Reading this book was like being stuck in a room airing repeat episodes of Jerry Springer and other sensationalist scandal-exploiting American TV show...moreReading this book was like being stuck in a room airing repeat episodes of Jerry Springer and other sensationalist scandal-exploiting American TV shows.
Simplistic unbelievable storyline that glossed over all complexity and nuance in relationships. After all the hype about this book, it was thoroughly disappointing.(less)
A disappointing read, especially after glowing reviews, a Stella Prize and a Miles Franklin shortlist.
The novel does have its moments, especially in T...moreA disappointing read, especially after glowing reviews, a Stella Prize and a Miles Franklin shortlist.
The novel does have its moments, especially in Tiffany's descriptions of the rural Australian landscape and when she's speaking from inside her characters. But it had a very 'creative writing class' feel to it. I especially disliked Harry's bird journal entries; Tiffany really seemed to be stretching an attempt at poetic metaphors there.
Crikey's Bethanie Blanchard puts its best, when she says that the underlying message in this novel is "that humans, and the female body in particular, are exactly like that of an animal, or indeed, the land." (full review here: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/liticism/2...) (less)
Tash Aw is highly readable but also...kind of forgettable. Five Star Billionaire is brilliantly executed on some levels, especially in the way five la...moreTash Aw is highly readable but also...kind of forgettable. Five Star Billionaire is brilliantly executed on some levels, especially in the way five large plot lines are linked and overlap with seeming ease. Aw's writing flows easily and his plot timing is impeccable.
I feel most reviewers have missed the wood for the trees - if this novel is about place, it is as much about rural Malaysia of old as it is about that ever-bright ever-promising city of Shanghai. Aw's subtle commentary on the shaping of rural Malaysia, the pressures of development, and the stark realities of its poverty are, I felt, some of the stronger aspects of this novel. His descriptions of Shanghai tend to border on cliche. One thing I really appreciate about Aw, though, is he never falls back on that biggest simplified gripe of many middle class diasporic Chinese Malaysians - that of the bumiputra policies and their imagined oppression as a result of these policies.
Phoebe is the most compelling protagonist, but also the weakest in terms of character development. Her life and her reality is probably furthest removed from Aw's own class and social position, and this comes through in her character development, which is superficial and distanced. The depth of emotion and insight into life's lessons that Aw places in some of his other protagonists, especially Justin, Yinghui and Walter, are missing from Phoebe, who had the most potential to elevate this novel from good to a great work of literature.
A novel that's definitely worth a read, despite its shortcomings.(less)
I do agree with the critique that Manil Suri was over-reaching with this book and trying to cover too much ground, but i still think it was well worth...moreI do agree with the critique that Manil Suri was over-reaching with this book and trying to cover too much ground, but i still think it was well worth the read. Suri painted a lot of really interesting (and scary!) scenarios in imagining the end-game that is nuclear politics on the subcontinent (and elsewhere). The personal stories of the triumvirate within the broader context are probably the strongest elements of the book, particularly the light that Jaz sheds on gay subcultures in Delhi and Bombay. I liked that Sarita wasn't just a stock character; Suri did seem to have made some effort to develop her fully. I was also quite taken with the concept of the Vishnu-Shiva-Devi triumvirate, where Devi supplants Brahma as the creator, as i've never come across this (quite compelling) idea before. This is probably the first modern work of speculative fiction i've read, and it certainly held my attention.(less)
Probably Atwood's most ambitious novel, but she remains dogged by her weaknesses - overwriting and sloppiness. Definitely a good story overall, but th...moreProbably Atwood's most ambitious novel, but she remains dogged by her weaknesses - overwriting and sloppiness. Definitely a good story overall, but there were a few loopholes. For instance, it is perhaps too much to expect the reader to believe that The Blind Assassin (the novel within the novel) propelled Laura Chase to cult status as a posthumous writer. It reads like a run-of-the-mill pulp sci fi novel that wouldn't have much lasting impact. Also, it is to the novel's detriment that Richard and Winifred were such cardboard characters. Still, I'm always a sucker for tragic stories like these, and Atwood's done a brilliant job weaving a narrative through a solid historical context. Very readable, but I do wish she would spend more time and energy tidying up her texts rather than pushing out new ones every few years.(less)