I didn't realize Herman Wouk was still alive: not only still alive, but still writing, producing The Lawgiver at the age of ninety-seven. I devoured mI didn't realize Herman Wouk was still alive: not only still alive, but still writing, producing The Lawgiver at the age of ninety-seven. I devoured many of his books when I was in high school, so when I saw this one on the bargain rack, I had to snatch it up. The format was a little difficult for me to get used to; I've never been a fan of the epistlatory novel, and this combined letters, e-mails, texts, memos, faxes, and transcripts of Skype and in-person conferences. I suspended my disbelief with regard to format, as I believe virtually no one texts in paragraph upon paragraph, sends letters by fax, or writes e-mails with such flair. There is something a little self-indulgent about the book; it seemed Wouk was using it and the characters as a vehicle for communicating his own opinions about various things and perhaps even subtly praising himself from time to time. I had trouble keeping some of the secondary characters straight. Despite these flaws, I was able to immerse myself in the tale, which is, at its heart, a romance. I found the book to be a surprisingly quick read, and one that made me smile from time to time. I think it would be hard to appreciate this book without some basic familiarity with Wouk's other works and with Jewish culture. I was especially touched by his note in the epilogue regarding his late wife. ...more
On some level, this book seems to be a commentary on the modern practice of serial monogamy. People enter long-term relationships, become deeply interOn some level, this book seems to be a commentary on the modern practice of serial monogamy. People enter long-term relationships, become deeply intertwined, suffer division, and then are expected to move on rather quickly, perhaps even never again seeing the people who were once an integral part of their lives. Then people repeat this process again and again over a lifetime. It's amazing, this book seems to imply, that we aren't all somewhat insane as a consequence.
On another level, the book is a rejection of the romantic notion of love, of the idea that love is ever black and white or that anyone only has a single potential soul mate. Love has more to do with the right timing than the right person.
The author is not heavy handed in communicating all this. She tells a good story that kept me turning pages for the most part. She uses light humour that had me chuckling more than once. There were, however, some moments that seemed repetitive or non-essential to the plot, and I think the book could easily have been cut down by 30-40 pages. Initially, I found the switch in narration between first and third person to be very jarring, but after about 40 pages I was entirely accustomed to it. The characters were not quite likeable - I found Ellen slightly annoying - and yet they were oddly relatable and sympathetic in some ways. They were, at least, interesting, though I had trouble feeling much connection to Patrick until toward the very end.
I preferred the author's novel "What Alice Forgot," but this was a good enough read.
This was my favorite Sunfire historical romance in 6th grade. (Maybe 5th?) For years thereafter, I was certain I would name my first girl child CassanThis was my favorite Sunfire historical romance in 6th grade. (Maybe 5th?) For years thereafter, I was certain I would name my first girl child Cassandra. However, I went on to read the Greek playwrights, and the name did not long remain on the list. ...more
I devoured much of the Sunfire historical romance series in 5th and 6th grade. That is, I read scores of them, but I think I did a bit of skimming. ThI devoured much of the Sunfire historical romance series in 5th and 6th grade. That is, I read scores of them, but I think I did a bit of skimming. The formula was always the same - two young men - both handsome - oh my! Whom will she choose? 6th grade me lapped that stuff up. I interviewed Candice F. Ransom for an I-Search (children of the 80's, who remembers I-Search projects?) career paper. At the time, I wanted to be a writer. I still do, actually. Well, I am one, I suppose. I don't recall Ms. Ransom telling me in that interview how hard it is to make a solid living at the trade, however....more
An Unproductive Woman is billed as “women’s fiction,” and it is (centering as it does around domestic life and emotions), but it might be even betterAn Unproductive Woman is billed as “women’s fiction,” and it is (centering as it does around domestic life and emotions), but it might be even better categorized as a work of “inspirational fiction.” The theme of forgiveness pervades the novel. The template is similar to that of much Christian fiction, except, of course, that the characters are Muslim (in a polygamist, highly patriarchal culture). The object is reconciliation and the spiritual growth of the characters, and we see an eventual improvement in them. You have your stock almost-too-devout-to-be-true character in Asabe. (She does reach a breaking point, however, when she strikes her husband’s junior wife, that shows her imperfection, but she is given plenty of excuse for that.) You also have your clear antagonist in need of spiritual transformation (Sauda), and your more nuanced protagonist who is meant to be sympathetic but also clearly in need of spiritual transformation (Adam).
I say the reader is meant to sympathize with Adam (while loathing parts of him), but I had some trouble doing just that. For much of the book, the regret that haunts him is expressed in anger and unkindness and desperation rather than in repentance. Asabe loves her husband Adam, but it is unclear why. He’s angry and self-centered and sometimes unkind to her, but she tells us she loves him. If it were just a matter of time and familiarity and family affection and duty, that would be understandable, but I never felt like I got a clear sense of why she was attracted to him as a man, and she claims to love him in that sort of romantic way. I think Asabe is in some sense supposed to be the ideal model of a Muslim woman –submissive (without being a complete doormat; she leaves Adam once and stands up for the weak), forgiving, faithful, devout, and assured that whatever her current troubles or mistreatment, Allah is still to be trusted.
I had no sense of what country this book was taking place in for quite some time. Perhaps the author mentions the country toward the beginning, but if she did, I missed it. The country's name does come up a few times closer toward the end, but I would have liked more scene-setting in the beginning.
As with many Old Testament stories, An Unproductive Woman gives one a concept of why polygamy is such a bad idea through the depiction of its inevitable perils, jealousies, and pain. The author lets us into the characters’ heads, but I never felt like I could fully relate to any of them. There are many characters, and some are better developed than others. We are given a backstory for everyone, even if he or she is introduced relatively late into the novel. The writing is generally good, though the author sometimes states the obvious instead of letting the reader grasp it from context. I found it fairly easy to read the book, though there were moments when the pace slowed.
I think this book might be just the book for a Muslim reader seeking inspirational fiction, but perhaps a bit less so for the secular westerner wanting to read a work of literary fiction about another culture (though it may satisfy some of that audience too). Think less Khaled Hosseini and Juhmpa Lahiri and more…I can’t think of a representative Christian fiction author, but that’s the comparison I’d go for. This is not to say An Unproductive Woman is overly didactic – it’s not, though the religious messages are clear enough. It’s just to say that there is a clear spiritual message and object in the novel that is more in keeping with inspirational than literary fiction.
Note: I received a free copy of this book from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review. ...more
**spoiler alert** I found this to be a thought-provoking book. It highlighted just how complex are the factors that contribute to the dissolution of a**spoiler alert** I found this to be a thought-provoking book. It highlighted just how complex are the factors that contribute to the dissolution of a marriage, how easy it is to become caught up in the fixation on the negative, how terribly difficult it is to forgive ("[Forgiveness] was such a lovely, generous idea when it wasn't linked to something awful that needed forgiving."), and how the pain we experience forms our characters ("It wasn't just that her memories of the last ten years were back. It was that her true self, as formed by those ten years, was back. As seductive as it might have been to erase the grief and pain of the last ten years, it was also a lie."). The pain we experience forms our characters, and this books asks—what if we really could forget that pain?
But we can't forget it, except in a fantasy like this novel; that pain has left its mark, and only time can ease it, allowing a new character to form yet again—at best, we can achieve a balance, but how do we even do that? Alice is able to do it only with a sudden loss and recovery of memory, but it makes one think about achieving that difficult balance of perspective in real life. ("Now it seemed like she could twist the lens of her life and see it from two entirely different perspectives. The perspective of her younger….sillier innocent self. And the older, wiser, more cynical and sensible self.")
What most impressed me about this book is that I think it "gets" marriage in a way most fiction doesn't. Marriage isn't about the rightness of the match itself, or about the quality of the person we marry, but about the *time in*, and the willingness to *put* that time in. "It was never so much that Dominick was wrong for her and that Nick was right. She may have had a perfectly happy life with Dominick. But Nick was Nick…They could look at an old photo together and travel back in time to the same place…" Marriage cannot be simply put asunder, because of the tangled threads ("How strange [divorce] was. Wouldn't it be a lot less messy if everyone just stayed with the people they married in the first place?"). Time binds: "Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together, even when they were foolishly thinking they could lead separate lives." It's not a romantic view of marriage, but nor is it a cynical one, and it seems to me a very true one. There is actually something quite beautiful in it: "Early love is exciting and exhilarating…Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst and the best—well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word."
I could have done without the Frannie subplot and Mr. Mustache which seemed to be inserted solely to add spacing to the main storyline, and I found Elisabeth writing to her psychologist to be an odd and unbelievable narrative device (as were Frannie's letters to a long dead fiancé), and of course as many have pointed out, amnesia doesn't work like that. But when I put these quibbles aside, and suspend my disbelief, I found the book very well worth reading. ...more
I’m not going to rate this because I think I would have rated it much more highly had I read it when I was its intended audience: a 10- to 12-year-oldI’m not going to rate this because I think I would have rated it much more highly had I read it when I was its intended audience: a 10- to 12-year-old girl. My 2nd grade daughter rather enjoyed it (we read it together), though she thought it ended too soon, on “a cliffhanger.” (When I asked her how she considered the tidy ending to be a cliffhanger, she said we didn’t know what the uncle would say – would he approve or disapprove?) As an adult, however, I was not enthralled. I found the pacing to be a little slow, but what really grated on me were the adverbs. They were everywhere, no less frequently in dialogue attribution than anywhere else. Maybe it’s only because I was simultaneously reading “On Writing” that they jumped out at me so frequently and seemed so heavy, but let me open to a random page now and see how many I spy: “he said politely,” “Kit shook her head positively,” “William rose deliberately,” and “Judith dismissed the quarrel airily.”
So I’m not a huge fan of the style, but then this is youth literature. I haven’t read that genre in a long time. It seemed formulaic and predictable and stylistically heavy handed, but I could really imagine myself having gotten caught up in the story, the tidy romance of it all, as a 6th grade girl. Other than the advanced vocabulary (even I had to look up a word or two), I’m not sure what makes this book so much more award worthy than the Sunfire historical romances I used to read in 5th and 6th grade. Of course, I haven’t read one of those since elementary school. Maybe they are far more horrible than I remember them being.
The three main female characters fit fairly neatly into three major box categories: (1) the rebellious, headstrong heroine who despite being way beyond her times and shaking up society and revolting at the idea of doing the work her slaves used to do for her still manages to earn and/or maintain the love of her relatives instead of being burned alive by them (2) the vain, boy-obsessed foil to the heroine, and (3) the sweet, quiet, submissive heroine's companion, who in the end is rewarded for her sweetness despite her total lack of self-assertion. Perhaps I should have asked my daughter, "Which of these characters do you most respect? To whom do you most relate? Which would you like to be like, if any, and why?" That would have been good grounds for discussion. Maybe I will ask her that tomorrow.
I do like that “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” was not enitrely black and white; while it certainly portrayed the Puritans as narrow and not a lot of fun, it also made them human and varied, and it certainly gave my daughter and I adequate inspiration for discussion about denominational differences in Christianity. And of course (though written in 1958) it drives home the most popular of modern themes: be tolerant and refrain from judging. This it does, I will credit it, less simplisticaly than it could; it's a two-way street in the book: the judging goes both ways, and our heroine learns that although the Puritains should be less judgmental, she too should have been less inclined to judge them (in particular her uncle)....more
I guess I'm a sucker for those Kindle daily deals. What a $15 book that's only 99 cents? And I've never heard of the book? I'll buy it anyway. After aI guess I'm a sucker for those Kindle daily deals. What a $15 book that's only 99 cents? And I've never heard of the book? I'll buy it anyway. After all, I did read that Robert Browning poem it's based on a couple of times...So it turned out to be something of a torrid and rather graphic Harlequin romance style book, with a higher vocabulary and more scenery. The one good thing about it was that the villain was not one dimensional as he very well could have been. Yet it was so predictable that I could skim large portions of it and miss nothing. Usually when I do some skimming, I have to backtrack at some point - wait, what's going on here, did I miss somehting? Let me go back and see. I never once had to do that with this book. There was nothing to miss, I guess. ...more
I was glad to see another continuation of Charlotte Collins’s story. My own, An Unlikely Missionary, was published in 2009, and I wondered at the timeI was glad to see another continuation of Charlotte Collins’s story. My own, An Unlikely Missionary, was published in 2009, and I wondered at the time if anyone but me would care about the fate of this plain friend of Elizabeth Bennett. I realized that Charlotte may never be of as much interest to general Pride and Prejudice fans as she is to me: I have observed that my earlier novel Conviction: a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, which focused on Georgiana Darcy, continues to outsell my version of Charlotte’s story, despite being two years older, and a search of P&P sequels will find precious few focusing on Charlotte. Yet I have always felt Mrs. Collins deserved to have a fair shake and a story of her own, so when I saw this book, and at the very reasonable Kindle price of just $2.99, I had to purchased it.
I admit that when I read the blurb describing the book, it did not sound particularly exciting – the drudgery of a boring marriage, followed by a death, followed by feverish work to secure one’s livelihood – but, as a writer, I also realize authors typically do not get to write their own blurbs. So I gave it the benefit of the doubt and plowed in. In fact, though the description led me to believe I might be subject to many scenes of tedious married life, the novel opens on the funeral of Mr. Collins and moves at a decent pace from there, and Charlotte’s quest to secure her livelihood is not a focus. We are almost immediately treated to a ball and amusing flirtations, and from there romance and conflict unwinds.
The book is somewhat predictable and formulaic, but this is true of most Regency romance, and so I do not really fault it for this; one expects to be surprised by a mystery or a thriller, but not so much by a romance. The book held my interest, which is the key, and I gulped it down in a single day. There were moments of wit here and there that made me smile. This was gratifying because I always enjoy a touch of humor in Regency romance and find it is too little present. No, it doesn't arise to the level of Austen; it is funny rather than satirical, but one cannot really expect sequels to equal the classic original in that regard.
There were elements of the risk to Charlotte’s reputation that I did not find quite plausible, but to avoid spoilers I will not discuss that here. Suffice it to say that, despite any implausibility, this risk functioned well as a plot device, created tension, and kept the story rolling. While the book does not have a great deal of thematic depth and meaning, I did not feel it needed to nor pretended to - it is simply a fun, light read that moves quickly, and therefore one of the better P&P sequels I have attempted.
I don’t think I’ve read a coming of age story since…well, since I came of age. On the other hand, I think there is a sort of second “coming of age” (iI don’t think I’ve read a coming of age story since…well, since I came of age. On the other hand, I think there is a sort of second “coming of age” (is that a synonym for disillusionment?) that occurs in adulthood for many people, so I probably related to this book better in my 30’s than I would have if I had read it in my late teens. Surprisingly, I don’t have much to say about the book except that I liked it and often found it amusing, though occasionally predictable and a bit unrealistic. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable book with larger than life yet complex characters, an occasional profundity, and a perfect touch of humour. ...more
This really wasn’t my cup of tea, but I read it for a book club. I found it dragged because of the excessive detail. I realize I’m a woman, yes, but IThis really wasn’t my cup of tea, but I read it for a book club. I found it dragged because of the excessive detail. I realize I’m a woman, yes, but I really don’t care a great deal about shoes. Or what clothes people are wearing. Or how the room is decorated. I hardly notice these things in real life; I certainly don't want pages and pages and pages describing them (often in list-like fashion) in fiction. It has an interesting ending for a romance. I’ll give it that. Otherwise, it was entirely predictable and a bit annoying with regard to its view of how women must act in marriage for a marriage to succeed. I'll be bringing an extra bottle of wine for the meeting, to ensure an edifying discussion. ...more