Though I'm technically giving the two Brodie novels I've read the same amount of stars, I liked the first o...more(Probably more of a 3 and 1/2 stars rating)
Though I'm technically giving the two Brodie novels I've read the same amount of stars, I liked the first one (Case Histories) more, mostly (I think) for what seemed more like 'realism' than what's found in this sequel.
Atkinson's sly, ironic humor is still in full force, maybe even more so with her characters' commentaries on their own reality versus that of 'real' fiction. I was bothered by two events being concealed (perhaps this is one reason I don't generally read murder mysteries), though I thought the big, surprising reveal at the end was great. For me to disclose one of those two concealed events would be a spoiler, but the other (the existence of a third backed-up copy of a character's novel) seemed to serve no purpose.
The setting of Edinburgh in August was fun. I could envision my 1993 trip there -- unlike Brodie, I attended the Tattoo but none of the Fringe events; like Brodie, I felt I knew the Royal Mile after one day. The meandering, easygoing rendering of the characters' thoughts was extremely well-done; but the style of multiple, complete sentences being joined by just commas was distracting. For me, this novel could've been called the case of the missing semicolons.(less)
Music can be as ripe for interpretation as literary works are -- not just in their words, but in their constructions as well. Knowing this, I'm open t...moreMusic can be as ripe for interpretation as literary works are -- not just in their words, but in their constructions as well. Knowing this, I'm open to the authors' interpretation of the 1990 album Flood by They Might Be Giants. Notwithstanding the few instances of almost ridiculous academic jargon (the authors are PhDs), the book is well-written and engaging with the humor you would expect from TMBG fans. Their theory of the band's "aesthetic of flooding [excess]" is overstated and a stretch much of the time, but fascinating tidbits about the band and their music are found throughout.
The authors chart how this album was released at just the right time (not intentionally, of course) to draw in members of a developing "geek culture" of teenagers and middle schoolers (which the authors were in 1990) who remained fans of the band as they got older. This 'history' is interesting, though different from my experience, as I was 28 when I first heard a track from Flood on our sadly short-lived alternative station and immediately went out and bought the CD. So, instead, I related to this quote from John Flansburgh, one of the two members of the band (both men just a year or two older than I am):
"For me, when people say, 'you guys are such nerds,' I am a million miles away from that. If it were not for the Sex Pistols and the Ramones and Patti Smith and Elvis Costello ... I would not be in a rock band, because those things are my cultural lighthouses."(less)
Just about all the disparate plot lines and characters come together in this volume, even several that originally appeared to be random. In only this...moreJust about all the disparate plot lines and characters come together in this volume, even several that originally appeared to be random. In only this aspect (speaking of "aspect," the facet of a gemstone is my favorite image in this book), I was reminded of how while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was so amazed at how everything came together that I reread all the HP books just to see how Rowling did it.
As this is volume 9, it seems appropriate that there are three sets of three: the Erinyes, the Gorgons and the Fates. Though perhaps there are even more (a reference to the Hesperides; a mention of the Morrigan; the three women in a nursing home, one of whom tells a great fairytale/folktale) or perhaps there is merely one -- one entity revealing its various aspects at the appropriate time.
As I said of Gaiman's American Gods, if anything seems familiar to you (ex: Dream's motivation), it's because you know your (mythological) archetypes.
My one criticism is female characters only seem to have fallen in love with Dream (or have I forgotten someone? or is it that men dream differently than women). It seems to me that at least one of the male characters should be in love with Dream ... even if Death is cuter and perkier ...(less)
I apologize to this book's last two stories, and to this review, for being distracted, and for using them as a distraction. Not an ideal situation, bu...moreI apologize to this book's last two stories, and to this review, for being distracted, and for using them as a distraction. Not an ideal situation, but there was nothing I could do about it except not read, and I just had to read after awhile. For a fuller review, please see Rebecca Foster's review, which is why I read this book.
The five stories take us back and forth through a span of almost 50 years, with several recurring characters or references to them and to certain events. The first story is seen through the eyes of a 12-year old boy (who reappears in the final story as a young man); it's not nearly as complex as the others, but it sets the stage and I enjoyed its wide-eyed wonder. The subsequent stories are mature and full. I struggled with certain elements (too much fullness?) in the last two stories, but I hesitate to criticize them due to the aforementioned distraction.
The collection is historical fiction with a scientific bent: a rendering of fictional elements into the historical, the interaction of fictional characters with sometimes thinly veiled fictional portraits of historically important scientists. The placement of the stories, with their complex themes that illuminate and reflect within themselves and with each other, are perfect: this collection is the epitome of what a collection can be as far as cohesiveness.
I don't consider myself a 'science-person,' but the prose reads so smoothly that the science felt 'easy.' In that respect, it reminded me of Doerr's The Shell Collector, in particular its title story.(less)
Because I enjoyed her first novel The Monsters Of Templeton, I thought I'd like this collection more than I did. While I don't think any of the stories are derivative, they seemed familiar as separate stories reminded me of Alice Munro and Amy Bloom (in theme if not style) and even Julie Otsuka (in style if not theme).
The plots are interesting, some even inventive, though the beauties of language and character development vary from story to story. The ending of the story "Watershed" is probably the only passage I reread for the prose alone.
As also demonstrated in The Monsters Of Templeton, first-person narration seems to be Groff's strength. I did glean from almost all the stories a nugget of theme I admired, that kept me thinking.(less)
The blurb on the back states that this volume is in the tradition of The Canterbury Tales, but The Decameron is a more apt allusion. The storytellers aren't in a villa waiting out the Black Death; but they are in an inn, seeking refuge from a mysterious storm (or storms) that has deposited each one of them there: perhaps they too are facing Death.
I wasn't engrossed in any of the stories until I arrived at the tale of a necropolitan (yep, he lives and works in a necropolis). And what a tale it is, or rather tales, as it spins out into a nested Chinese-box of stories within stories within stories, appropriate for the volume's overall theme of 'worlds' existing within other worlds.
Cities are prominent in the stories, not only the necropolis, but also a decaying Roman-empire-like capital and a modern NYC-like city that's dreaming.
The ending is a good one, subtly advancing the overarching story of the collection. I'm withholding that 1/2 star only because I wasn't truly engaged until more than halfway through.(less)
I checked this out from the library, fully intending not to reread Jenny, but the introduction stated this new translation is livelier (in keeping wit...moreI checked this out from the library, fully intending not to reread Jenny, but the introduction stated this new translation is livelier (in keeping with original) and not missing anything as the earlier translation does. I agree with the former, but each time I checked my old copy nothing seemed to be missing (I realize that's not a definitive search); perhaps it was only mere phrases here and there that had been left out of the 1921 translation.
Though maybe a bit overwrought, Jenny is nevertheless psychologically astute and quite powerful (especially the ending which I had no memory of; perhaps it was too subdued in the original translation) as a portrait of a single female artist at the turn-of-the-(20th)-century, one who struggles with her own strict sense of self and the conflicting urges of love, loneliness, motherhood and her art. A few times I became impatient with dialogue that reads more like speeches or declarations, and also with the many descriptions of scenery, though I enjoyed the detailed ones of Rome: perhaps because I’ve been there or perhaps because Undset’s love of the city shines through.
The short stories --- "Thjodolf" and "Simonsen" -- from her first two collections are straightforward, bleak and sympathetic to the working poor of Norway, especially as relating to 'unconventional' pairings of parent and child.
The selection of letters, their first appearance in English, are from some of the many Undset wrote to a Swedish pen-pal who became a dear friend and confidante. The first included is written by an almost-eighteen-year-old Sigrid and the last included is from when she was thirty, immediately after the birth of her first child and the third printing of her second short-story collection. Undset is open about her literary aspirations and later her own unconventional "sweetheart."
I came to this already an Undset fan, but the letters especially -- all written before her more-famous historical epics and her conversion to Roman Catholicism -- have whetted my appetite for even more about her life.(less)
I've said this elsewhere, but it's worth repeating: If not for goodreads, I would not have met Mikki. If not for Mikki, who recommended So Long, See Y...moreI've said this elsewhere, but it's worth repeating: If not for goodreads, I would not have met Mikki. If not for Mikki, who recommended So Long, See You Tomorrow so highly to me, I don't know that I would've ever read Maxwell. That was in May, 2012, and since then Maxwell has become one of my favorite writers and I'm closing in on reading all of his works. I can't thank Mikki enough.
Not all of the stories here are 5-stars worthy, nor is one of the novels (though they all come close), but the volume as a whole is, and for some of the same reasons I noted in my review of Maxwell's Early Novels and Stories. (I've reviewed all his novels separately.)
The very short stories that Maxwell called "improvisations" he wrote mostly for his wife for Christmas gifts and though they are quite different from his other fiction-writing, they are a revelation. He says so much in each one in so few pages. I'm 'on the record' elsewhere for saying that I don't get along with fables and allegories -- and these do have a fable-like feel, but they are so different. Perhaps it's because he's not hitting you over the head with a moral or an abstract concept. He's simply telling a story, many with the feel of a once-upon-a-time, the feel of a fairy tale, but not of the kind with a pat happily-ever-after ending. I loved them.
One day, and I hope very soon, I will reread his masterpiece, the book that started this journey for me, and I plan on doing it with Mikki.
As I am writing this review on Valentine's Day, please consider it a 'love letter' to both Maxwell and Mikki.(less)
I read advice columns in the newspaper, even one on sewing -- and I don't sew. I think it's part of the compulsive reader I've been since I was a kid,...moreI read advice columns in the newspaper, even one on sewing -- and I don't sew. I think it's part of the compulsive reader I've been since I was a kid, even reading my mom's Emily Post and Dr. Spock-type books when I was a preteen.
Strayed reminds me a bit of the columnist Carolyn Hax whose advice is also lengthy and thoughtful. Strayed, however, adds her own story to every bit of advice, in such a way that is pertinent and empathetic. I teared up when reading her stories of being a 'youth advocate' for middle-school children and chuckled over her description of her two young children fighting over the head of a doll.
She goes beyond what is expected from advice columnists, employing the principles of the essay, in the tradition of Montaigne whose "stated goal is to describe humans, and especially himself, with utter frankness." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_d...) She tells her class of aspiring memoir-writers that it has to end up meaning something and each of these mini-essays does.
P.S. My least favorite newspaper advice column is the present-day "Hints from Heloise." It comes across as arrogant to me, yet I still read it ...(less)
Not long after reading Some Kind Of Fairy Tale, I was at my local library branch and checked to see what else they might have by Mr. Joyce. This was i...moreNot long after reading Some Kind Of Fairy Tale, I was at my local library branch and checked to see what else they might have by Mr. Joyce. This was it, and even with no blurb on its inner cover to give me a clue as to what it's about, I plucked it off the shelf. I was as unknowing of this novel's world as is the story's married couple after the first few pages. I suppose that added to the suspense, though I was able to figure out rather quickly where it was going.
As with Some Kind Of Fairy Tale, the landscape is rendered vividly in both its beauty and its danger. The characters are intelligent if rather flat; you feel as if you are always one small step ahead of them: almost as soon as you figure something out, they are wondering about the same thing. Some of the descriptions of their activities -- skiing, eating, drinking -- start to feel repetitive in a book that's not that long. (I was happy when the husband said he was done with skiing.) As Tara L. Masih noted of Some Kind Of Fairy Tale, there's a bit of male fantasy in an aspect of this story too.
Except for one word used by the father of one of the characters, much of the "British-ness" that I loved in Some Kind Of Fairy Tale is missing. Perhaps it's because the couple (who sound as if they could be Americans, though they're not) is vacationing in the Pyrenees, but I fear it's because the American publisher 'standardized' the text. (When will they realize 'real' readers hate that?)
A Stephen King/The Shining-feel hovers over some of this novel in a collective consciousness kind of way, especially in the beginning; but at least for my taste, I'm glad it's not that kind of "horror." Similar to King though, this author's imagination is a marvel.(less)
I felt about this book the same way I felt about Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog: very well-written, psychologically astute, but maybe just not for...moreI felt about this book the same way I felt about Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog: very well-written, psychologically astute, but maybe just not for me. I didn't feel fully engaged until the very end of page 250 (right before the last section) with this passage:
What if she never knows the end of the story? She shudders, and her mind continues to lurch forward into the future, that simple expectation of time passing--another moment, and another moment. It seems impossible that it will abruptly cease. It seems impossible that you will never know what happens next, that the thread you've been following your whole life will just ... cut off, like a book with the last pages torn out. That doesn't seem fair, she thinks.
I wondered throughout about the reason for the jumping around in time. I love that kind of thing if there's a good reason for it (e.g., Kate Atkinson's Life After Life) but here it seems only there to conjure up tension, thus creating an artificial feel, at least to me.
The strongest element of the book is the empathy Chaon creates for every one of his characters.(less)
I'm glad I read this if only because my preconceptions of this work have been shattered. It's not loaded with philosophy, in fact there are hardly any...moreI'm glad I read this if only because my preconceptions of this work have been shattered. It's not loaded with philosophy, in fact there are hardly any abstruse passages. It's got a modern feel; according to Kaufmann's introduction, earlier (Victorian) translations are what made it seem not: I pictured Brecht puppets in many of the scenes. It's funny; humor runs almost throughout especially in the speech of Mephisto, who, of course, is more entertaining than Faust. The language can be colloquial and even a bit bawdy. The end of the first part is particularly lyrical and it certainly owes quite a bit to the madness of Shakespeare's Ophelia.
I don't know German, but I liked being able to glance over to the opposite page to see what the original looked like when a translated word or phrase caught my fancy. This edition, for the inclusion of the original text and the impressive translation (at least it was to me), probably deserves 5 stars.(less)
Though this volume starts and ends with a "modern" take on the Orpheus myth, it mostly deals with the Endless siblings. The rendering of Delirium is s...moreThough this volume starts and ends with a "modern" take on the Orpheus myth, it mostly deals with the Endless siblings. The rendering of Delirium is sometimes sad but mostly hilarious, and though 'change' has not been kind to her (she was once Delight), she's the impetus for a journey to find Destruction, the most "human" of the siblings.
I think I enjoyed the side-stories (the consequences of their trip) more than the interaction of the siblings themselves, though those latter scenes are the most profound. I also learned of a mythological character, new to me: Étaín. I really should brush up on my Irish mythology one of these days.(less)
I find it hard to say I like a book with such subject matter -- a first-person depiction of a young girl seeking out disturbing behavior -- but as wit...moreI find it hard to say I like a book with such subject matter -- a first-person depiction of a young girl seeking out disturbing behavior -- but as with the other works I've read by Ogawa, I can say I admire its deceptively simple prose. (I see I used that exact phrase in my reviews of her Revenge and The Diving Pool: Three Novellas as well.)
Mari, the narrator, doesn't name the other characters. They are their appellations: the translator, the nephew, the maid. Only Mari and the heroine of the Russian novel the translator is supposedly working on are named. The translator tells Mari the name of the heroine is Marie.
The ending may seem abrupt, but looking back I see clues in the story the translator tells of a toddler and with what happens to a mouse. This juxtaposition in a letter from the translator to Mari also caught my eye:
I can picture every detail of Marie's suffering ... And then, in my mind, you, Mari, have taken her place.
Would you like to have lunch at my home next Tuesday? I will cook for you. ...(less)
Though the first seems more like a preface than a fully realized story, I was impressed by every one of the nine short stories in this volume, thus th...moreThough the first seems more like a preface than a fully realized story, I was impressed by every one of the nine short stories in this volume, thus the 5 stars. While it's true that each is a standalone, some contain themes that seem to comment (reflect?) on each other; or include recurring characters, such as Orpheus, or even characters from the main storyline, such as Lyta and Johanna Constantine. I discovered another "comment/reflection" as I was, fittingly enough, falling asleep.
I was amused by Olethros telling Orpheus that Teleute (Death) has lots of things, although she seldom has much use for them. You should see her floppy hat collection. and by the images of Abel's sanitized pablum (as Cain calls it) of a story. Though I anticipated the ending of the last story (dealing with Baghdad), it was nevertheless poignant, pointing out the power of a story's mystery in an otherwise despairing world.(less)
In much the same way The Crucible is an allegory of McCarthyism, this novel is also a political allegory: firstly, of isolationism and the effects of...moreIn much the same way The Crucible is an allegory of McCarthyism, this novel is also a political allegory: firstly, of isolationism and the effects of panic due to a perceived threat.
The blurb on the inner flap of the book posits that this idyll is unraveling due to economic progress, and, yes, there is that, but it is the confrontation of the 'immigrants' by the community that comes first and shows the easy moral collapse after a rush to judgment so as 'their own' will not get in trouble.
It is told from the first-person point-of-view of a villager who is both insider and outsider, affording us explanations (mostly rationalizations) we wouldn't get from the other villagers, and because of that, at times I was expecting the devastating events to lead to an even more devastating ending, but I try not to penalize a book for my expectations.
The descriptions of the land, in both its dangerous and benign states, are beautiful.(less)
If you tell me what the difference is, I might be able to tell you.
My dreams are generally very intense, so...moreIs this real? Or is it just my imagination?
If you tell me what the difference is, I might be able to tell you.
My dreams are generally very intense, so I could relate to much of this storyline, though thank goodness the outcome of my dreaming is never this violent. The two storylines, for the first time in this series I think, mesh together perfectly, if a tad predictably; but that doesn't take away from the power of the theme of the many 'chambers' existing in one person's mind. (less)
This sentence from Chapter 3 is indicative of Juul's style, a matter-of-fact telling that leads to surreality, appropri...moreThe furniture seemed all wrong.
This sentence from Chapter 3 is indicative of Juul's style, a matter-of-fact telling that leads to surreality, appropriate to the state of mind of the grieving narrator, Bess. She's also trying to deal with (or not deal with, as the case may be) some facts about her common-law husband, Halland, that have come to light after his death.
I finished this last night (the chapters end on mini-cliffhangers, forcing you to turn the page) and though it was late, and going against my wiser (sleepy) self, I started it over and reread it in one go. Though it is short on pages, it is full -- trembling at the brim -- and one could write a paper on it that would probably be as long as the book. It is amazing what we miss when we read something the first time and then what jumps out at us the second time: the (crucial?) moments Bess tells us she is cold; her notice of various (named) birds singing at different times; the blues and greens of the fjord and of eyes.
I don't consider this a murder mystery at all; don't read it if you need answers. It's concerned with one of the most real-of-real themes: the unknowability of those you are closest to and even of yourself. As a couple, Bess and Halland watched TV murder mysteries. As a widow (or is she one, since she wasn't married, she asks), she assures us those detective shows (what concerns her most about the detective on Halland's case is where did he get such a dark tan, it being only May) are nothing like real life. It's the puzzle of them that attracts her, not the solution.(less)
I enjoyed this, especially appreciating its outspokenness, but I feel the beginning is much stronger than the later sections. I could h...more3 and 1/2 stars
I enjoyed this, especially appreciating its outspokenness, but I feel the beginning is much stronger than the later sections. I could have also used some more explanations, particularly with the timeline of her early schooling in Iran.
I liked the illustrations, which fittingly change somewhat as Marjane grows up, but I felt at a remove with some of her later actions. Perhaps there is a bit too much mocking by the adult writer of her younger self; or perhaps it's because I recently read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, where the hardships (because we are reading of villagers and not of more privileged people) are even harsher, though horrific things do happen to relatives and friends of Marjane's family. Or perhaps it's simply that as a character she's not interesting enough when she's in Europe, alone, without the stories of other family members.
Maybe it's unfair to compare this to other autobiographical graphic books, but for me it didn't pack the emotional wallop of The Complete Maus or even the coming-of-age stories of Alison Bechdel.(less)
I grew up reading a lot of fairy tales, ones I found at the library, most notably the "colored" fairy books of Andrew Lang; when I was...more4 and 1/2 stars
I grew up reading a lot of fairy tales, ones I found at the library, most notably the "colored" fairy books of Andrew Lang; when I was finished with one volume, I checked out the next. I'm grateful it was before the time of the ubiquitous sanitized Disney versions, which is probably one reason this novel's Tara, who believes she's been whisked away to live with the fairies, says they don't like being called that.
Tara's account of being away echoes and comments on the lives of the other characters, who are dealing with time and loss of youth in various ways. It's very well-done and elevates the novel to more than 'just' a genre read, reminding me of Neil Gaiman in that. The novel's also very "British" in terms of place and in the innumerable, almost-ritualistic cups of tea made and drunk. (I loved all that.)
Though this is a thoroughly modern novel, the author reaches back to the old beliefs, leading each chapter off with epigraphs as far back as Chaucer. I found the quotes from the 19th-century trial transcript of Michael Cleary, who was convinced he killed not his wife but a fairy changeling, fascinating. The epigraphs lead us to chapters of alternating points-of-view (including that of a psychiatrist who basically deconstructs Tara's tale a la Bruno Bettelheim), gorgeous descriptions of scenery, and flawed characters we come to understand and root for: all adding up to increasing levels of ambiguity, unease and creepiness: dark catharsis, one of the best reasons to read any kind of fairy tale.(less)
When I was a kid, I read (and reread) everything in the house, including my brother's books on sports. I particularly remember one he owned about the...moreWhen I was a kid, I read (and reread) everything in the house, including my brother's books on sports. I particularly remember one he owned about the history of the NFL championships games and one that was actually mine (I still have it), Gale Sayers' I Am Third, which I'm sure I wanted to read after seeing the 1971 TV movie "Brian's Song," when I ended up caring more about Sayers than I did about Brian Piccolo.
Brees' book, even though I read a Kindle copy, reminds me of both of those. It's a mixture of his faith, his family and his career, with the important inclusion of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when he arrived in New Orleans. I didn't expect it to have good prose, and it doesn't; but there's something compelling about it and it was perfect for reading in front of all the college bowl games this week. Repetition and cliches and cheesy-sweet stuff about his wife and son are scattered throughout; but I forgive all that, because I could tell how sincere he is, as if the professional writer's 'cleaning' all that up just wouldn't've been Brees. He relates how Scott Fujita (a former teammate) gave him a hard time about always being "annoyingly optimistic." Being from New Orleans, and of course having lived through Katrina and then all of Brees' time here, I teared up quite a bit while reading.
Because I've read all of Hazzard's fiction, I decided to read this too. I read it in bits and pieces, never truly engaged until I got to Hazzard's hus...moreBecause I've read all of Hazzard's fiction, I decided to read this too. I read it in bits and pieces, never truly engaged until I got to Hazzard's husband's (Francis Steegmuller's) piece. His is about a personal experience, even taking us into NYC and then back to Naples to complete the story of the incident. Hazzard's pieces are less personal, her focus being more on the history and culture of Naples.
After finishing the book last night, I woke to read about an earthquake that happened yesterday in the Neapolitan area. Thankfully, it didn't sound nearly as bad as the 1980 earthquake, referenced in this book and in FS's essay when he notices areas still needing rebuilding in 1983, though the people there are as empathetic and caring toward foreigners as it is possible to be.(less)
As someone who's read quite a bit about Dickens, I didn't learn anything new from this book, but it was nice to be reminded of facts I might've forgot...moreAs someone who's read quite a bit about Dickens, I didn't learn anything new from this book, but it was nice to be reminded of facts I might've forgotten; and for someone wanting merely an overview of his life, albeit with very interesting details, this would be perfect.
The volume has a nice layout, basically chronological, but also thematic, and when necessary a reference page is given to complete the chronology. Its strongest points, though, are the many visuals: beautiful reproductions, such as those of contemporary newspaper illustrations depicting scenes from CD's public life and Millais' The Black Brunswicker in which CD's daughter is the model; and the facsimiles that can be pulled from 'pockets' and perused as if they were almost the real thing, e.g., the same daughter's family photo album, CD's marked reading copy of "Nancy's Murder" from Oliver Twist, and a poignant letter he wrote to a friend after the Staplehurst train accident.
My copy is signed by the author, a great-great-great granddaughter of CD. She is a mesmerizing speaker (as was her famous ancestor) and I could've listened to her for hours, instead of the allotted one hour. I'm so glad I was able to be in the audience for at least part of her first visit to New Orleans.(less)
You've heard the expression about the gates of Hell being opened, but what if the gates of Hell are locked? Lucifer evicts his tenants, abdicates and...moreYou've heard the expression about the gates of Hell being opened, but what if the gates of Hell are locked? Lucifer evicts his tenants, abdicates and gives the key to Morpheus. The demons want back in; various mythological creatures want the property given to them; but where do the souls from Hell go in the meantime? The story of a boy left behind at his boarding school during the holidays was probably my favorite part of all this imagining.(less)
I'm not saying I didn't like the beginning of this novel, but when I arrived at page 139, I became hooked, absolutely hooked. The passage (actually on...moreI'm not saying I didn't like the beginning of this novel, but when I arrived at page 139, I became hooked, absolutely hooked. The passage (actually one long sentence) is about a younger brother along with his family (whom the readers never see again) at the village doctor's (a better artist than he is a doctor) to describe his 'disappeared' older brother in order for the doctor to draw his portrait. The lyricism of the long sentence is what captivated me at the time, but it also encapsulates much of what else is also wonderful about this book, e.g., the omniscient voice that many times gives us a glimpse of the future and the author's handling of time, in general.
As to the latter, it's only as you keep reading that you realize how impressive that handling of time is, and how it reflects one of the themes. The characters sometimes think of an event, matter-of-factly, that's not immediately explained to the reader. Eventually, the writer takes us back in time, maybe one year, maybe seven, and then we know, too. The technique creates tension in the reader that merely hints at (thank goodness for us) the tension felt in the daily lives of these characters, who are not participants in the wars, but villagers and a few remaining city-dwellers trying to survive as best they can.
The one torture scene is like a feverish nightmare that feels even longer that it actually is, one you want to read between your fingers, but the book needs it to be there and you are grateful for it being only the one: it stays in your mind and stands for many more. In my reading of it, I could only think of it as also being an indictment against the dangerous territory the U.S. seems to have found its way toward as well.
When I first read about this book, I found it eerie that its release date was so soon -- less than a month -- after the Boston Marathon bombing, which was orchestrated by two self-identified Chechen brothers. Perhaps, I thought, this novel could shed some light on their mindset. That would be a tall order, of course, and not within the novel's scope by any stretch of the imagination, but a light is shed on a people who were forced from their homeland (many, of course, were killed), allowed to return over a decade later, then persecuted again. The tragic history of ethnic purging once again seems all too familiar and absurd.(less)
This is nowhere near as good or as rich as The Crimson Petal and the White. I knew it wouldn't be, but I did expect more subtext from this author. Don...moreThis is nowhere near as good or as rich as The Crimson Petal and the White. I knew it wouldn't be, but I did expect more subtext from this author. Don't let the 199 page-count fool you either. The physical pages are short, the font is fairly big and it reads quickly. I bought it for a pittance at a library sale, so I'm fine with that, and it is a pretty little book with its own ribbon marker.
The stories are technically standalones (a point Faber makes in his foreword), but I wonder how much interest someone who hasn't read The Crimson Petal and the White would have in them. For me, the best thing about this book is it causing me to recall from the novel favorite scenes, such as the luminous visit to the lavender fields, even though I read it several years ago.
In the foreword Faber references letters he received from fans after they finished The Crimson Petal and the White (space filler?) which was fairly interesting, as were as his responses. He goes on to say that the last story (the longest) is as satisfying to him as one of his best novels (I'm paraphrasing) and with that I feel he's being disingenuous. The story, with its narrator's giving us a glimpse of his Edwardian life from the vantage point of his now-great age in the 20th century, has a great title and a metafictional element (two lines) that seem to reference those 21st century fans that clamored for a sequel to The Crimson Petal and the White. I am not one of those fans: I was wholly satisfied with the novel as is and I may go reread certain passages of it right now.(less)
The story is okay, though not one of Dickens' most memorable, but I take issue with the blurb for this gift edition. Mine was missing the "inscribed r...moreThe story is okay, though not one of Dickens' most memorable, but I take issue with the blurb for this gift edition. Mine was missing the "inscribed removable bookmark." The "delicate full-color illustrations" are two only, and I wouldn't call them full-color, though I suppose they are delicate. I paid $1 for this, so I'm fine with all that, just wouldn't want anyone to think the edition is more than it is.(less)
Unlike the first two volumes of this collection, Volume 3 contains only standalone short stories, though three of the four stories do include the char...moreUnlike the first two volumes of this collection, Volume 3 contains only standalone short stories, though three of the four stories do include the character of Dream (Morpheus) in some fashion. The first story about the captured muse Calliope and the last story about a female superhero who wants to die (Dream doesn't make an appearance here, though a dream does, as does Dream's sister) were okay. The story about the cats seemed forced to me. The penultimate story about the creation and first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream is brilliant, worthy of 5 stars, and elevates the whole to 4.(less)
This book fits in very well with a few of my casual 'collections': Greek mythology; well-written, beautifully illustrated children's books; and, of co...moreThis book fits in very well with a few of my casual 'collections': Greek mythology; well-written, beautifully illustrated children's books; and, of course, those by Ali Smith. It brought back memories of my sophomore year in high school (an all-girls) when we studied and acted out the Sophocles play this version is based on.
Because it is by Ali Smith, it is witty, fun, humorous and serious. She chooses to tell her version through the eyes of a crow, with a dog as a supporting character. Her choices turn out to have great meaning. The crow even 'interviews' the author at the end of the book as to the origins of her version of the story, and that, perhaps best of all, has me pulling out my high-school copy of Sophocles' The Complete Plays (still intact, though sans cover) to reread his Antigone.(less)