This is a great book, but I'm inclined to agree with the American publisher who insisted he cut the final chapter. To have such a wonderfully messy boThis is a great book, but I'm inclined to agree with the American publisher who insisted he cut the final chapter. To have such a wonderfully messy book tidy up so well at the end seems awfully disingenuous. ...more
My wife read this book to me while I was driving on a roadtrip. Her mom had found her childhood copy and sent it to her. It has to be one of the mostMy wife read this book to me while I was driving on a roadtrip. Her mom had found her childhood copy and sent it to her. It has to be one of the most awesomely bad books ever written. It's intended for children of course, but that doesn't make it any less terrible. It's some screwy adventure tale of two young sisters on a sinking ocean liner who end up alone in a life boat with two or three babies. IT'S LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE! The older sister is quite the mother hen, while the younger, butcher sister takes on the more masculine role of provider. She finds canned meat. They land on an Island and make a little home for themselves there. We were laughing so hard I almost ran off the road a few times. Its awful, and totally worth the read. ...more
This book snuck up on me. Tricky tricky. It started out interesting enough. Proulx's writing style is mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. I found the book iThis book snuck up on me. Tricky tricky. It started out interesting enough. Proulx's writing style is mesmerizing, almost hypnotic. I found the book initially to be a relaxing solace on my commute home after a busy day of work, soley because of its use of language and setting. But I hated the characters. All of them. Quoyle, a big, damp loaf of a man, as Proulx describes him, is the definition of pathetic. His daughters are brats. And his wife Petal is a two-dimensional device created solely as a catalyst for the story to come. In the beginning it felt a little forced. Then at some point in the second half, the book went from a nice little read to a ferocious page-turner, and I still am not sure how it became so compelling. There was no melodramatic conflict introduced. No secret codes to be found in paintings. Instead, Proulx builds her momentum slowly, slowly, taking you deeper into the lives of these characters, who started out so hard, unattractive, broken, and nasty. The thing of it is, they start to feel so honest. Before you know it, their presence is comforting. I found I wanted to be with them. Wanted to be in the boat with Quoyle. Wanted to see the green house. Wanted to go to the Christmas Pageant. Wanted to eat flipper pie with him and the girls. Wanted to welcome Aunt home.
Quoyle finds redemption from a place that itself is bleak, full of hardship, and dying. I found this to be poetic and strangely uplifting. Its sort of the anti-coming of age story. No beautiful starry-eyed twentysomething trotting off to exotic locations or big cities here. Instead, the story of a middle-aged man who hates himself even more than he hates his circumstance, moving back to his modest roots, finding a lot of darkness in the places he comes from. He watches people fall on hard times and move away, endures monotony, deep cold, harsh storms and odd, forced relationships. And in the midst of it he finds friendship, love, and his own self-worth. I just thought it was beautiful. The scene near the end in which Quoyle prepares to attend the wake for one of his close friends, looks at his gigantic naked body in the mirror, and feels a surge of joy to be such an honest and satisfying moment of redemption. This dying place brings him to life, and eventually, for the first time in his life, he finds joy and peace. And he finds it in himself, not in the circumstances around him.
It snuck up on me. I didn't realize until it was too late how hard I had fallen for this lot. ...more
My wife and I frequently read short story collections to each other at night. She is a junior high English teacher and also writes young adult fictionMy wife and I frequently read short story collections to each other at night. She is a junior high English teacher and also writes young adult fiction, and as such she reads a lot of material written for adolescents. This is one of those books. It's 10 stories of 10 children growing up in urban Hispanic American culture. Most of them are poor, all of them dealing with something traumatic. A bully, street gangs, an aging grandfather, a missing rooster. Some of these stories are so funny I nearly wet my pants laughing. Others are quite real and morose, while still others are tender. In each of them, Soto manages to really find the voice of young adolescence. It is easy to see he is writing from his roots, and he is very in-tune with the feelings and experience and awkwardness that is young adulthood. I'm often amazed at how really good writers of young adult fiction are often more poignant and profound than most writers of adult fiction who use five times as many words. We read one story a night and skipped a few nights, so it took us about two weeks, but you could plow through this book in an hour, and what a delightful hour it would be.
This book was surprising and lovely. Pachett has a poetic voice that is as musical as her main character's world-famous soprano, and she chooses a subThis book was surprising and lovely. Pachett has a poetic voice that is as musical as her main character's world-famous soprano, and she chooses a subject matter that is not at all characteristic of this kind of lilting, character-driven writing. Her opening premise could easily be the plot for a Tom Clancy novel, but instead of focusing on gunfire and car crashes and government conspiracy, Pachett tells a quiet, deep story of people's lives colliding in unexpected and beautiful ways in the midst of tragic circumstances. I think Bel Canto may be unique in the world, and is certainly one of the loveliest books I've read in awhile.
Garland's first book The Beach is truly one of my favorite books. Maybe I happened to read it at the exact right moment in my own existence, but I conGarland's first book The Beach is truly one of my favorite books. Maybe I happened to read it at the exact right moment in my own existence, but I connected to it on a deep level, and I found it to be not only thrilling, but quite moving.
I managed to miss his second novel, but after the total mess that they made of the theatrical version of The Beach, I loved 28 Days Later, so I was excited the day I picked this book up, and in the first moments I remember finding it darkly compelling. Not too far into though, the concept had run its course, and there was little substance behind it. I found myself really bored, and trudging my way through it only out of my devotion to his previous work, hoping Garland would reveal something really clever at the eleventh hour that made the whole thing worth it.
That moment never came. I closed the last page of the book, and had the worst feeling you can have. That what's-the-point feeling that is even worse than hating something. I thought this work was not particularly original or unique, not very well executed, and at only 200 pages (with big type and a lot of pictures) it was way too long. ...more