Doctorow has imagined the lives, thoughts and motivations behind the real figures of Homer and Langley Collyer, elderly brothers whose compulsive hoar...moreDoctorow has imagined the lives, thoughts and motivations behind the real figures of Homer and Langley Collyer, elderly brothers whose compulsive hoarding made national news when the brothers were found dead, one crushed by the horrendous accumulation of newspapers and debris in their New York City home, the other starved to death. Told completely from Homer’s point of view, who has been blind since childhood, we learn about the brothers’ lives and how they coped with their emotional and physical burdens, while also experiencing the historical progress of New York City through the early 1900s to the present.
I found Doctorow’s mastery of the rhythm and flow of Homer’s thoughts and observations astonishing. With a subtly comic thread running through all of Homer’s narration of his life and events, Doctorow’s reveals his “love” of the character of Homer, a voice that a reader can care about.
While the story left me feeling sad about the awful result of the brothers’ isolation, I also think I’ve developed my sense of empathy a little through Homer's insights, an awareness that everyone, even strangers, have an inner life that I can never know.
I gave the book 3 stars because I didn't feel Doctorow paid as much attention to developing the other characters in the book as he did to Homer. As the story progressed into the 1960s and 70s, I also felt my interest lagging and I was less inclined to believe the storyline.
This was my first introduction to Doctorow, although his name was very familiar to me. I think I will continue to read his books and see if his sense of language and style is even more apparent and enjoyable.
I just did not "get" this book. This is the second book by Ian McEwan that I've read, (or attempted to read) and I was flummoxed. :-) A married couple...moreI just did not "get" this book. This is the second book by Ian McEwan that I've read, (or attempted to read) and I was flummoxed. :-) A married couple, Colin and Mary, is vacationing in an area/island/country (??) unfamiliar to them where they don't speak the language. The two of them are kind of losing their attraction/love for each other and tension is high. They get lost and a threatening man basically stalks them, then attaches himself to them by offering to help and as a resource for getting around. The man (Robert) gradually acts more and more aggressive towards Colin and flirtatious with Mary.
For reasons beyond me, Colin & Mary go to Robert's place, meet his friendly yet odd wife, Caroline, and then are not "allowed" to leave. As the couple plots ways to escape, they seem to rekindle their relationship. The whole situation with Colin and Mary in Robert's building reminds me of a horrific nightmare--not because of graphic images, but just the aura of impending violence and FEAR that shrouds the whole setting. I suppose that was the author's intent--"normal" masking the reality of fear/violence.
Colin & Mary fall in love again after escaping, but their newfound attraction plays out in graphic fantasies of sexual violence, bondage, helplessness, etc. Disturbing to say the least. The couple eventually returns to Robert & Caroline's "house of horror", on the pretext of rescuing Caroline and solving a mystery, and it doesn't end well. I'm still kind of befuddled by what actually happened.
I will say that Ian McEwan is skilled at writing description and dialogue that seems to just flow right out of his characters' thoughts and experiences. At one minute you are amazed at how exact he is with the flow of thoughts in people's heads, then you're shocked by some utterly surprising or repulsive idea that follows.
I guess I will say that I didn't "like" this book, but it's a book that won't leave my thoughts any time soon.
I found myself easily caught up in the narrative voice and language of the author's Arab-American heritage. Using the actual recipes of ethnic foods t...moreI found myself easily caught up in the narrative voice and language of the author's Arab-American heritage. Using the actual recipes of ethnic foods to add meaning (and flavor) to family anecdotes works for the most part, but sometimes it felt like an unnecessary stylistic distraction.
If you're a foodie and like to read lists of spices and exotic preparation techniques, you'll enjoy this book. (less)