It is 4.5 stars! I hesitate giving 5 stars because it felt long winding at times. Yet, this is certainly my favorite book by Sarah Waters. One can feeIt is 4.5 stars! I hesitate giving 5 stars because it felt long winding at times. Yet, this is certainly my favorite book by Sarah Waters. One can feel her growth as a writer with each one of her books.
The historical background is flawless. It envelopes the reader and transports us to the years just after WWI England, among a people still in grief for the dead, the economic hardships, and the women left behind in a world that had systematically shifted.
But this historical panorama does remain in the background giving a sturdy canvas for the story, yet not overpowering the main plot, which is dense and erotic in the right doses.
Like other reviewers I do agree that it is too long introducing the reader to the main plot, but I want to tell everyone to hang in there, because the story does unravel into an almost thriller with very well developed characters. I love that it defies genre too.
I should add that I listened in audio book with a narration by Juliet Stevenson. Her performance and characterizations were great. ...more
To say that Americanah shines as a commentary on race and class is an easy statement, but what really impressed me was the scope of Adichie’s attemptTo say that Americanah shines as a commentary on race and class is an easy statement, but what really impressed me was the scope of Adichie’s attempt in this book, and that she does keep it together to the end. Adichie manages to bring to life so many characters with diverse backgrounds. Most characters do have race in common, however their histories and backgrounds are distinct, and this is what – I think – she set herself to demonstrate.
Other reviewers complain that as a love story this book failed to grasp their interest. But the love story between the two principal characters is only a backdrop, a canvas to which she pinned a multitude of engaging stories and people: the African-American professor at Yale, the Nigerian aunt with a medical degree, the studious boy-friend in Nigeria and his experience as an illegal immigrant in London, the black teenager struggling with his own identity , the widowed University professor in Nigeria, the white liberal friends and rich white boyfriend, etc, etc… She also has “blog posts” throughout the book, in which she is able to verbalize and discuss issues of race and class that would be difficult to discuss and verbalize in other forms. So, the love story at the end seems a bit contrived, but I am willing to forgive Adichie for it.
At times I like playing this game: if a book was a painting, what painting would it be? I think it would be a large graffiti canvas by the Brazilian artists Os Gemeos Something from their earlier works, where the social commentary was obvious and yet portrayed in a candid and truthful manner.
I have been playing this mind game while reading this book: If Jane Austen was to give it a title in the form of “pride and prejudice” or “sense and sI have been playing this mind game while reading this book: If Jane Austen was to give it a title in the form of “pride and prejudice” or “sense and sensibility”, what adjectives would she had chosen for this book? I think Presumption would likely describe my first sentiment about it, but then I have trouble coming up with the next adjective to counter it. Presumption and Discernment, maybe?
I liked it very much. With every book of Jane Austen I read, I am more impressed by her sensibility towards human motivation, be it social or sentimental. Of course she wrote of a society so much different than mine, where women’s prospects were very much linked to marriage, and where the social stratification defined every aspect of socialization. Her capability to comprehend her own historical moment and the social interactions that surrounded her are remarkable.
Not long ago I gave 5 stars to Mansfield Park but by comparison the characters in Emma are less black and white, their motivations more real: jealousy, snobbery, hypochondria, righteousness. Yet we forgive them because we also see goodness and shame in the realization that they were not so noble after all.
There is a formula in Austen that I am starting to discern. I am not Austen academic, and have read some of her books too long ago – translated to Portuguese nevertheless – but she seems to weave a cautionary tale on the stories she tells; an alert for all of us to be aware of how social rules may lead to misunderstandings, how we hurt one another and ourselves by sticking too close to those rules, or when we deviate too far from those rules too. She also favors the good, the humble, those with moral fortitude. It seems that her endings are always happy though.
Something else, wise Mr. Knightley, I like you much better than snob Mr. Darcy! And I liked Mr. Darcy for a long time… I still like Elizabeth Bennet better than Emma though! ...more
I finally finished this one yesterday. For a short book it took me very long, as I had to check google often to fill my curiosity. The truth is that II finally finished this one yesterday. For a short book it took me very long, as I had to check google often to fill my curiosity. The truth is that I would never had attempted, and probably not finished it if I did come across it, if I was not participating in a discussion of The Novel: A Biography by Michael E.C. Schmidt.
Most other readers seem to enjoy the last half better - the more fantastic and incredible part of the book - than the first or more grounded in “reality”, even if convoluted and muddling of so many biblical stories and characters. But this was what I did enjoy about this book. Blame it on 4 years of Catholic catechism, but I got caught in the narrative, and found myself even engaged at times. It felt like a biblical stream of consciousness.
I am copying here part of a comment I posted while discussing this book: … I am actually finding the mingling of the whole book of Genesis around one place amusing. The way he goes about saying things like: “Jesus died here, and in this same hill that Adam’s skull was found – after Noah’s flood, of course – and this is where Abraham made the sacrifice to God. Oh, and by the way, Abraham’s house was just around there… and there was this ark, and it they found the 10 commandants tablet and the stick that Moses used to part the Red Sea (…) I do find it very intriguing the necessity to reaffirm the Bible mythology by “wrongfully” interpreting archeological sites as proofs of their Christian belief logic.
I do wish that I had read a version with footnotes and maps instead of the popular domain version I got. I could say that I may go back to it one day and do just that, but who would I be kidding? It was somewhat fun at times, but I gave it a shot and now I am moving on… ...more
Is it unfair of me to compare this book to Robinson’s Gilead, and find it lacking?
I have not read Home, the second book in the “Gilead saga”, havingIs it unfair of me to compare this book to Robinson’s Gilead, and find it lacking?
I have not read Home, the second book in the “Gilead saga”, having jumped from Gilead to Lila, and I now wonder if this was a mistake. That, maybe, the transition from the narration of Gilead to the story of Lila would not feel so distant.
I still liked “Lila” very much, and would recommend it wholehearted. But I do feel that Marilynne Robinson never achieved the same meditative quality that permeated Gilead . This is probably unfair of me, as an author is not supposed to write the same book over and over, and here I am complaining. I don’t think I wanted the same book though, but I wanted the same feeling, and actually I think that Robinson was aiming at it and failed.
Like in Gilead, Robinson is obviously attempting a philosophical discussion on Christian beliefs. Through the character of Lila, she voices questions of redemption and salvation. But, like the answers of the major Christian denominations, I felt a disconnect with her attempt here.
Again, I might be at fault. I confess that the references to the book of Ezekiel were above my understanding of the Bible, and that I should read it before I move on to other books, but the truth is that I am not interested. If the questionings of Rev. John Ames spoke so deeply to me in Gilead , the questionings of an afterlife, as deeply worrisome as they were to Lila, don’t interest me. I liked the character of Lila, I suffered with her and for her. Her life, her inner strength and loneliness were so raw. But I wanted to shake her and say: Hell and heaven are a false construct. If there is a God, then we will be together with those that we loved!
At the end I think that Marilynne Robinson stepped in the most dangerous minefield in Christianity: the idea of a heavenly afterlife as a prize to Christians only. I think it was a courageous attempt, but one that inevitably will lead to dogmatic answers.
Still, I am giving it 4 stars because the writing is poetic and natural, and the inner lives of so many characters were true. Their humanity, loneliness and struggles so real. ...more
I never expected to have so much fun with this book as I had. Great fun! It deserves a better review than just a note, and I might still write it whenI never expected to have so much fun with this book as I had. Great fun! It deserves a better review than just a note, and I might still write it when I have more time and inspiration. For now I just wanted to mention that the character Gabriel Betteredge will have his name on my personal pantheon of memorable characters. I am looking forward to reading more Wilkie Collins, I think The Woman in White will be next. ...more
I should disclose that I got this audio book as a giveaway from the Ford Audiobook Club.
It is short, aboutOh, how can a cautionary tale be so good?
I should disclose that I got this audio book as a giveaway from the Ford Audiobook Club.
It is short, about 3 hours of narration. Tim Curry does a wonderful job creating mood and atmosphere. It put me right in the Christmas spirit. I might make listening to it this time of the year a tradition. ...more