I doubt I am being entirely accurate and reflective and I am sure it is highly subjective due to my friendship with the author, but I loved this bookI doubt I am being entirely accurate and reflective and I am sure it is highly subjective due to my friendship with the author, but I loved this book by Alison Lester. (full disclosure: attending her book release this Friday at Alliance Frances in two days)
The book is about many things, many of which I struggle to comment on. I have never been a woman, so a lot of the accuracy or more likely wisdom of her life is lost on me, but the part I loved was the painful grappling with the truth: sometimes we simply might not marry because of luck.
It is a remarkable thing that so many people manage to find the person they are married to based on geographic proximity. Of course, Hannibal Lecter said it more honestly: we covet what we know. But once you are willing to leave the cocoon of 'what you know' and not manage to get hitched early, you throw yourself into a dangerous sea: the realm of the older, ageing unmarried....but still looking and hoping...that is the space and theme I loved in this work.
This is the main thread weaving through Lillian: a string of good men, none chosen haphazardly (well some of the numerous affairs) but not of the legitimate partners. And yet, these men aren't quite right right, and she knows better than to marry good enough.
And from that one piece of knowledge, her life turns onto a vary different path. Alison so powerfully writes how close and easy it would have been to simply marry the lovely young man of her post Uni youth, and stay forever in her small world, near a father she doted upon, and a mother who could at best only inspire appropriate duty. The truth is that we may be better, almost assuredly, with marrying someone who is good, but not perfect, because really no one is,...and most people are smart enough to realise that...but she wasn't, and I haven't been yet. And her life was both vastly richer, and poorer, for this fateful fork. It is the dream that people who hold out find the perfect person, and some do, enough do to keep the dream alive, but some don't...and in the deepest parts of our heart, we are all afraid we won't be so lucky.
The book is beautiful, and elegantly traces relationships with her own family, and her loves, and her growing awareness of life and coming to understand what being a modern woman is, when such a thing was still open for debate and being sharply defined against a recent past. I think other people would draw more much focus to her family relationships, especially with her mother. Others of a more prurient nature might focus on her bedroom habits.
But to me, what will stay with, is the looking for love, and the quest for it....and the joy of finally getting it when you are older...or not as the case may be (don't want to spoil the book) But whether you find love or you don't, the intermediate space, when most have long settled, and you are still on the hunt, when you are ageing but don't feel it while others do, that part, that terror and simultaneous freedom, is what will long stay with me. ...more
I am sorry to be so negative, because I have really enjoyed so much of this author's work, but this book was just....well...dumb. Is it a fantasy storI am sorry to be so negative, because I have really enjoyed so much of this author's work, but this book was just....well...dumb. Is it a fantasy story, is it a parable of interwoven lives, is it a futuristic dystopian novel. It is all of those, done in a struggling and meandering way. I do not understand this book.
Ostensibly, it is a novel involving a certain Holly Sykes who gets embroiled over her lifetime into a sort of shadow war between two groups of immortals: those that viscously seek it out at a cost to others, and those who have had it thrust upon them. Keep in mind, this may not be what you signed up for. And if you did, be warned, it is not the focus of the novel, the sole focus that is, nor is it done particularly well. Their ability simply just 'is', and don't bother asking more questions. You won't get answers. Just with my brief, above, synopsis, you can see where the story goes, and how it will inevitably end.
Even just focusing on the fantasy element of the book, it just isn't a very engaging narrative. I don't know if this is due to a lack of world development, or a lack of character development of people in said world. At one point, the body count is explicitly discussed, and a grand total of 4 children a year are said to suffer, horribly. Now, I appreciate that anyone with a child might easily stress my indifference due to my lack of children, but 4 a year seems a bit thin to stress a titanic battle between immortal good and evil. A rudimentary search of the US national statistics websites would highlight an array of silly things like sheets and pillows that cause more annual fatalities in the US alone, and I hardly wish to read a 600 page tomb about the horrors of an improperly used pillow. If there had been a great stress on one's immortal, permanent death, cutting off the soul from eternity, that might have made for some higher stakes....to be honest, it may have been in there, I can't say I read every word diligently.
Of course, most of this book doesn't actually focus on the immortals, merely a Holly Sykes, who gets caught up in their web. But the rest of the book isn't even about her, per se. There are two huge sections on men who briefly fall into their orbit. People can have a reasonable critique about how important they were in her life, but I am guessing almost 30% of the book focused on them, as their sections not only talked about them, but changed the first person voicing structure of the novel to truly reflect their dominance and importance in the narrative. That's a lot of used up pages that could have been spent on some of the immortals working so valiantly to save 4 kids a year.
The end of the book falls into a chilling Irish dystopia, one that really affected me. It was a simply but well done structure about what people fear will happen to the environment, to has already happened, but will come to bare soon. It was terrifying, with Holly valiantly struggling to raise her grandchildren in a world so much worse than it used to be, with so much worse yet to come. Thankfully, there is a happy ending, one that leaves us with hope for humanity, but the investment simply wasn't worth it.
There are lots of good sections in this book, some interesting characters and ideas, but ultimately if this had not been a book club book I would not have finished it!...more
This allegory of Vietnam, by Joe Haldeman, is wonderful. I am sure there are many smaller sections which don't stand up to that much scrutiny, but theThis allegory of Vietnam, by Joe Haldeman, is wonderful. I am sure there are many smaller sections which don't stand up to that much scrutiny, but the broad themes are excellent, and the ending is strong. They often say that in Sci-Fi, the questions asked are better than the answers received, but this book does a good job setting up the conclusion so the answers one receives work well in the context of the book.
I actually heard about this book on a Interstellar discussing podcast, because both deal with the relativistic effects of time travel, but here, the scales dwarf that of the movie. Imagine being sent out to battle Aliens, and then coming back hundreds of years in the future to a world that fails to make sense. I wouldn't say the sense of isolation is as powerful as Jeremy Renner's from 'The Hurt Locker', but you can clearly see a man out of touch with his society...and that is but the first of several time jumps, ultimately leading to the last one where he is destined to be 'relativistically' gone for almost 700 years. Even worse, his girlfriend is not only simultaneously taken her chances fighting a powerful enemy, but also on a totally different time scale.
That is one of the best sections, or scenes as it were when they get their orders, and they suddenly realise they will never again see each other in time. Imagine fighting for something where the ones you love are effectively isolated from the time reality you are in. Challenging.
There is also a very interesting sub-theme regarding homosexuality. As Earth's population swells and recedes at various points of the hero's interaction with it, homosexuality waxes and wanes in popularity as a means of population control....less accidents. And it does an even more powerful job of isolating our lead from the world, when he is eventually scene as an anachronistic dinosaur whose predilections for members of the opposite sex are scene as hopelessly retrograde.
I don't want to give away the end, but the book moves well. It would be a great movie, and really should be made into one. The dialogue isn;t great, parts are clunky, but the ideas are there, and it ends well, realistically based on all the set up that has gone into it. It isn;t great writing, but it is a great book....more
I don’t think this is a great book: but it has a lot of salience for me. Spoilers to follow.
Lame but good dude meets hip chick, marries her, launchesI don’t think this is a great book: but it has a lot of salience for me. Spoilers to follow.
Lame but good dude meets hip chick, marries her, launches her life into middle class respectability. 25 years later, with one son in tow who hates him, she says she may want to leave him, and the solution is to travel together in an attempt to save their marriage.
I am not really interested in the actual mechanics of how they try and save their marriage, and rather than ruin the whole book I will leave this part out. What hit so close to home was that this dynamic reminded me a bit of my parents, and at times, more than a little.
My dad is a great man, but socially awkward would be a fair comment, like our protagonist. To say he punched above his weight in terms of a cool and attractive partner is true. And strangely, my parents reality is what is my main problem with the book. The author’s wife, Connie, is painted as much more sympathetic when she chooses to go back to London at one point, leaving behind all the trappings of a nice house in the countryside, and a respectable and boring middle class existence. Hence, her husband’s detour to a child and respectability was just a mistake that she was completely absolved from. Because she didn’t want the life that came with it. But that’s not often how it works.
No, how it usually works is the doofus is judged and looked upon with scorn because he doesn’t know the cool thing to do, the right thing to say, and is forever striking just the wrong note…at home. At work, he is a great and steady man, a provider who does his part, makes no fuss, brings home the bacon, and funds the ‘cool’ life of everyone else. And how is he remembered for it: by being awkward, like when you glue Legos together or make a scene at a school trivia quiz…or maybe have the temerity to make a kid study and master tough things like….Maths.
But it matters so much that she wants to go back to a quasi Bohemian life in London: by turning her back on all his trappings, she is guilt free. What happens if she spent all his money, and enjoyed the life, and then gets bored with him? What happens to the story then? It gets dark, and fraught, and problematic. But by not going down that road, so much of the tension of the book fails to appear. All you hear and feel is him being lame, and sometimes even awful, and she is just cool, and sexy, and clearly in the gutter…yet her clothes and conscience get to stay clean because she does’t want his life and his money.
The book should be more of a balance, but it isn’t because of this fatal flaw. It would have been so much more interesting if she got bored, and then also wanted the house, leaving him alone in some small apartment still working. Now that is the book, US, I want to read….something far more problematic and balanced than this one!...more
I want Murakami to start every book, and then Handover the idea half way to let someone else finish. Or I would like a website that gives you the pageI want Murakami to start every book, and then Handover the idea half way to let someone else finish. Or I would like a website that gives you the page you should stop at. For 1Q84, that page is around 500 FYI... :-)...more