Wow. Zola Neale Hurston is one of the most beautiful sculptors of the written word that I have read in a long, long time. And when I say sculpt, I mea...moreWow. Zola Neale Hurston is one of the most beautiful sculptors of the written word that I have read in a long, long time. And when I say sculpt, I mean sculpt -- she doesn't write so much as carve images indelibly imprinted into the imagination, skillfully wielding her letters as artfully and precisely as an sculptor's knife. She is the lodestone for many of my favorite modern authors -- Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Tony Morrison's Beloved -- and all I can say is I am grateful for her heritage. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fiction, at its very best.(less)
Okay, I originally was tempted to give this book 2 stars because I disliked it so much, but in the end, I have decided (after some discussion with Cin...moreOkay, I originally was tempted to give this book 2 stars because I disliked it so much, but in the end, I have decided (after some discussion with Cindy), that it was very, very well written, plotted, and executed. It combines beautiful passages through a somewhat deranged mind with vivid, grotesque, historical accounts of women's prisons in the Victorian period (a truly jolly place for a holiday) and equally grotesque views of Victorian spiritualism.
Let's just say, however, I'm not a huge fan of the book or this style of writing. I was just complaining today that although I acknowledge great writing and film can emerge from storylines that rely on a character to develop plot, I don't happen to enjoy them very much. What I mean by that is stories where the character, and getting inside the mind of the character is the basic plot itself -- everything that unfolds is just us watching things happen to this character and see how they jerk about in the chained cage they exist in. I find this style of storytelling oddly dry and unfulfilling. I say it's oddly dry because film and stories written in this vein are filled with lush imagery (usually of the fantastic, extreme feelings emoted by the central character in whose mind we reside in). But I find it dry because it lacks the vivacity that full-fledged story -- with plotlines that exist beyond the mind of our deranged hero/heroine -- often entails. (Think Dickens, or Austen).
Also -- spoiler to follow -- I generally dislike reading things that make me feel like a schmuck. This book grabs you with the literary talent that Sarah Waters has brought to her other novels, forces you into the mind of its weak-willed writer, and takes you down the long journey towards schmuckhood. Hers, and yours. Irritating.
There is, however, an upside to my reading this book. (Spoiler to follow) I am very happy -- actually, the true word for it is *relieved* -- that I am in a nice, stable, real relationship right now with someone who isn't going to eventually destroy all that I am and hold dear. Yup. And the sad thing is, that really does make me feel better.(less)
Sarah Waters is a compelling, ingenious, continually surprising novelist. As a fan of Dickens, Austen, and the seedy underbellies of life so richly de...moreSarah Waters is a compelling, ingenious, continually surprising novelist. As a fan of Dickens, Austen, and the seedy underbellies of life so richly detailed by more modern writers, Waters has created a book that I couldn't help but love. She was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and after picking up this book, you'll know why. I just started to watch the British adaptation of this book to film, and it's also excellent. If you want a great, thrilling Victorian mystery, this is the book for you.(less)
This was a beautifully written book, filled with the sights, feelings, and intensity of pre-Soviet Afghanistan through to the current day. This book w...moreThis was a beautifully written book, filled with the sights, feelings, and intensity of pre-Soviet Afghanistan through to the current day. This book was a contradiction of sorts, being both a page turner and a bit stifling to read. I tend to like characters that I admire, and while captivating, the main character has flaws that I find hard to respect -- most damnably, he lacks the courage to following through on his convictions and loyalties. In this sense, he is a more "real" character, and perhaps is a better alternative to the primary movers of the book -- humanoid shells who rely too much on their ability to maim and kill in the name of "protection." All in all, it was an excellent book that I recommend to anyone interested in both a great novel as well as an interesting insight into one of the most momentous periods of modern history affecting us today -- the past, present, and future of Afghanistan. (less)
Ethnic studies taught me that no history can be truly understood without hearing the voices of the people who lived it, in their own words. The story...moreEthnic studies taught me that no history can be truly understood without hearing the voices of the people who lived it, in their own words. The story of Roya Hakakian's journey as a young Iranian girl growing up in the streets of Tehran is a compelling argument for the first person perspective. I have read many histories on the Middle East and its various successes and crises -- but they are usually from either a (1) mea-culpa-like, hand-wringing, the U.S. is the source of all bad things POV or (2) isolationist, snobbish, even priggish sense of superiority over the "irrational" radicalism of Middle East politics. I rarely have had the pleasure of getting to read literature -- and literature this is -- filled with such poetry, imagery, imagination, and yet imbued also with a weighty sense of the very real events happening around her. Roya, whose name not coincidentally means dream, manages to straddle the worlds of both dream and nightmare as she comes to grips with the changes the Islamic Revolution brings to her beloved city and home.(less)