it all the same.
Can't tell you what it's about because I didn't get a clear storyline. It's lyrical fantasy, with a lot of invented words and concepts. It seems like it's well written for the genre. But I think I hate the genre.
I struggled my way through 60 pages, and finally abandoned it knowing I wasn't enjoying it and wouldn't get anything from it. If you're a hard core fantasy reader, with the space to really settle into something abstract - this might well be the book for you. (less)
So remarkably well written you'd think it was fiction.
I utterly devoured this book. It's hard to encapsulate why into anything more than, 'just read i...moreSo remarkably well written you'd think it was fiction.
I utterly devoured this book. It's hard to encapsulate why into anything more than, 'just read it'. I can imagine how the investigation consumed Capote. It swallowed him whole and then tried to digest him for years. I think he was tormented by the blatant unreal 'simpleness' of it. He tried to comprehend the incomprehensible. I don't think he did, and yet here we are. Not only is the book incredibly well written, you cannot walk away without considering how many years he researched, and how much work went into delivering this 'story' as a manuscript. Capote carefully pieced together his account of 'the truth', and he drip feeds that to us in a way that forces the reader to hang on his every word. You know what will happen, but you are attached to the lives of the Clutter family, and to the poor shaken town of Holcomb. The closing chapter is perhaps somewhat hurried. Other stories of a similar nature are peppered there, as if to show that the world itself had changed, and Holcomb was not alone. But they are quickly closed. Do they rationalise this case? I don't know. I think those scattered thoughts add simply to that - the confusion you'd feel, and the doubts you'd have with the whole world after something like this happens. Capote genuinely tries to understand Hickock and Smith. It almost feels like this is an act that should somehow redeem their souls, but it ends in pity, and no redemption.
My only real criticism is a hazy concern upon reflection of the start of the book. The work is supposedly pieced together from statements and interviews. It is a feat of journalism. However, who are we to know what happened to the Clutters in the privacy of their own home? While all was peaceful, I mean. No one had a chance to tell those tales, so what is written here is mere speculation. It 'sets the scene', certainly. But it also leaves me with doubts. How much did Capote embellish to have this story told?
Regardless, In Cold Blood is a tale of two men who murder four members of a family. It is incredibly well delivered. It is bleak, and it is heartwarming. You should have a copy on your bookshelf. (less)
Meh. I am not attached enough to this book to bother with a proper review. It was easy to read, but the 'plot' is all over the place. The ending is atr...moreMeh. I am not attached enough to this book to bother with a proper review. It was easy to read, but the 'plot' is all over the place. The ending is atrocious.
The dialogue was written well enough for me to give it two stars - but it probably only deserves one.(less)
Baker conveys the journey through the fog of 'truth' incredibly well. Pattered between his narrative is the voice of his parents, clutching their memo...moreBaker conveys the journey through the fog of 'truth' incredibly well. Pattered between his narrative is the voice of his parents, clutching their memories close to their chests. Does sharing your story make it stronger? Or do you lose some ownership, something that tethers you to your origins? He pieces it together with equal parts of pain and joy. His mother's utter loss, who barely exists on paper. His father's irritation as Baker demands 'fecks', and then the disparate excitement when finding the right barrack at Auschwitz.. A lifetime's research has gone into reconstructing the lives of Baker's parents. I can't imagine the torment it must have been to rake over the past in this way. To find himself questioning their memories in his search for truth. He must have a strong and wonderful relationship with them.
I understand the gaping void of not knowing your own history. My own grandparents, and my infant mother, arrived in Australia in 1949. They came in part of a "group resettlement". To this day I dislike calling them "migrants". It's not like they chose their path. They passed away when I was too young to want more, and now I have nothing but a ship manifest that surfaced on the web a few years back. I've always wondered if searching for my family history would take me anywhere meaningful, or if their history disappeared with them when they fled. Baker makes me believe that there is something out there worth finding.
I didn't buy this book. Or borrow it. But somehow it came into my possession, and I am glad that it did. The cover art does not do it justice.
Ultimately, The Fiftieth Gate is well written, and incredibly well researched. It offers a warm narrative to an otherwise cold and dark timeline. Essential reading for anyone whose family rebuilt their lives after being branded only as 'refugees' or 'displaced persons'.(less)
A classic that has spent too much time on the "currently reading" shelf beside my bed. Very well written compared to other pieces of its time. Without...moreA classic that has spent too much time on the "currently reading" shelf beside my bed. Very well written compared to other pieces of its time. Without discussing the book in depth, I was amazed (and impressed!) at how quickly Flaubert ended the final chapter. It had been dragged from town to town for some time, and was then swept up into closure so very quickly. The disjointed way it was thrown together, and the mix of all the unconnected comments is a fantastic finish for such a tale. It is almost as if madness descends upon all of Yonville. I tired of reading classic fiction (and classic romance) many years ago, so it was both enjoyable and refreshing to dip into the genre again. Well written and easy to read, and for that it gets 4 stars. Of course, the story is pointless, and has no great metaphors or depth to it. But, all the same, a pleasure to read.(less)
I was really looking forward to reading this, and perhaps I expected too much; merely setting myself up for disappointment. I expected more of Doctoro...moreI was really looking forward to reading this, and perhaps I expected too much; merely setting myself up for disappointment. I expected more of Doctorow as a writer, I don't know why. I expected better content, better quality of writing, better .. something. I didn't expect romance and a "Disney" happy ending. The book has a great premise, and it's fun. Doctorow could benefit from a good editor, potentially turning this into a great book. Around halfway through I started to think the reviewer comments on the cover were for a different book. It quickly becomes predictable and clichéd. There were a number of things that irked. The central female character hugs four or five people in part 1, and each time - they "resist at first", then melt into her embrace. Every time the characters eat they "ravenously throw food down their throats" or eat "like hungry dogs". The worst part is the five page sex scene one of the characters has with a stranger. The core of the story is about how two geeks use some Elmo doll tech to make a ride, and Doctorow spends a paragraph explaining how that actually works. But there's five pages of unnecessary and awkwardly graphic sex. Someone please buy Doctorow a thesaurus, because he needs to find a word to use other than "hilt". Overall, I was disappointed. The characters are well developed, but you'd be forgiven for mixing up the two central geeks halfway through. The story twists, but sort of goes nowhere in the end. I feel like the ending with Suzanne and Freddy was written because Doctorow realised he had nothing better to finish with. But it makes for a weak core. If you do read the book, don't read the epilogue. The irony of Doctorow tidying up everything with a "Disney" ending is not lost, but is unnecessary.(less)