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)
This story covers the period from 1957 to 1985, and primarily from the perspective of a woman who wants to have it all - marriage, family, career - at...moreThis story covers the period from 1957 to 1985, and primarily from the perspective of a woman who wants to have it all - marriage, family, career - at a time when that idea was alien and uncomfortable to many. She enters a pharmaceutical firm on the bottom rung of the sales force, but has her sights set on the top, and at no point could the reader doubt she'll achieve her objective.
It's readable, good entertainment, but very long and in a tiny font. Hailey covered all the topics: love, sex, adultery, corruption, blackmail, phenomenal success. I suppose he intended this as a cautionary tale of behind-the-scenes maneuverings of the industry, the lengths to which ambitious scientists and executives might go to circumvent protective agencies. But almost 30 years after its publication, the message doesn't carry quite the same punch.
Celia Jordan's character is occasionally irritating - doesn't she ever make a false move? Or, if she does, are there never any consequences? Her trajectory is, essentially, flawless. The dialogue trends toward goofy at times, and parts of the book are hokey, unbelievable. The righteous are rewarded, the evildoers are punished - those of us who live in the real world know that this is not always the case.
It's OK reading, but don't feel you've missed anything if you take a pass on this one.(less)
In this two-act play, brothers Victor and Walter Franz, estranged for sixteen years, meet to dispose of their parents' belongings; the setting is the...moreIn this two-act play, brothers Victor and Walter Franz, estranged for sixteen years, meet to dispose of their parents' belongings; the setting is the attic of a brownstone slated for demolition, peripheral characters are Esther, Victor's wife, and Gregory Solomon, the aging dealer who has come to make them an offer for the furniture.
Walter and Victor have led very different lives, the former as a wealthy and successful surgeon, the latter as a police officer struggling to make ends meet. But Victor, too, had dreams of college and a career in science, which he abandoned in order to support his father, who had been devastated by the combined tragedies of his wife's death and the 1929 stock market crash.
Walter wishes to extend the hand of friendship, to overcome their shared past resentments; sadly, Victor cannot see Walter as anything but the son who did as he pleased, while he, himself, did as duty dictated. The brothers' perspectives on their family and their lives are vastly different, and their exchanges, combined with the observations of Esther and Solomon, give rise to compelling questions: What is true and what are the lies we tell ourselves? And if we could see the difference, how would it affect our choices, if at all?
In his stage notes, Arthur Miller recommends that the play be viewed as one continuous act - I would suggest reading it in the same fashion. Excellent, sad, frustrating, thought-provoking.(less)