I abandoned this book on page 34. I don't abandon books often. In fact, it's a pretty darn rare occurrence. So, I'm going to give a very specific reas...moreI abandoned this book on page 34. I don't abandon books often. In fact, it's a pretty darn rare occurrence. So, I'm going to give a very specific reason why I did so, and it doesn't have anything to do with the story itself (How could it have anything to do with the story when I only made it to page 34?). It had to do with the writing. Frankly, there were WAY too many short sentence on every page. To be more specific, they were short simple sentences which almost always started with the subject of the sentence. And most of those sentences started with personal pronouns like I, he, she, we, etc. I can understand doing something like that occasionally in certain types of books as a literary device. But this was a constant distraction from the story itself. When it comes to reading, short sentences act as a break in the reading as the reader begins and ends independent thoughts. However, in this book, many times these sentences followed one right after the other and could easily have been combined to make the reading more fluid. After I became conscious of it, I tried not to think too much about it. But it was just a constant presence, page after page. And the long and short of it was the fact that I just got sick of reading a book that sounded like it was written by someone in Junior High School.(less)
I gave the book 4 stars because it was worthy of more than 3 stars. But on balance, considering all the awards the book has garnered, it (both the sto...moreI gave the book 4 stars because it was worthy of more than 3 stars. But on balance, considering all the awards the book has garnered, it (both the story and the telling of the story) is overrated.
Suffice it to say that I suspected that the book might be somewhat overrated not too long after I began reading it. Considering all the shorter sentences, the prose itself didn't quite seem to live up to such a high rating, even if the story later managed to rescue the writing itself. And while I can see several merits to the story vis-a-vis the title of the book and how that relates to the disparate lives of the characters being lived out in such a large impersonal city, I thought the book missed the mark if for no other reason than the characters sometimes seemed too stereotypical.
However, one high point of the book for me was when Gloria's life was later fleshed out near the end of the book as she was thinking about her entire life while she was walking home. I guess we all have our stories, and perhaps that was the author's way of laying bare facts about Gloria's life that we would otherwise not know. Like the rest of the characters and everyone else you meet in life, perhaps?
I may amend my review later to add more detail. (less)
To begin with, this is a very well-written book. The writing alone makes the book worth the read. It's still a popular read at my library (with 18 of...moreTo begin with, this is a very well-written book. The writing alone makes the book worth the read. It's still a popular read at my library (with 18 of 21 books currently checked out) even though the book was published 10 years ago.
It's the story about Alfred and Enid Lambert, now in their 70s, and their 3 adult children, Gary 43 (married with 3 children), Chip 39, and Denise 32, and their trials and tribulations. The book is split into sections which highlight, in turn, the individual lives of the characters who don't all come together until the end of the book.
There is plenty of humor, pathos, and social commentary/observation etc. But ultimately the book is about life and how messy it can be while trying to figure shit out.
I came across a quote by Schopenhauer on page 259 which I bookmarked for later. (Alfred has a book on the German philosopher)
Here's the quote:
"No little part of the torment of existence is that Time is continually pressing upon us, never letting us catch our breath but always coming after us, like a taskmaster with a whip."
I didn't realize it at the time, but in my opinion, that quote is probably a better representation of what the overall arching theme of the book is about than any review I've read about the book.
One warning, however. Be prepared to not like the characters very much, even if and when you come to have a certain amount of sympathy for all of them at different times. Perhaps that was the point.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is a 600 year old story of a man on a mission and how his quest changed the world.
In 1417, a scribe and former papal secretary...more**spoiler alert** This is a 600 year old story of a man on a mission and how his quest changed the world.
In 1417, a scribe and former papal secretary to a deposed Pope (the first Pope John XXIII, otherwise known as the antipope) went on a quest to recover lost Latin manuscripts written by ancient Romans. Many of these manuscripts (some known, most unknown) were believed to be languishing in remote monasteries where the monks would copy and recopy the texts. This had been going on for hundreds of years, and the scribe, Poggio Bracciolini, hoped to rescue great works of literature and philosophy from eventually being lost forever.
This is the story about how one ancient Latin poem, De rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)was rediscovered and its subsequent affect on the world after it was reintroduced. The epic poem was originally penned around 50 BCE by Lucretius and it reflected the scientific beliefs and the moral philosophy of a Roman named Epicurus who lived from 341 BCE to 270 BCE.
Why is this important you're probably asking. It's important because the Latin poem was the basis for a great deal of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance due to the fact that it greatly influenced both the scientists and philosophers who later read it.
As a note, it's interesting to read the Catholic Church's reaction to the text once they realized how threatening those views were to Christian orthodoxy. For example, Lucretius wrote about how everything in existence was composed of smaller matter known as atoms. Also, the poem promoted the idea that there was no afterlife because the soul died with the body, and the gods took no interest in human affairs. That was pretty radical stuff for a church which was later engaged in what became known as the Inquisition.
It's timely considering the current reaction of the Catholic church to the whole issue of contraception. At least nobody will be burned at the stake in 2012. That's progress.