Most of my thoughts about this book are colored by the fact that I listened to the audiobook rather than reading it. It is read by the author herself,...moreMost of my thoughts about this book are colored by the fact that I listened to the audiobook rather than reading it. It is read by the author herself, which is good and bad. I loved the voices she did for the different characters, except for young LaLa in the beginning of the book, who talks in an insufferable baby voice. It grated on me so much that I almost quit it right away.
I also have a different view of the two main criticisms that I see in reviews of this book. As for the liberal use of Spanish, I rather liked it, perhaps because I really liked the way she read Spanish in particular. I don't understand a lick of Spanish, but it was possible to pick up some of the context from the way she read it. I also just liked the sound of it the way she read it.
As for the lack of an overall plot driving the story, I think it is perhaps easier to finish a book like that listening to the audiobook. I did find myself wondering where all of this was going, and I think if I had read it I would have found that more frustrating. As it was I could just put on my headphones and enjoy her storytelling.(less)
I enjoyed this book. It was interesting, and I learned a lot, but it was hard to get into at times because the narrative was not always in chronologic...moreI enjoyed this book. It was interesting, and I learned a lot, but it was hard to get into at times because the narrative was not always in chronological order. Rather, a lot of the chapters just seemed to be independent observations about Saudi Arabia not really tied to anything else in the book. Not that that is necessarily bad, it just prevents it from being the sort of book that you feel like you absolutely cannot put down. Still, worth a look.(less)
I really loved her writing, but there seems to be some kind of unwritten rule that all short stories have to be depressing. A couple of them were not,...moreI really loved her writing, but there seems to be some kind of unwritten rule that all short stories have to be depressing. A couple of them were not, but I had to quit reading it for awhile because they were making me so sad. Otherwise, the book was lovely.(less)
I quit reading this book after the fourth chapter. As it is one of the most racist books I have ever read, I am baffled by the glowing reviews it rece...moreI quit reading this book after the fourth chapter. As it is one of the most racist books I have ever read, I am baffled by the glowing reviews it receives. For your consideration:
"Thus the fateful clash between settlers from the culture of Aristotle, St. Paul, Da Vinci, Luther, and Newton and aboriginal horsemen from the buffalo plains happened as though in a time warp--as though the former were looking backward thousands of years at premoral, pre-Christian, low-barbarian versions of themselves."
Oh really? Then there's this gem:
"Making people scream in pain was interesting and rewarding for [the Comanche], just as it is interesting and rewarding for young boys in modern-day America to torture frogs or pull the legs off grasshoppers. Boys presumably grow out of that; for Indians, it was an important part of their adult culture and one they accepted without challenge."
Wow. Just, wow. You'd think we'd be a little more forward thinking nowadays than Andrew Jackson was in 1833:
"My original convictions upon this subject have been confirmed by the course of events for several years, and experience is every day adding to their strength. That those tribes can not exist surrounded by our settlements and in continual contact with our citizens is certain. They have neither the intelligence, the industry, the moral habits, nor the desire of improvement which are essential to any favorable change in their condition. Established in the midst of another and a superior race, and without appreciating the causes of their inferiority or seeking to control them, they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear."
Then there's Gwynne's boldfaced claims that are, as far as I can tell, backed up with little to no research. My favorite is his claim that the great Pueblo revolt in 1680 was "very likely" the result of the Pueblo Indians being upset that the Spanish were not doing a good enough job of protecting them from the Apaches. Absolutely no citation to any authority. I don't claim to be an expert in this area of history myself, but that sure was not the impression I got when I was at the Taos Pueblo earlier this year. It sounded to me like it was more the brutal oppression at the hands of the Spanish, but whatever.
The worst part is that I had a sinking feeling that the author was going to decide that Quanah Parker was alright at least partially because he was half white. Maybe the author would have proved me wrong, but I just couldn't stomach all his talk about the uncivilized, stone age, savage Comanche who were, according to the author, dirty even by Indian standards. Zero stars.(less)