I am glad I learned about Dame Rebecca West. I had never heard of her (Rebecca West was a nom de plume; her given name was Cicely Isabel Fairfield) orI am glad I learned about Dame Rebecca West. I had never heard of her (Rebecca West was a nom de plume; her given name was Cicely Isabel Fairfield) or her books before her name came up when I was doing research for ideas for my book group in 2013. Until I did some reading online, I didn't know she was a noted feminist and gained notoriety by becoming the mistress of HG Wells. She made the cover of Time magazine in 1947, where she was called "indisputably the world's No. 1 woman writer". She died in 1983.
I checked this book out because the one I wanted to read isn't carried at my city library and I was too lazy to go to the county library. So I figured "What the heck, I'll try this one" and I checked out The Birds Fall Down.
I really enjoyed this book. It was over-long (she could have shaved easily 100 pages off of it and still had a great story) but I still really enjoyed it. It had a little of everything: a spy story, fact-based fiction, humor, religion, morality, philosophy, history, culture...
I think the author really loves England, Russia and France - it comes through in her descriptions. I know very little about the Russian Orthodox religion, so I found the descriptions of the beliefs and customs surrounding death very interesting. The differences between Laura's mother and father in terms of culture and how people behave were also very interesting and helped to more fully explain Laura's character. The subplot about Tania, Laura's father and Susie Stanton seemed superfluous but I think it was done to show Laura moving from a pretty spoiled child to an adult with an awareness of her parents as "people" and not just her parents.
Some reviews I read said that the reader had difficulty following the plot - I didn't have trouble with that, but that might be because something about this book really appealed to me. If someone described it to me, I would probably have said I wouldn't like it, but I gave it a shot and I really enjoyed it.
I will definitely stop by the county library and check out the original Rebecca West story I had marked to read. I hope I enjoy it as much. ...more
This book was a random choice from the library. I enjoyed it - some of the dialogue was very funny, and the main character likes bad puns, which I doThis book was a random choice from the library. I enjoyed it - some of the dialogue was very funny, and the main character likes bad puns, which I do as well. The language in this book was terrible - so much swearing! I almost didn't get past the first 20 pages. I dislike swearing as much in print books as I do in movies. I understand it's supposed to be a trait of the character, but it's a trait I just don't understand in anyone. How every other word you speak can be the f-word is beyond me. I thought it was interesting that in the author's notes at the back he apologized to his mother for the language. The plot was well-paced if predictable. There were some typos and a couple of inconsistencies but overall it was a nice debut by Shaw....more
Although I tend to gravitate toward big, meaty novels when I look for something to read, I am in awe of short story writers. To be able to weave an enAlthough I tend to gravitate toward big, meaty novels when I look for something to read, I am in awe of short story writers. To be able to weave an entire story in only 10 or 15 pages (sometimes less) that leaves the reader feeling completely satisfied is just amazing.
Jean Stafford is a master at this - she can sketch a complete scene is just a few well-chosen words. She also had me reaching for the dictionary, which I love - nothing like adding a few new words to my Scrabble vocabulary! Stafford's descriptions of social settings - both high society and low - are beautifully done throughout the various sections of the book.
I read one of her most well-known stories, In the Zoo last night. What an ending - it left me shaking my head both at the storyline and at Stafford's skill as a writer. The Echo and The Nemesis was another story where the ending had an unexpected twist - again, just a few brief words but they left you shaken. In The Healthiest Girl in Town her depiction of the main character's childhood anxiety and thoughts were wonderful, and marked with Stafford's wry humor.
I think most everyone would enjoy at least some of the stories in this collection. Not every one is a diamond, but all of them are jewels in their own way. I think Stafford is one of the "must read" authors, especially for anyone who has to do much writing of their own (for any reason) - you can learn a lot about good, concise writing from her work. ...more
I tried to like this book, I really did. I loved Middlesex and still recommend it to people. But The Marriage Plot - I just couldn't care about the chaI tried to like this book, I really did. I loved Middlesex and still recommend it to people. But The Marriage Plot - I just couldn't care about the characters or what happened (or mostly, didn't happen) to them. I also found it really pretentious. Maybe it's just because I didn't go to a university like Brown, but I did graduate in the 80s, and I don't know anyone who thought about issues like these characters. We worried about finding jobs and we had fun, but I just couldn't relate to the rest of the book. I only read about half of this book....more
This is an unflinching book that deals with child abuse and rape. There is very little pity toward the characters - this is how life happens and you dThis is an unflinching book that deals with child abuse and rape. There is very little pity toward the characters - this is how life happens and you deal with it and move on. It also has spare, self-deprecating humor which lightens the story when needed.
The character of Bone is well-drawn, as are her mother, Aunt Raylene, Uncle Earl and several others. It's a pretty good depiction of the lives of poor whites in South Carolina, and also explores the gospel and religious roots of the area and era.
If you're looking for a "feel good book" - this is not it. But it's well written, gritty and keeps you hooked despite the grim subject. ...more
This story line was very interesting, but I thought the writing was very uneven for someone with so many writing awards to their credit.
It got betterThis story line was very interesting, but I thought the writing was very uneven for someone with so many writing awards to their credit.
It got better as it went along, but the the first quarter the writing seemed rather rough. I can't determine if it was done on purpose to mimic the recall of the main character or not.
It was obvious that the author did a lot of research, and I learned a lot I didn't know about the French Resistance. I would recommend this book, especially if you're interested in the history of WWII. ...more