**spoiler alert** I was moved by the end of the book and Barnes' acknowledgement that grief is universal although Barnes seems to be wholly immersed i**spoiler alert** I was moved by the end of the book and Barnes' acknowledgement that grief is universal although Barnes seems to be wholly immersed in his own grief (perhaps understandably) after 5 years. I think the book would have been stronger if Barnes had offered examples of some of his own friends' grief at the death of loved ones in order to make that point. That was particularly the case when he mentioned (in passing, I should add) his 'close friends' who had lost their son to suicide. This struck me as particularly odd since Barnes apparently had known the young man since he was a boy. But there was nothing mentioned about those friends or any interaction he had with them.
Consequently, my review likely wouldn't be as glowing as everyone else's for a few reasons.
For one thing, Barnes didn't really include much in the way of detail about his wife or her life, so I didn't feel I came to know the woman he was mourning.
Secondly, the early part of the book was mostly unnecessary as anything other than metaphor since the first two sections were titled "The Sin of Height" and "On the Level." In fact, very often when reading it, I felt that it was pure fiction which I came to resent to a certain degree after I started reading the third section which is titled "The Loss of Depth" and is about Barnes real life experience with personal loss. Certainly real life has enough to offer as an example of the universality of pain and suffering that a fictionalized account of others' lives is not necessary as a pretext to set up the real heart of the narrative.
Perhaps the most compelling part of the book, aside from Barnes genuine deeply-felt grief and how he was having a difficult time dealing with it over a period of years, was how his friends and acquaintances "failed the test" in his eyes in whatever efforts they made (such as they were) to offer understanding. It's a complaint I've heard before from other people who say that friends don't appear to know what to say or how to act and, as a result, they often seem to disappear when they're needed the most.
So, coming back to the suicide of his friends' son, how did Barnes fare in comparison to his friends who failed to pass his test? Was he able to offer some solace to his friends? The reader never finds out because Barnes never said a word about it.
As an aside, if anyone is interested in reading a very moving fictional account of an older man suffering from grief at the death of his wife (and not dealing with it all that well, I should add), I highly recommend John Banville's 2005 book, "The Sea." It's not an easy read, but at only 195 pages, it's well worth the effort. The story takes place in more than one time frame as the protagonist returns to a place where he vacationed as a young boy and recounts a summer there. So, the narrative moves from past to present as the character tries to come to terms with both his past and his present. ...more
I gave the book 3 stars not because I thought it wasn't very good, but because I thought it was incomplete, poorly structured, and contempuous in natuI gave the book 3 stars not because I thought it wasn't very good, but because I thought it was incomplete, poorly structured, and contempuous in nature.
If and when you're going to make an argument based on what you claim is logic and reason, then you should try to remove any unnecessary emotional baggage you may be carrying around with you if you don't want what you've written to seem like it's motivated by personal animus. Harris didn't do that, and his feelings are really on display. And frankly, it doesn't help his cause especially in light of the fact that he starts out the book criticizing Christians for their personal attacks on him despite their claims of a personal rebirth due to their faith. All Harris manages to do is to get down in the mud with the very same people who he seems to feel he's so intellectually superior to due to what he believes is his ability to more clearly reach logical conclusions on the moral questions of our times....more
The book deserves a higher rating than the 3 stars I gave it based on content because Atwood's observations and insights are interesting and well wortThe book deserves a higher rating than the 3 stars I gave it based on content because Atwood's observations and insights are interesting and well worth knowing. Additionally, her writing is very good as always. I only had two minor problems with it which is why I wish Goodreads had half stars. I would have preferred a more straightforward style as opposed to hearing (it was an audio ebook) her considerable fictional prose gifts in a nonfiction book, AND because there was a little too much of the 'wink and nod' effect when Atwood made her points, as if her primary intention with the book was to be humorous as opposed to analytical. But it could have easily just been my mood while listening to it.
But I should also add that I chuckled a few times at some of Atwood's observations, so I didn't wholly object to a few lighthearted asides.
But, like I said, I would give it a VERY strong and enthusiastic 3 1/2 stars if I had the opportunity to do so. I just couldn't quite bring myself to give it 4.
No offense, Margaret. You're one hell of a writer. I still marvel at the depth and beauty of "The Blind Assassin" and how "Oryx and Crake" was so stylistically different. I'm likewise very impressed on how you managed to so convincingly get inside the heads of teenage boys and the mind of a man of questionable sanity in O&C.
Hell, I'll probably just come back and give the book a 4 anyway in the end since a different author who wrote the same book probably would have earned a 4 without any trouble....more