Golf is war. War is hell. Golf is hell? Would that the point of this novel was as simple as that transitive property! Sadly, it's not, and I was frust...moreGolf is war. War is hell. Golf is hell? Would that the point of this novel was as simple as that transitive property! Sadly, it's not, and I was frustrated in my search for the author's elusive meaning.
The novel recounts a 36-hole golf match between Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, devised to elevate Savannah out of it's 1931 Depression-era slump. The competition takes place on Krewe Island, a stone's throw from Skidaway, a piece of land demolished in a storm during 1938 - save for the 18th hole, aptly named "Valor", which survived the floods.
In additional to the two known champions, a third competitor is found in a local man, Junah, a decorated war hero who routinely seeks solace at the bottom of a bottle. Savannah born and bred, he will represent a city still smarting from the Confederacy's defeat in the Civil War. Accompanying him is his caddie, Bagger Vance, a black man who commands respect and stands equal in an era that would not likely allow it. He has mystical powers and control over Junah, which include getting his golfer out on the links absent a drying-out period. Who is this guy?
No spoilers here - I won't say how the match goes, but I'm sure most readers will not be surprised. The author has taken on the ambitious task of weaving philosophy into the game of golf, and, mysticism aside, there are some gems to be found. Most of the novel contains long and detailed passages about doglegs, bunkers, and scoops - if you play, you will likely understand and absorb those sections, with a clear image in your mind of how each of the holes, and the action, is laid, and played, out. If you don't play, you won't learn much here, and you may be frustrated having to search through the jargon for the kernels of wisdom Bagger bestows upon Junah and 10-year-old tag-along, Hardy.
This was saved from 1 star by the fact that, occasionally, glimpses of some deeper meaning could be seen through the Savannah storm clouds. Persevering, and locating them, could be as daunting a task as playing 36 holes in 100% humidity. If you love golf, go for it. If not, pick up a copy of The Iliad, where war is just war.(less)
We have all experienced a wandering mind, not always welcome: the strange ideas that drift into our consciousness when we're dropping off to sleep, th...moreWe have all experienced a wandering mind, not always welcome: the strange ideas that drift into our consciousness when we're dropping off to sleep, thoughts of last night's television drama intruding on our working hours, or the non-prayer ponderings that distract us while kneeling before an open casket. The problem with this book, in short, is that it reads like one long distraction. The author pulls you into her character's wandering mind, but, unlike when you're heading off to dreamland, there is no sudden muscle twitch to snap you out of it.
Liam Hegarty filled his pockets with stones and walked into the water off the beach in Brighton, England. He leaves behind nine surviving siblings and a mother who has already begun a slow slide into dementia. The author, in the voice of Liam's sister, tries to solve the mystery of what brought the family to this tragic point. It seems Veronica has a secret, something that has been buried in her subconscious for 30 years, and the revelation of what may (or may not) have happened to her and her brother makes her see the family's dysfunction in a new light.
The narrative drifts back and forth between present and past, both near and distant. Much of it is speculation, which is freely admitted - suppositions about her grandparents and parents, brothers and sisters, are fantasy. Veronica makes up stories when she does not have the facts, sees dead people, and makes, then retracts, statements within a handful of paragraphs. All of this contrives to leave the reader wondering what could possibly be the reality.
There were many parts that read well, but the choppy timeline and Enright's frequent, and often random, sexual references didn't add anything to the tale. A huge psychological endeavor on the author's part, but with a disappointing outcome.(less)
I tried to like this, I really did. I plowed through roughly the first half, then decided it had to go in the "life's too short" pile.
I couldn't locat...moreI tried to like this, I really did. I plowed through roughly the first half, then decided it had to go in the "life's too short" pile.
I couldn't locate the story, at least, not one of any substance. Perspective bounces back and forth between current and previous generations; people are alive, then they're not, then they are again; and sometimes an entire paragraph is one long, free-associating sentence. It just roams, unchecked, and I tired of trying to figure out what was really happening. The characters seemed rather ordinary, as did their lives, and I couldn't convince myself that something meaningful was going to occur.
Run, do not walk, to the nearest book drop....(less)
The basic story line is this: a recently widowed woman gathers her family at their summer cottage in Chautauqua, a last vacation before the place is s...moreThe basic story line is this: a recently widowed woman gathers her family at their summer cottage in Chautauqua, a last vacation before the place is sold. The cast of characters includes an aging sister-in-law, recovering (and soon-to-be divorced) alcoholic daughter, struggling photographer son and his wife, and four grandchildren. As expected, dysfunction runs wild.
It felt like I was reading the script for a "reality" show. This interminable novel covered a week's events (the length of their stay), and each "day" offered several chapters, each from a different character's viewpoint. The most trivial and mundane details were described, from cigarette-smoking to toilet habits, as though knowing what happened from moment to moment was vitally important. Not so. In fact, by the time it was over, none of it seemed very important.
It was difficult to feel compassion for any of the characters, though not due to a lack of depth - they just weren't that compelling. There was no crescendo, no pinnacle of emotion, no defining moment. The story just limped along flat terrain to its inevitable conclusion.
There were portions of this book that were readable and engaging, but just as often it stalled in its own excesses. Any real plot, with its attendant...moreThere were portions of this book that were readable and engaging, but just as often it stalled in its own excesses. Any real plot, with its attendant action, was confined to approximately 100 pages, and those not contiguous. They were scattered throughout the far longer passages in which Melville painstakingly described every biological aspect of the whale species, and the hunting and destruction of same, and waxed eloquent on such topics as the inherent evil of the color white.
Dense reading, rife with symbolism and heavy with barely concealed meanings. Even Melville's occasional bursts of dry humor failed to lessen the tedium. I'm glad to have finally read it, but really? The title character doesn't even put in an appearance until the last 25 pages of this 500-page volume. If you want an adventure story, avoid this one - stick to the non-fiction account of the whaleship Essex.(less)
This is a quick, brain on autopilot read. Katie Wilkinson, young, successful professional, has just been dumped by the man she thought was about to pr...moreThis is a quick, brain on autopilot read. Katie Wilkinson, young, successful professional, has just been dumped by the man she thought was about to propose marriage. By way of explanation, he leaves his wife's diary for her to read, though not so much a diary as a long letter to their son. Interesting idea, and you can sense where it's headed from the beginning.
Much of the diary is unbelievable - Suzanne shares intimate details with her infant son, at times gushes profusely with adoration of the child and at other times writes with clinical precision. It didn't have the feel of a personal journal, too meticulous in relating the action of the characters, and too brusque in describing the beautiful landscape. It might have been more satisfying if Matt had simply written the story in a letter to Katie, or as a novella.
The only meaningful message the author tries to convey is that we should take stock of what's truly important and treasure each day, not exactly a new concept. The diary angle felt like a gimmick in this love-story-within-a-love-story. Throw in stilted dialogue and uninspired prose, and this was an overall disappointment.(less)