I've begun to realize that Shaw's later novels lack the details and quality of his earlier ones. The Top of The Hill just seems all around lazy. Nothi...moreI've begun to realize that Shaw's later novels lack the details and quality of his earlier ones. The Top of The Hill just seems all around lazy. Nothing profound ever occurs. Shaw provides his readers with a simple story with a few key characters whose bourgeois lives are interrupted. All the characters are cold and depressed. The only character that seems genuinely happy is Rita, the youngest one. Perhaps that's saying something though.
I find it strange that Shaw separated this novel into 3 volumes as it's only about 350 pages and the divisions in story don't amount to much. I'm also truly surprised to learn that this book was actually made into a television movie. I assume that the script writers took great liberty with the story as there wasn't much to work with.(less)
I enjoyed “The Kite Runner” and am genuinely surprised there is such a wide range of criticism. I certainly wouldn’t consider the book to be a favorit...moreI enjoyed “The Kite Runner” and am genuinely surprised there is such a wide range of criticism. I certainly wouldn’t consider the book to be a favorite but it doesn’t elicit any type of anger from me or lead me to label it as “trash.” In fact, I think Hosseini did a brilliant job in introducing me to another country and culture.
The novel was very much hyped when it was published (I’ve only just read it in order to distance myself from any possible alliances of love and hate). I’ve gathered from reading reviews that some people felt that Amir was an awful person who never truly redeemed himself. This brings back such strong memories of the criticisms of Briony from Atonement. I liken this reaction to how people feel when watching a film in which the villain is so awful they can barely stand it. When this occurs, the actor/writer/director achieves their goal and the effect is momentous. I think that it’s extremely important that readers who are critical of the book based on Amir, understand that Hosseini created a character that couldn’t be painted as either black or white. Amir was a complex human who had a misunderstood past and present. He was a flawed human being who was representative of who we actually are – imperfect. If readers were looking for a strong and perfect hero that could do no wrong, then they should have picked up a Grimms fairy tale book.
That being said, while I thought several characters were a rich addition to the book (especially Hassan whose loyalty both annoyed and made me love him even more), the story was flawed. Hosseini glazes over the story with over sentimentality and a rather cheapened way to avenge wrongs. The good guys/heroes in the book are written well in that they are complex and everyone has some kind of defect. However, the villains in the book are much too simple. The bad are bad and there’s no ifs ands or buts. It seemed so easy to paint Aseef as not only a racist but a rapist, child molester and sociopath. I found it cartoonish that Amir’s return to Afghanistan leads him directly back to Aseef which seems like far too much of a coincidence. Readers are moving along with Amir who is experiencing nostalgia and heartache over the changed Afghanistan, to meeting with Aseef once more. I understand that Hosseini means to take the story full circle but this is much too simplified.
In the end, I can understand the criticism that people have but I don’t think that it merits labeling this book as awful. (less)
This was the longest time I've ever spent reading an Irwin Shaw novel. I somehow thought this would be one of his better written ones, as the Red Scar...moreThis was the longest time I've ever spent reading an Irwin Shaw novel. I somehow thought this would be one of his better written ones, as the Red Scare had personally affected him. Turns out I was wrong.
"The Troubled Air" concerns Clement Archer, the director of a popular radio program. Archer is a well-liked man in his forties, who is dealing with his wife's pregnancy as well as his teenage daughter's nearing venture into adulthood.
In the midst of his quiet life, Archer is told that he must release several actors as well as the composer from the show. Concerned and confused, he inquires into the reasoning behind their impending dismissal. Archer is informed that the show's sponsor has received a listing of individuals who have reportedly been involved in Communist activities. The actors and the show's composer are among those listed. Believing this to be untrue, Archers' relentlessness allows him to be provided the opportunity to conduct a two-week investigation. He meets with each of them, some of who have become aware that their employment is in jeopardy. However, Archer is most concerned of Vic Herres, one of the accused. Herres is Archer's best friend and former pupil. Archer's investigation finds that of everyone, only one of the actors is an open communist. Others may only have been previously involved in activities that are currently perceived as communist friendly. Before Archer can reveal his findings, he is told that he must dismiss everyone in spite of his investigation.
In hopes of preventing their release, Archer breaks the token rule of personally contacting the sponsor. He flies to Philadelphia to speak with Mr. Sandler, the show's secretive sponsor. Sandler listens intently to Archer's findings. However, his strong stance on anti-communism reveals to Archer that saving every one of the accused is unlikely. After some discussion, Sandler allows two of the actors to stay on so long as Archer personally vouches for them and swears they're not communists. As a result, Alice Weller and Herres are allowed to keep their positions.
Yet, all is not well upon his return. Archer is perceived by his colleagues as a collaborator with the groups behind the growing dismissals of actors and others associated with the entertainment industry. The public regards Archer as a communist sympathizer. His personal life comes crashing down at the same time as his professional. The decision to prevent his family from becoming fully aware of the growing problems he is facing has large consequences.
Eventually, Archer realizes that his life is far from perfect. He is immersed in much more than he can handle, and he discovers his wife's unhappiness. In the midst of chaos, Archer is fired as it has been discovered that Herres is a very prominent communist. His wife goes into early labor and they lose the baby. The Red Scare has only just begun and their future is uncertain. In spite of everything, Archer is prepared to face whatever awaits.
As previously stated, I expected so much more of this novel. The tone was extremely bleak but Shaw would have been far more successful had he featured a much more interesting main character. While Archer was certainly noble in his fight, he was extremely naive and delusional about the reality of everything. I so would have preferred if Shaw had chosen to focus on O'Neill or Herres who likely had a far interesting tale, and knew a great deal more. I was annoyed by Shaw's decision to portray women as either pathetically weak, or strong-willed with the incapability of handling emotion. It was almost as though each and every women mentioned was a nuisance that had to be handled gently. Strangely enough, I was happiest when Archer's wife finally confronts him as there is finally someone shown with some backbone.
All in all, as disappointed as I was, I found the book to be decent. Shaw progresses the story well.
(view spoiler)[The novel concerns a man by the name of Douglas Grimes, a former pilot who has been reduced to managing a seedy hotel following the dis...more(view spoiler)[The novel concerns a man by the name of Douglas Grimes, a former pilot who has been reduced to managing a seedy hotel following the discovery of a retinal cyst. He moves to New York where he spends most of his time gambling and reading the Bible. One night, an elderly man dies in the hotel. Grimes discovers a $100,000 in the man’s possession and quickly stashes it away before the police arrive. Soon after, Grimes makes careful plans to leave the country knowing that someone will soon come looking for the missing money. He hides the money in his luggage and flees to Europe. Once he arrives in Switzerland, he takes his luggage to a hotel only to discover that he has picked up the wrong bag. Grimes then spends the next few days looking for the owner of the bag, ultimately finding him after mistaking someone else to be the owner. Miles Fabian is a suave gentleman that appears younger than his sixty years. He initially lies to Grimes about the bag but after enduring a hard crack to the head with a lamp, reveals that he has invested the money. From then on, Grimes travels around Europe with Fabian richly taking in all of the culture while randomly learning where Fabian has invested their money. They form a partnership which results in Fabian acting as a father figure to Grimes. Eventually, Grimes learns he is to be a father from Evelyn Coates, a strong-minded lawyer, with whom he had spent several nights with prior to leaving America. She insists on returning to America to raise their baby and it is through her insistence that he realizes that he also cannot live in Europe. Despite its glamour and rich culture, he can only call America home. He returns in spite of the dangerous possibility that the owners of the stolen money will return to claim it, marries Evelyn (despite Fabian’s dismay) and lives a domestic lifestyle with her. All the while Fabian continues to invest their money and assures Grimes of their profits. One night, Grimes and Fabian are driving home an intoxicated pornographic actress, whose first film they had invested in, when they are held up by two men with guns. Fabian attacks one of the men and is shot in the process. While in the hospital, Fabian confides to Grime that he had been cheating him and provides him with his bank account information. When he leaves, he is contacted by a lawyer who represents the owners of the $100,000. Grimes returns the money with no problem. Upon his return to the hospital he learns that Fabian has died in his absence.
Nightwork was probably my least favorite of all the Shaw novels I’ve read. There wasn’t much substance to it at all. I kept wondering how it was that Grimes could put such blind faith into Miles or even Evelyn. The novel started off intriguing but ended on such a quick and note that I couldn’t help but wonder if Shaw had tired of writing it and decided to just end it quickly. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Two Weeks in Another Town follows Jack Andrus also known as Jack Royal, a former successful Hollywood actor. Jack is a changed man from his Hollywood...moreTwo Weeks in Another Town follows Jack Andrus also known as Jack Royal, a former successful Hollywood actor. Jack is a changed man from his Hollywood days where he was opinionated, motivated and challenging. Both WWII and life's unexpected twists and turns have left him bitter and bored. Following his departure from Hollywood, Jack has settled into life of normalcy with his French wife, their French children and a dull job at NATO.
One day, he is contacted by Maurice Delaney, a former hot shot film director. The two share a close relationship as their greatest films were due to their collaboration. Their relationship allows them to fully confide in one another, even outside of work. Delaney asks him to come to Rome to work with him again on a new picture. He desperately hopes that this film will revive his career and renew everyone's confidence in him as an director. Due to their shared history, Jack agrees to meet him there.
He arrives in Rome and finds himself falling for a young Italian woman named Veronica. Jack immediately realizes trouble follows Veronica as he is confronted by Breasch, her live-in lover. As Jack spends more time away from home, he is able to fully reflect on his past mistakes and the women he loved. In Breasch, Jack sees a younger version of himself as well as a representation of his estranged son. He takes him under his wing and assists him in his film endeavors. This soon renews Jack's energy in life.
Two Weeks in Another Town was a slow but enjoyable read. None of the characters could be deemed "likeable" as they were nearly all vain, volatile and unashamedly engaging in extramarital affairs. However, this may be due to Shaw's portrayal of a Hollywood filled with has-beens. I was annoyed that details of Jack's experiences in World War II were left out as I was lead to believed this played a large part in his current development. Yet, with all Shaw novels I was unable to put the book down as each chapter contained an interesting spark that moved me forward and forward until I reached the very end.(less)