I have been attempting to think of how I could possibly start a review for this book, when my own little Goodreads point-of-view is so small and insigI have been attempting to think of how I could possibly start a review for this book, when my own little Goodreads point-of-view is so small and insignificant compared to this Wharton masterpiece. For that's what it truly is - a masterpiece like none other, and that is a word that I reserve for truly the only most deserving, fulfilling pieces of work.
It might be fair to compare Wharton to Austen, but I am not sure that does Wharton justice. In this book in particular, she is able to submerge us into a reality so devastatingly true and tragic, but this only describes one side of the story. Life for these characters does carry on as it does for any Austen work, and all ends are wrapped up, patted on the head, and kissed good night.
But the feelings I have after finishing this book are unlike the Austen texts I have read. Wharton understands that life does not always find its ideal matches along the way - it carries on with both dreariness and joy, but regret will inevitably find and haunt us at some point, whether for a moment or for a lifetime. Most will find a way to carry on and find joy elsewhere, and they will live a good, fulfilling life. But to have that little pang of regret somewhere along the way is something that Wharton finds fascinating, tragic, and part of what makes us real. The Age of Innocence allows us to experience characters like this, and for this reason alone this work deserves its timeless place on the shelves of great literature.
If you loved this, I suggest reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I believe it complements Newland Archer's story, only Chopin carries you down south to the steamy French quarters of Louisiana. There, a female protagonist shares Newland's struggle with what our fate tells us to do and what our heart inevitably desires.
All that said, I would also like to add that I think Newland Archer might be the best male figure I have ever encountered in a text. He is so magnificently developed, and I yearn for more characters like him. Whatever I read next is going to have some massive shoes to fill, and I'm afraid it's going to take me a while to find another text - or a character - equally if not more captivating. ...more
I had no idea I was getting myself into such a speed read with this. It probably took me around six or so hours to complete, yet I don't think this isI had no idea I was getting myself into such a speed read with this. It probably took me around six or so hours to complete, yet I don't think this is a poor reflection on the writing. On the contrary, Goolrick's stark, cold prose elegantly captures the bitter Wisconsin setting - and internally the darkened hearts of our main characters.
I know there are hundreds of books out there set in the wild, cold wilderness of midwestern America, and somehow this is the first one I've ever taken the time to read. Unusual, it is, but not a pioneer of any sort in its genre, A Reliable Wife still managed to captivate me. I'm not sure yet if I'm haunted (or if I will be) by its characters, but so complex and mature they are that for once I've found myself not hating any one in particular or wishing their story to be of a different outcome. No, Goolrick wraps this one up quite successfully, despite a plot line that could have very easily spiraled out of control. Even in its most primitive moments, though, an element of control and author's care is tenderly laid across every scene and sentence, often a little too clearly and painstakingly, but there for the reader to feel its presence.
But, good Lord. Do not let the stark text fool you: Goolrick loves a good sex scene, and he is certainly not one to hold back from creating graphic, almost flush-worthy paragraphs that will have you embarrassed to pass this book on to your elderly grandmother. Even in the non-sex scenes, Goolrick is toying with it. Sex is everywhere - in a character's private thoughts, the scent of a lady's perfume, a rustle of fabric - literally, it is the pulse of this novel that burns to make you uncomfortable and turned on.
As a novel experience, I'd give 3.5 stars, but I'm rounding up to 4 for the passion Goolrick evidently used to shape this book. A Reliable Wife shocked me at times, and but I'm grateful for Goolrick pushing the bounds of these three very real characters - along with my own boundaries as a reader and person.
Another thing: more men should read this. The title does come off as too much of the chick lit variety, but don't shy away. This is a triangle of characters that readers of any gender can appreciate....more
I am enamored with Elizabeth Kostova's writing. Every scene and paragraph she writes is so well crafted, and I often find myself sighing after passageI am enamored with Elizabeth Kostova's writing. Every scene and paragraph she writes is so well crafted, and I often find myself sighing after passages that are particularly delicate and moving. I wonder how much time she put into making them just so, or maybe it's a talent that comes to her with ease. She's the kind of writer that has this effect on me: when she makes a subtle link back to a hint she made much, much earlier in a book, it makes me all the more motivated to be a careful, thoughtful reader. Tying these clues together is so satisfying; while every thread required to get to that point might be just a touch exhausting, it's well worth the effort for the sheer talent that Kostova has with her words and character storylines.
The Swan Thieves is elegant, understated, and a great romance story. I think these are also accurate of The Historian, but those who loved the latter for its plot will certainly find Thieves lacking. While The Swan Thieves does have a progressive narrative, it doesn't have that macabre, the darkness, the intensity that The Historian has, which was much more epic in proportion. The European settings, the gorgeous scene descriptions, the old-fashioned narrator are all here, but Thieves is a quiet book, one that I have thoroughly enjoyed on long, lazy Saturdays and on evenings with a glass of red wine (if you're that kind of reader, this is definitely the book to seek out).
By the end of the book, I really loved Marlow. He's such a trustworthy narrator, gentle and someone who makes a great therapist even from that narrator's role. I think I haven't read a book in some time with such a strong, honest protagonist, and tender moments between he and his father and his future wife occasionally had me tearing up. While I was encouraged to learn what would happen with the artist and patient, Robert, what really drove me to love the story was how much I wanted Marlow to find what he does not realize he is searching for: that is, a life with love, for which he has been patiently waiting on for quite some time.
Well done again, Ms. Kostova. You tell a grand tale, and I just need you to come out with your next book faster, please. However, if you're as careful with it as you are with your previous two books, then please feel free to take your time (just not too long)....more
It's now been twenty-one hours since I finished this book, and my afterthoughts have definitely fluctuated since then. However, I think three stars isIt's now been twenty-one hours since I finished this book, and my afterthoughts have definitely fluctuated since then. However, I think three stars is still a reasonable rating for Max Tivoli. As a solid character alone, though, that rating would be too generous.
I think I've come to my own conclusion that I'm much harsher on romance stories than any other genre of books. Rarely have I come upon one that has knocked me off my feet (The English Patient in particular), but I can't imagine that story having nearly as much of an impact had it not been the writing style of Michael Ondaatje. Andrew Sean Greer tried hard, and this is a pretty good shot at the genre. The book contains some scenes that are so beautifully woven, and some of the sentences are velvet on the page. But I feel the biggest letdown is Greer wants Max Tivoli to be the next Humbert Humbert, who he absolutely cannot be. Tivoli is not nearly strong nor selfish enough to maintain a level of love as concentrated and bizarre as that in Lolita, which I can't help feeling is a reasonable comparison to the format and narrative of this book. In a way, I could never get over the perverseness of Tivoli falling in love with a fourteen year-old girl. To me, the love never had a foundation. I never wanted to love Alice too, and I never found myself rooting for Tivoli, either. Sadly enough, I think this review has made me realize how little I cared.
I still give three stars. The concept of 'Tivoli' intrigued me well enough, and I would love to see the same backwards-living life story told from a perspective of a completely different person. ...more
Okay. I have been reluctant to read this book for some time now, mostly because it has come so highly recommended to me. Somehow I always end up beingOkay. I have been reluctant to read this book for some time now, mostly because it has come so highly recommended to me. Somehow I always end up being the Debbie Downer of the group and the one person who can't get into the book, but happily (?), the situation changed here.
This is a book to appreciate, although I did not fully give it a fourth star until at least three quarters of the way through the book. It was not until then that I fully accepted the situation that Clare and Henry are in, and the tragedy of it all finally hit me.
Time travel is a staggering thing, and it took me a long while to wrap my head around Niffenegger's version of how it happens. I think what makes this story go beyond that, however, is that time travel doesn't just happen to Henry; it is inexplicably a part of Clare too, because Henry happens to her.
It's difficult for me to imagine a life like Clare's. Her future is planned out for her in her earliest childhood memories, and I find myself pondering the insanity of this even more now that I've finished reading the book. If Henry had not been the love of her life, would it have been an even greater curse? Was it even a blessing, the fact that she was trapped in this choiceless relationship? Ooh, it is a great thing to ponder.
Overall, it was the time travel aspect itself that hooked me the most. Niffenegger so carefully laid out her plot, and I really love a story that overwhelms me with its attention to detail. As for the characters, I never really liked Henry and Clare. They weren't exactly likable people, but it was their love and their passion that make them worthy for readers to follow.
I'm going to think about this one for a while. Despite being a fairly easy read, it's going to take me some more time to digest....more
I haven't been this disappointed in a book in quite some time, so perhaps I had it coming? I'm shocked that so many people loved this book. I could haI haven't been this disappointed in a book in quite some time, so perhaps I had it coming? I'm shocked that so many people loved this book. I could hardly get past the first page of cliche passages, let alone the entire three-hundred something pages of them. ...more