A battle between two sociopathic women (Lily and Miranda/Faith), though the men (Ted and Brad) have some bloodlust too. Great cliffhanger chapter breaA battle between two sociopathic women (Lily and Miranda/Faith), though the men (Ted and Brad) have some bloodlust too. Great cliffhanger chapter breaks. The shifting points of view worked well. Strong sense of place--made me want to drive around New England. Although I liked this very much, I thought it was only 3-star until the very end....more
Sort of like a Hot Fuzz/Shawn of the Dead-type of movie with a feminist angle. It started out a little slow, had some great scenes in the middle, andSort of like a Hot Fuzz/Shawn of the Dead-type of movie with a feminist angle. It started out a little slow, had some great scenes in the middle, and sadness toward the end (along the lines of Handmaid's Tale).
Like any other zombie book, it requires the reader to just roll with the plot and not try to poke holes in it (is it only natural blondes who are predisposed to the disease? or only women who've been dying their hair? why are all women shaving their heads?). And I felt sometimes impatient about the flashbacks to a stupid affair and the dithering over an unwanted pregnancy (which carries on simply because Hazel is caught up in the chaos of a pandemic).
My undergrad self would probably see metaphors about women's repressed rage, about who judges our appearance, etc. My undergrad self got a little chuckle (guilty, juvenile) out of the author's fun with names (a hotel called the Dunn Inn, a philandering professor named Diclicker).
I loved the strong sense of place, and all the little incidental stories tossed in along the way, as the main characters went about their days. No surI loved the strong sense of place, and all the little incidental stories tossed in along the way, as the main characters went about their days. No surprises or suspense when it came to the plot, but I appreciate that it wasn't gory. This isn't a book about a psychopath creatively torturing his victims. It's all more straightforward here--people holding grudges too long, snapping, going too far with their grief....more
Fun stuff. Quick little chapters that explore more than just word choices. For example, the chapter about "fortnight" is a mini-essay about vacations.Fun stuff. Quick little chapters that explore more than just word choices. For example, the chapter about "fortnight" is a mini-essay about vacations. My two takeaways: (1) We are wildly mis-communicating with each other when we use the word "quite," and (2) Americans, no matter how much we listen to the BBC, etc., are probably missing a lot of the ways Brits signal class to each other.
Recurring themes in the book gently put down both cultures: Americans come across as childishly earnest, whereas the British come across as unable to communicate sincere emotions (I'm paraphrasing John Oliver here). Obviously both generalizations are . . . just generalizations, and only fun up to a point. This book keeps things in the pleasant, joke-y, cocktail-party conversation realm.
But on a slightly more serious level, the book also has many reflections on how it feels to be an expat. An expat American living in London, raising a child who sometimes speaks a different language. There seems to be an unexpected loneliness when it's your own native language all around you, and yet you still feel that distance, that foreign-ness. ...more
These are the elites of Mexico City. Each story connects with a different member of this family--the children, grandchildren, and mistress of a man whThese are the elites of Mexico City. Each story connects with a different member of this family--the children, grandchildren, and mistress of a man who was kidnapped and presumably killed. It's not clear how many members of the family know why he was targeted. It's never spelled out for the reader. The reader (fortunately) doesn't have to read about his experience being kidnapped, etc. It's left to our imaginations (maybe that's worse) just as it is for his family.
I had a hard time following that when they "fled," at least two of his adult children took along their maids. One of those maids ends up abandoned in Austin, more or less fending for herself with a fast-food job. Like a pet that gets lost in the move.
There was no overarching plot, and I didn't connect with any of the characters. I sort of muddled through each story, finding a brief flash of "I relate to that" or "that's written well." Everything felt disoriented--for the characters and for me. But the change in voice from one story to the next was interesting, and the stories give the perspective of a different kind of refugee (someone who has to run for his life b/c he's so rich).
There are other short story collections I would urge my friends to read before this one, but I will remember parts of these stories for a while, and that counts for a star or two. ...more
A grown man reflects on how he felt abandoned by a grandfather/uncle character when he was a teenager, and that grandfather/uncle character agonizes oA grown man reflects on how he felt abandoned by a grandfather/uncle character when he was a teenager, and that grandfather/uncle character agonizes over all the people he abandoned during the war.
This book was worth finishing for its vivid descriptions of London during the Blitz (and 8000 people living in caves to the east of London). I also liked the teenager's eagerness to find a hero figure who fought back against the Nazis, the questions lingering in the minds of the pilots who dropped bombs on Hamburg, and the observations about fiction v. memoir. Finally, the hippie rabbi character was amusing, and the overall writing appealed to me.
So why only 2 stars? I just didn't connect with either character. Nothing in the story helped me really get in the head of a teenage boy who makes such big life decisions because he's so conflicted about women's sexuality. Plus the falling in love with a prostitute thing--why did she have to be a prostitute? The story would have worked just as well if Francoise were a woman who made her living some other way (and Poxl, in yet another fit of immaturity, ran away for some other reason). Both narrators annoyed me....more
Five stars are usually for books I'd like to re-read some day. I couldn't re-read this book, at least not the final 20-25%, which became extremely darFive stars are usually for books I'd like to re-read some day. I couldn't re-read this book, at least not the final 20-25%, which became extremely dark and difficult to read. But the writing throughout was amazing. This is an author who is equally talented at offering quick flashes of humor in descriptions of immigrant life in LA and describing the fall of Saigon or horrific torture scenes. He has a range.
Powerful stuff in here about race and about Hollywood's treatment of Asians and Asian-Americans. I'd heard an interview with the author and expected the book to mostly be about that, about a Vietnamese refugee consulting on Apocalypse Now. That's only a small part of the story here. Most of the story is about the Vietnamese struggling against each other . . . .
. . . . with white people, at best, oblivious to what's going on in the community of Vietnamese refugees. Three or four non-Vietnamese characters represent different types of offensive behavior. The white professor of "Oriental" studies, who, although he thinks he's liberal, buys into all the same stereotypes as the loosely disguised Westmoreland. The Southern California senator/representative who spouts right-wing Cold War ideology (it's been so long since I've heard that stuff; it seemed almost quaint). The CIA agent who taught the Vietnamese all the torture methods that the U.S. developed in the 1950s.
A rather grim and understandably bitter book overall, but it has some compelling descriptions of Vietnamese culture as well. Food, creation legends, multilingual actresses, city and country life. One of my favorite passages described Vietnamese students and soldiers singing in Saigon, just spontaneously launching into their favorite pop songs; for this singing and romanticism, the narrator calls the Vietnamese the Italians of Southeast Asia....more