If I'm going to be honest: my feelings for "Glaciers" are slightly more complicated than I generally like my feelings for books to be, particularly be...moreIf I'm going to be honest: my feelings for "Glaciers" are slightly more complicated than I generally like my feelings for books to be, particularly because I've pressed myself to spit out a what-out-of-what-stars rating and review... A style of assessment I've found to be seldom honest or all that representative of what a book is or could be to me or anyone else when it really comes down to it.
I'm a fairly straightforward person, inclined to the critical and often cynical side of things probably more than is expressly healthy for a 22 year-old. So that leads me to conclude that my uncharacteristically muddled feelings are either expressive of the huge amount of stress I've been under recently as a soon-to-be graduate or, in fact, are a testament to Ms. Smith's ability to evoke the same kind of romanticized and achingly bittersweet nostalgia and longing in me that her narrator so often relates to everything from melting glaciers, not-quite-found-and-too-soon-lost loves, and the 'perfect dresses' of the world that ( when reasonably considered) will most likely never be seen by one's true love... That is, at least not on the first date. Again with the being honest, but... I didn't actually connect with Isabel very strongly for about 3/4 of the novel. This is usually a huge problem for me and the main factor which very much applied to my less than average enjoyment (if we're going by general internet buzz standards) of "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" later month. And so, you might imagine how surprised I was when I discovered that this distance from Isabel seemed to impact me hardly at all as I powered through "Glaciers" with more 'heedless pleasure' than I ever did poor, yuppy, for-some-reason-not-very-funny-to-me (probably because I was taking it too seriously) "Bernadette."
So, despite my initially not-so-strong emotional connection to the thinks-very-hard-about-every-little-detail Isabel, it was the language and Smith's particular turns of phrase and expert way of painting pictures across the page that really kept getting me invested in visualizing one recollected memory after another past association after another childhood retelling after... You get the gist.
I honestly *could not* get enough and am now convinced that I would eagerly eat up a collection of Ms. Smith's short stories with a spoon and lick my fingers afterwards with minimum embarrassment. The thing I loved best about "Glaciers" is that you really *do* get the picture. Perhaps not entirely of Isabel herself (although I'd argue that the last 1/4 of the novel goes a long way towards rectifying that in a very short amount of time), but of her memories and the associations she's built that surround the significant objects which so populate and characterize her daily life, giving it a color and dimension that in my mind resembles watercolor paintings still wet to the touch.
Admittedly, this book paints a very much romanticized picture of Portland, the 'vintage' label, relationships, books, and... Okay, basically everything but which at the same time is the very thing about "Glaciers" that makes a certain type of person (see 'prone to nostalgia' or 'one who already has a fondness for endlessly romanticizing the past') fall head over heels for it.
These little stories of Isabel's are both artistically and strategically knit together so that they run seamlessly back like little rivers to "Glaciers" unifying theme of love and eventual loss, taking you on a Dalloway-like journey that ends (but doesn't really end) in bittersweet longing for something set just out of reach. And perhaps it's because I'm one of those closet romantics (albeit an extremely unsuccessful one) who is easily beguiled by anything with a charming history that made me fall just a little bit in love whilst peeping through these little rose-tinted windows into Isabel's world of memories.
An unabashed love letter to sentimentality and romance surrounding all the temporary wonders we encounter every day of our lives, I give "Glaciers" an unapologetic 4/5 stars for the genuinely surprising amount it was able to make me feel over the course of a few short hours on a Tuesday afternoon. (less)