This book is being read by people all over my county, DeKalb, Georgia, as part of the Many Voices, One County initiative to discuss the diversity of vThis book is being read by people all over my county, DeKalb, Georgia, as part of the Many Voices, One County initiative to discuss the diversity of voices and experience among us. In We Need New Names, Bulawayo writes about the story of Darling, a 10 year old girl living in a shanty town in Zimbabwe after her family's home and neighborhood was destroyed by the Mugabe regime. It describes her life and her community vibrantly and in a unique and lyrical voice. In the second half of the book, it describes her decision to move to the US, specifically to Michigan. The book loses some of its energy-- and it's difficult to tell whether this is simply a narrative losing energy, or a deliberate choice that reflects the character's experience of the US as a cultural experience that lacks the vibrancy of Zimbabwe.
This was a fascinating and engaging book, with an interesting perspective and set of experiences. Neither Zimbabwe nor the US are romanticized, although later we see Darling's nostalgia for the country she calls home. I admit that part of my engagement through the whole book is that a good chunk of Darling's later experience is set in Kalamazoo, Michigan, my hometown, and clearly the author has lived there and knows the community, although about 25 years after I left it. Knowing the community, I think Darling's are a fascinating set of eyes to see it through.
I would have liked the book to be a bit more linear, rather than what seemed to be a somewhat episodic set of linked short stories. Darling's life made leaps that shook me out of the story, and left me with gaps that I wished the author had filled, particularly around Darling's departure from Zimbabwe. The fragmented structure of the story and the number of cultural issues with which the author grapples left me feeling unfocused. It seemed like the author raised a laundry list of cultural and political issues. Also, the author does have a set of authorial ticks, with some overused constructions, that I imagine will be smoothed over as she writes more novels.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, however, and will definitely look for more from this author....more
Freddy Savage's character in the Princess Bride is a more astute and suspicious consumer of books than I am. He asks of the book his grandfather is reFreddy Savage's character in the Princess Bride is a more astute and suspicious consumer of books than I am. He asks of the book his grandfather is reading to him: "Is this a kissing book?" He is encouraged that Westley the farm boy is attacked by pirates. ("Attacked by pirates is good!") Alas, the absence of pirate attacks in Mrs. Poe is one of its primary flaws.
I expected (and hoped) that we would get a soundly researched historical novel that explored what might be behind an exchange of poems between Poe and Osgood and add in a bit of "Rebecca" like macabre and dangerous elements. Instead, we get mainly an early 19th century version of the Bridges of Madison County all with passionate glances, lingering touches,tormented consciences, and sad sighs (some of which were mine).
The macabre elements of the story were pretty light as compared with the romance, and a good bit of the "twists" in the plot were telegraphed so clearly that I figured them out halfway through the story.
Further, I think the author serves several characters badly. Osgood was a popular and successful poet of her day, and she is only portrayed as floundering badly throughout the book. Many other characters are not really portrayed in light of their accomplishments or context. Others (such as Noyes) appear to be tossed in as "historical flavor" and as a convenient way to highlight some of the book's themes, but don't really serve the plot. I expected a more feminist bent from this author and found myself disappointed by her portrayal of truly accomplished people from this era.
I admit, though, that "kissing books" are not really my thing. Nor is historical fiction that is so loose and in which historical people are portrayed in such a one-dimensional fashion. Bring on the pirates!...more
I had been looking forward to reading this book, but I have to say that I had to push myself through it after encountering the controversy about DunhaI had been looking forward to reading this book, but I have to say that I had to push myself through it after encountering the controversy about Dunham's treatment of her sister. (view spoiler)[ The reality is that I'm not sure whether Dunham molested her sister or not-- the book doesn't provide enough detail to say. There is no doubt that Dunham was careless in what she wrote and so sure of her good reputation that she never thought to look at her words or confessions in a critical light that suggests that more than "weirdness" motivated her behavior. I have to say that her discussion of a pattern of behavior that seems like at least a somewhat sexualized manipulation of her sister raises some red flags for me. I don't know where it leaves me in terms of her future work. In that and other ways she really reminds me of Woody Allen.
This was a generally well written and interesting book. There were some misses for me (I skimmed over the whole diet thing, which I thought was long and dull), and there were some very good essays (I enjoyed the summer camp essay, for example).
What I love about Dunham's work is the honesty and messiness of young adult experience that is reflected in it. Both the experiences and the reason they are riveting in the telling are because of Dunham's narcissism and self-involvement, which are not a put-on or part of a character. This memoir suggests that she truly is insular and privileged and narcissistic. It's why she isn't a great feminist exemplar and probably never will be, but to me her work has never recommended itself primarily as feminist.
What she's chosen to tell us reveals messiness (and a kind of compassion and honesty about messiness) that exists in a lot of people's lives as they struggle to find out what kind of person they want to be and what kind of life they want to live. It's wonderful in that way, and also her greatest weakness as a storyteller and perhaps as a person.
This book reveals enough of Dunham to be both engaging and disturbing all at once. (hide spoiler)]...more
I got this book as a Prime customer through the Kindle First program.
If I could give half stars, this would be at 2.5. I rounded up because the writinI got this book as a Prime customer through the Kindle First program.
If I could give half stars, this would be at 2.5. I rounded up because the writing was good and I thought the story was paced well. I will admit, though, that this may not be my genre, these family stories where adult children, facing crises in their lives, are drawn back to their families of origin where they have epiphanies and make earthshaking decisions in their lives while getting a greater understanding of, and attachment to, their families of origin.
That is the essential story here, where a mother and two daughters are drawn together when a daughter tries to commit suicide, leaving two daughters who must be cared for.
I liked the pacing and the hook to this story, but I ran out of patience about three-fourths of the way through. Like a horror story that progresses through the stupidity of characters who insist on roaming their houses in the dark with butcher knife in hand, or who insist on going down to the haunted basement, the plot here works only because every single character makes every single decision to avoid pain and flee difficult situations. That six adults, three of whom are related all make the very same decisions motivated in the identical way, ultimately exhausted my patience for this story.
Further, there was no difference in voice among the female characters, who were the only ones developed. They only differ in perspective, but the fact that I could not differentiate the narrative of two healthy women from one trapped as a consciousness in her ill body, is quite telling.
Finally, for all this momentous life and death, etc., that happened in the book, it was all very claustrophobic; most of it the thoughts of each main character. No one seems to have ties to a community; no job intrudes with demands; no bills seem to need to be paid; no loose ends particularly interfere with the family drama being played out. Very neat and tidy and nothing to interfere with the ruminations of each character.
In all, a story that could not sustain the promise of its premise all the way through. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. But perhaps I need to take a break from all those family crisis epiphany stories....more
I am a fan of the Harry Potter series, and I was very curious to see what Rowling would do with an adult book. I didn't expect it to be remotely likeI am a fan of the Harry Potter series, and I was very curious to see what Rowling would do with an adult book. I didn't expect it to be remotely like her other books, either in tone or genre, but it also was not what I was expecting. I thought The Casual Vacancy would be more political, lighter, with more black humor. Instead it was pretty grim and bleak. But I still enjoyed it.
I continue to believe that Rowling would benefit from an editor with a firm hand. As with the last few Harry Potter books, Rowling's pacing was quite slow and the book probably could have been trimmed by 25% with no detriment to the plot. I do get that she intended the book to be a slow burn with an avalanche of an ending; and for me it did pack a punch. But the book was a slow read and there was little plot to speak of until the last quarter of the book.
Fortunately, Rowling has a great hand at characterization, and it may not be coincidental that the teens were the most vibrant and important of the characters in the book. Rowling writes with great sympathy of all her teens; much more than she does the adults. She has an omniscient narrator's voice that reminded me of Stephen King's mundane characterizations before the monster pops up in his narrative. (I found myself expecting something supernatural about a quarter way through-- her narrative tricks so mirrored King's.)
Unlike others,I didn't find the book dull-- I thought the character studies were very interesting and enjoyed them, slow as the plot was.
Still, it is hard not to read the book as a polemic-- as fanciful as the Potter series is, it seemed as if she were deliberately at her most mundane and adult as if showing us what her range could be. I was not surprised-- she reminds me of Roald Dahl, who was fanciful with children and biting and cynical with the adults. I would read more of her adult fiction, but I do hope for a lighter touch and a little humor from her in the future....more
Yes, yes, this glurge succeded in making me cry (not difficult to do).
I was not charmed by the anthropomorphic dog-as-narrator (although I do like soYes, yes, this glurge succeded in making me cry (not difficult to do).
I was not charmed by the anthropomorphic dog-as-narrator (although I do like some animal stories, like Lad A Dog, and Watership Down). I was expecting something a good bit lighter, and I resented caring about the over the top, contrived storyline that seemed pretty emotionally manipulative to me.
I also take exception to the "Eve was talked into dying" philosophical angle in the story-- it reminded me of Louise Hay's unforgiveable and victim-blaming take that dying from AIDS (in the days before HAART) was all about emotional dysfunction. Nonsense! Let's all stay ignorant and in denial, shall we? Everything will work out somehow.
A lot of the metaphor seemed forced to me and the calculated sentimentality did not float my boat. It wasn't a terrible book, and it was engaging. It just wasn't very good....more
So, two caveats here: I am 48 years old and not the twenty-something partying demographic I suspect this book was intended for. Additionally, I have lSo, two caveats here: I am 48 years old and not the twenty-something partying demographic I suspect this book was intended for. Additionally, I have limited patience for the "I drink and do drugs a lot" kinds of comics; I find a little of that goes a long way for me.
That said, the book was better at the beginning and end than in the repetitive middle. It was at its best describing Handler's family. The book was rather vapid. I didn't expect a deep read out of Chelsea Handler; I figure that this was literary junk food, but in the end, I might do Twinkies a disservice.
I didn't need the "I might want to settle down" theme at the end that I suppose was meant to make Handler more relatable. I also think that, for a book about sex, I could have done with more sex than she described. Perhaps all this would have been better as a stand-up routine. Generally, I got bored with Handler's sex life, but it did get me to sleep easily when I read it before bed....more
I really enjoyed this book and read it very quickly. (For me, at least. I like to savor my books. I do enough on a timeline for work.) Unlike other reI really enjoyed this book and read it very quickly. (For me, at least. I like to savor my books. I do enough on a timeline for work.) Unlike other reviews I've read here, I didn't find the book incredibly gender stereotyped. It annoyed me far less than Bridget Jones' Diary, for example.
Perhaps some of my sympathy from Mirabelle comes from the fact that I am married to a man who is dysthymic, and mood ups and downs and medication changes are all par for the course and sometimes extremely difficult. Perhaps some of my sympathy comes from the fact that I had moved to LA for graduate school around the same age and had similarly lonely times as a result. I enjoyed the realism and messiness of feelings and understandings and relationships.
I was really riveted by the use of the omniscient narrative voice here, and I didn't miss dialog or feel that I was being told; rather, the narrative voice was a distinct character in itself, and the book would have been missing a great deal in a more conventional narrative.