I picked this for book club not knowing anything about this other than what was on the book jacket, but I'd heard good things about it and it's on a t...moreI picked this for book club not knowing anything about this other than what was on the book jacket, but I'd heard good things about it and it's on a ton of recommended lists. Hype can be a very dangerous thing, but this was worth at least...part of the hype it got (almost nothing lives all the way up to its reputation in a good way).
I enjoyed it. It wasn't what I would call great literature, but I thought it was a fun ride. A couple of the twists were fairly obvious, and some of the stretches, were...stretches. I still can't really figure out the end; I want to call it a twist, but it seemed more like the butler did it. The butler that had not been mentioned since the prologue.
Also, I am still bothered by the fact that the house must have been infested with pests and vermin after sitting abandoned for that long, but the only thing she mentions is a couple of unseen mice, a garden snake, and a stray toadstool. I feel like, even if you aren't the type to be particularly bothered by books, the cockroaches building cities in your kitchen would be a hair noticeable.
Full disclosure? I think the thing I like the most about Connie is that she organizes her thoughts in a mental card catalogue, which is exactly the same way I do it. I was taught on the last tail end of the card catalogue era (and...now I'm old), and though computers were in the research methods by the time I was really researching, I still in terms of card catalogues. Just like I still look for books according to the Dewey Decimal System, even though most library use the Godforsaken Library of Congress system. And I love anyone who notices how old books smell. (less)
If other history books were written with this much wit and character, maybe so many American students wouldn't be flunking their world history exams.
O...moreIf other history books were written with this much wit and character, maybe so many American students wouldn't be flunking their world history exams.
Of course, this isn't intended to be a textbook or a treatise; it covers very specific information on a very narrow subject. But what a subject it is! She covers everything from the most infamous (Napoleon and Josephine) to more obscure (Joanna of Castille/Joanna the Mad and Phillip the Handsome), and all six wives of Henry VIII. She covers the ancient (Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1137) to the modern (Charles and Di, Charles and Camilla). Maybe someday she'll do a sequel that includes Will and Kate--that might be an interesting read. Although her scope is wide, her focus is narrow: good husbands and wives, rather than good rulers. She shows the difference between good rules and good spouses, and there isn't a lot of overlap. Some readers may have an issue with her comparatively gentle treatment of prominent targets like Tsar Nicholas or Marie Antoniette, but she focuses more on their personal lives than their ability to rule. It's a very different standard of measurement, and I think she divides the personal and public quite well.
The first two sentences of her introduction pretty much say it all: "Everyone loves a royal wedding. Except perhaps the bride and groom."(less)
This is a slim little paperback, less than 300 pages. Normally I could finish something like that in a matter of days, but this took me three weeks. I...moreThis is a slim little paperback, less than 300 pages. Normally I could finish something like that in a matter of days, but this took me three weeks. I had to take each page a bit at a time, absorb it and reflect on it before taking on the next page. My world has been rocked by this book, my foundation shaken. I've read literally dozens of books on World War II, with special emphasis (I thought) on the Holocaust, but I have never come across this tory. That is a shame, a crime against the survivors to ignore this story. I am blown away by what these men and women endured, how they stayed alive, and how and why they fought.
I had to re-read some sections more than once when they became hard to understand, which I think was due to translation issues more than anything else. But rough spots aside, this deserves to be mulled over, chewed on, and discussed. What's more shocking: that the answer to "Why didn't the Jews resist?" is "Some of them did," or that somehow the idea of them fighting disrupts our historical narrative? That might say more about us than it does about them.(less)
I had never heard of Ferris or of his other work prior to this being suggested for book club, so I didn't go into it with any preconceived ideas. I th...moreI had never heard of Ferris or of his other work prior to this being suggested for book club, so I didn't go into it with any preconceived ideas. I think I'm glad, because I had no expectations to be either met or disappointed.
I'm torn on what to rate it--this has aspects of a 2, 3 and 4 star read. Just as an average reader, I'd give it two stars. I found it too hopeless and depressing and I hated the ending; it was all too nihilistic for me. But I also recognize that it was beautifully, even lyrically written. I couldn't figure out what it reminded me of for the longest time, but thinking it over after finishing, I realized that it was like a modern Russian novel. It reminded me of the Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky I've slogged through, with its epic sweep, cycles of joy and despair, and metaphysical wrestling with life and death, the soul and the body, the nature of God and evil, and with a few mystical elements thrown in that never really went anywhere, but didn't have to.
(I hate Russian lit.)
So...did I enjoy the book? Not really. But did I appreciate it for its merits? I did. I'm not sure if I would say that I'm glad I read it, but I don't regret it, either. I will say that I think it's a great book club book, because there's lots to chew on and discuss. (less)
I just...I tried, y'all. I tried so hard, but I couldn't do it. I made it about a third of the way through before everyone else in the book club start...moreI just...I tried, y'all. I tried so hard, but I couldn't do it. I made it about a third of the way through before everyone else in the book club started rethinking our decision, which gave me permission to voice my desperate plea that we pick something else--anything else--please. We picked another book.
I have deeply mixed feelings about this. The writing style was beautiful, I have to give him that--lyrical and flowing, although it flowed into needless digression more often than not. It was so-o-o-o slow; when I gave up 200 pages in, I still had no idea what Sophie's choice was going to be or had been. That's a lot of ink to cover without having any idea what the plot is about.
Also, I felt like Styron was needlessly focused on sex. I get it, he's young and male and he's going to think about sex. Men have sex, men like sex, men think about sex, I get it. But the narrator goes on for pages at a time about his increasingly outlandish sexual fantasies, and it just didn't further the plot. I don't exactly faint and clutch my pearls at a sex scene, but it really needs to do something for the plot. Most of Styron's lustful musing do nothing for the plot, such as it is. I finally wikipedia'd the book's page (I'm so embarrassed) to see if it was worth slogging through the remaining 400 pages, and I almost threw something when I saw where the book was going. If I had lost the next however-many hours of my life to that, there would not have been enough alcohol in the world to make it okay.
To be clear: I don't say Styron is a bad writer, because the writing really was beautiful. And it was interesting enough that I kept slogging on much longer than I normally would have, because the spell he wove successfully pulled me in at least enough to go that far.
I was a little afraid that this was going to be cheesy, since the premise sounds a little ridiculous when you say it out loud. But I was hooked from t...moreI was a little afraid that this was going to be cheesy, since the premise sounds a little ridiculous when you say it out loud. But I was hooked from the first chapter, and read it eagerly through the end. Handled with someone with less grasp of historical detail, I think this would have been a disaster. But Novik weaves the whole thing together so seamlessly that it felt real and perfectly reasonable. At times I found myself having to pause and sort through what was actual history and what was fiction. I am now thoroughly addicted and have a whole new series to hunt down! Oh, darn...(less)
One of the blurbs on the back says that this "reads fast, like a gallop through South Texas." I think it more like a slow trot on an exhausted horse,...moreOne of the blurbs on the back says that this "reads fast, like a gallop through South Texas." I think it more like a slow trot on an exhausted horse, which in a way, I think fits it better--there was nothing as fast and straightforward about the revolution as a ride across the plains. Although the title references only the Alamo, the book actually covers from Goliad and Gonzales all the way to San Jacinto, although nothing besides the Alamo is covered in great detail. I learned more about the Alamo than I ever knew before, and much more than the sketchy "lots of brave men died, and it was bad--also, Crockett" that I'd been taught before. It's a good read for history lovers and Texans, but I'm not sure anyone else would be up for nearly 500 pages of this.
Also, there's a 25 page afterward discussing whether Travis drawing the line in the sand and everyone but one person stepping over it is a legend or fact, which to mean just seemed..unnecessary.(less)
Usually I can forgive a book bad writing if it's got good characters. But now I have found that the opposite is not true; I cannot forgive bad charact...moreUsually I can forgive a book bad writing if it's got good characters. But now I have found that the opposite is not true; I cannot forgive bad characters even for good writing. The writing was very good, for the most part. And the constant POV switching actually bothered me less here than it usually does, because it relieved me from having to deal with Cassandra, who would have benefitted greatly from a once-a-scene bitch slap. I didn't really like any of the characters all that much, but I didn't dislike any of them as much as I disliked Cassandra. I like flawed characters and anti-heroes as much as the next girl, but I need to have someone to cheer for. I think the most sympathetic character is Callie, which is...saying something.
I was really disappointed with the ending. I stayed up way, way past my bedroom on a week night to get to the end, certain there would be a big reveal, some cataclysmic event that would rock the world, after all the dark hints and sidelong glances and "Doom, doom, DOOOOM!" I expected fireworks, and got a sparkler. My disappointment knows no bounds. (less)