Wow...what did I miss with this book? Why has this become such a popular read? I was very drawn in by the premise—a woman observes something suspiciouWow...what did I miss with this book? Why has this become such a popular read? I was very drawn in by the premise—a woman observes something suspicious from a train related to another woman's disappearance—but the execution was simply God awful. A big complaint: if you're going to switch narrators throughout a book, at least have them sound like different people. Each of the primary female narrators in this story sounded alike...there was nothing in their individual voices to distinguish them. Also, I pretty much figured out who the "bad guy" was early on—and I'm notoriously slow to figure these things out. The way the characters talked and behaved, too, felt very unnatural to me. I don't have extremely high literary expectations for my summer reads, but this book was really disappointing all around....more
It pains me to give an Ian McEwan book a two-star review. He has written fabulous, memorable novels that have stayed with me for years. Sadly, this isIt pains me to give an Ian McEwan book a two-star review. He has written fabulous, memorable novels that have stayed with me for years. Sadly, this is not one of them.
I found the character of Adam to be profoundly inconsistent and I didn't for a second buy his sudden turning away from religion or his stalker-ish, romantic fixation with a woman 40 years his senior whom he spoke to once for an hour.
But my biggest complaint is that the book just left me cold. The book dealt with heavy subjects (the disintegration of a marriage, a young life that hung in the balance) but I didn't feel for the characters or care very much what ultimately happened to any of them.
This felt like a novel that the very talented McEwan "phoned in." I didn't get the sense that he was very invested in his characters…they were little more than props for a legal-drama storyline that I could have watched in a Lifetime network movie...and perhaps enjoyed more....more
This was an exquisitely written book with a heartbreakingly real protagonist. I simply loved it! Its gentle pace may lose the interest of some readersThis was an exquisitely written book with a heartbreakingly real protagonist. I simply loved it! Its gentle pace may lose the interest of some readers, who crave more plot-driven stories, but for those who appreciate characters who are richly drawn and complex, this book is a rare gem!...more
**spoiler alert** I didn't realize how much disbelief I possessed until I was forced to suspend all of it just to get through this book.
It started out**spoiler alert** I didn't realize how much disbelief I possessed until I was forced to suspend all of it just to get through this book.
It started out well enough and it definitely was a quick read. But as the book...and dinner...progressed, I felt I was being manipulated to accept increasingly implausible story lines. The most obvious "this would never happen" moment is, in fact, the entire premise of the book—that a deeply personal and horrific event would be discussed openly at a crowded restaurant where one of the lead characters is a figure of national prominence.
The other "oh, come on!" moment involved the whole amniocentesis-being-able-to-identify-mental-illness angle. Maybe if this story had been set in the future and there was some new-fangled prenatal test that could pinpoint a specific mental illness gene...I would have been more satisfied. This was a very weak story angle in my eyes, and sadly, the entire crux of the book seemed to rest on it.
I won't even go into how lame it was that Claire wounded Serge just so that he'd be too disfigured to give a press conference...and lo and behold, because the press conference never happened, Serge changed his mind about turning in the boys.
I had been told by someone who recommended this book that the last page was a "stunner." If by "stunned," they meant "confused," I would agree. I don't believe that the author intended to leave us scratching our heads at the end...I honestly think that he believed he had wrapped things up and given us all an "aha!" moment. Even after re-reading the last chapter I was left with the weak feeling that I "sort of" got it. I interpreted the ending to be that Michel was a chip off the old block...as sociopathic as his dad. By that point, however, it hardly felt like an "aha!" moment. I'd been able to connect the dots much earlier and surmised that Paul (as well as his wife and kid) were a family of psychopaths.
In the end, I felt that the author used too many gimmicks to try and beef up a weak story. The five-course (?) meal as a framework to tell this story was kind of cute at first but in time, it felt lazy...as did the repeated refusal to be more specific about the names of restaurants, people or health conditions. It felt like the easy way out.
I will say that I devoured The Dinner in only 2 days. But it left me reaching for a bottle of Tums.
When you read a memoir, you don't need to love the type of person the author is. You don't need to think he or she has stellar character. What mattersWhen you read a memoir, you don't need to love the type of person the author is. You don't need to think he or she has stellar character. What matters is the voice of the author and their motivation for telling their story. I've read two memoirs within the past few months—this one and Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. The two books could not have been more different. Whereas Running with Scissors was a boastful and showy attempt at shocking readers, what struck me about By the Iowa Sea is its utter humility and simplicity. Joe Blair is a man who seems to recognize his failings, if sometimes only in retrospect. He is someone with a severely autistic child and this fact is something that weighs on him and chisels away at his hope and his happiness. I don't think he's written this book to invoke sympathy, as some reviewers suggest. He's writing to share something of himself. I loved this book. And I'm willing to forgive an ending that felt maybe a little too pat or idealistic. This is a profoundly moving book that beautifully captures all the complexities of intimate relationships. ...more
When I read this book, I didn't have the benefit of knowing about the lawsuit brought against the author and the subsequent decision to re-classify thWhen I read this book, I didn't have the benefit of knowing about the lawsuit brought against the author and the subsequent decision to re-classify the book as fiction. If I had, it may have quieted the voice in my head that kept interrupting my reading by shouting, "This is just not possible!!!" I'm not denying that the author had a highly dysfunctional childhood or that certain horrific episodes in this man's life didn't happen as he described them. What I have trouble with is the characterization of the people in Running with Scissors—and frankly, I would have this problem whether the book were pure fiction, a memoir, or a straightforward autobiography.
There is no compassionate character in this entire book...with perhaps the exception of a minor character (a waitress) who exists for all of a few pages. Everyone whom the author encounters is crazy or corrupt. No one escapes the author's contempt. It's as if goodness and integrity don't exist for him. Nearly every character, too, seems to be hiding a deviant sexual side--even a priest who we meet just long enough to know that he keeps Hustler magazines stashed in his drawer.
I think the author tells a good story and in parts, I found his humor quite amusing. But soon enough I stopped chuckling when I realized that his humor emanated from a haughty disregard for anyone other than himself. I could see this book working for some people...just not for me. ...more
First, a confession: I have never (in my 40+ years) read a Stephen King book. At least not in its entirety. This was my first. And I will acknowledge,First, a confession: I have never (in my 40+ years) read a Stephen King book. At least not in its entirety. This was my first. And I will acknowledge, up front, several weaknesses with this book:
- It could have been shorter (by about 300 pages) - The female lead was a dud. The romance between her and the main character didn't move me in the least - I would have been more in sync with the main character had he, himself, been the one with a burning desire to save the life of JFK...but this guy was more or less acting out the fantasy of his friend
All that said, I found it a quick and gripping read. I think it helps to have: a) a curiosity about time travel or the simple idea of what-could-have-been; and b) a genuine interest in the Kennedy assassination. If the main character had traveled back in time in order to say, stop the Chernobyl disaster, I would have been less invested in the story.
What I found most interesting was the notion of parallel threads of realities all going on at the same time. It all felt very Twilight Zone-esque, which I enjoyed. The characters, quite honestly, were all throw-away characters. None of them will stay with you after you've finished reading, but if what you're looking for is a page-turning ride and a chance to glimpse a future that will never be, then this book won't disappoint....more
There's a lot that I really liked and admired about this book, most notably, its originality, imaginative prose and pitch-perfect humor. The first secThere's a lot that I really liked and admired about this book, most notably, its originality, imaginative prose and pitch-perfect humor. The first section of the book blew me away—I was so excited to read the rest. And then I did. That's when I felt increasingly stupid for feeling so lost as to what was going on.
I knew enough to understand that the protagonist, Julia, a gifted psychic, was experiencing events that blurred the edges of time and place and real vs. imaginary. I don't mind having to work to understand a non-linear/unconventional story. And yet if one has to work too hard just to figure out where one is in the story and who's who...and if one of the protagonist's big a-ha moment leaves readers (like me) scratching their heads... then something isn't entirely working. I think there was a deeper story to be told that got muddied by a few too many bizarre characters. A little bit more simplicity in the story would have enhanced its overall impact.
The writing style, though, was superb and I will look to read another book by Julavits again. ...more