This is a book I’d love to own; it’s one I’d probably reread, and I’d love to be able to review all the wonderful literary and other quotes. It’s notThis is a book I’d love to own; it’s one I’d probably reread, and I’d love to be able to review all the wonderful literary and other quotes. It’s not that it’s a beautifully written book, but it’s well written and very quotable. There are many good quotes, most of them related to reading.
From reading the book’s descriptions (that I saw) and the cover, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and that’s good as I’m glad I came to it without too much information – the book’s cover does a good job of not giving too much away but I’ve since read descriptions that have given away more of the story than I’d have wanted to know.
One thing came toward the beginning that I didn’t expect and I’m glad I didn’t know and one thing came toward the end which I kind of suspected, but I didn’t guess the specifics; that came as the last line at the bottom of a page and I immediately knew what that meant, but not everybody might until they turn the page and keep reading. So, two sort of plot twists. Well, one sudden turn of events and one thing a reader could surmise as coming but the details aren’t revealed until toward the end. Oh, actually there’s a third major reveal that came into the mix, and I wish that more had been done with it.
There is lots of foreshadowing throughout, especially in the book titles and mini reviews and notes by the title character that appear at the start of every chapter. I really enjoyed those. I thought it was very clever.
The story is amusing and sweet. There was one chapter I sobbed my way through and a couple others that were very sad. Otherwise, I mostly laughed my way through the book, or at least smiled. I do appreciate how all the humor is tinged with sadness and even the sad parts (except for maybe that one chapter) had some humor.
I particularly enjoyed all the book and literary references. The book is a loving homage to readers and while I suppose its execution is gimmicky and somewhat sentimental, I didn’t care because I loved it and enjoyed it.
I think the way people were depicted was smart. I loved the main character’s attitudes toward certain books and genres and I loved how he changed over time. I got attached to many characters, and cared about them, and I think I’ll remember them.
I got a feel for what small bookstore selling is all about. Some of the early on events in particular could be right out of those humor books about things you hear people say in bookstores.
One medium quibble I have is that the ending, and even some of the middle, seemed too rushed, and I wish more had been revealed about certain characters’ futures, one character in particular, though I think readers are supposed to be able to surmise probable scenarios. Another quibble is that a few important things were kind of glossed over and I wanted more depth and wanted to know what would happen. In that way the book is more lightweight than I wanted. What is there though I found delightful and memorable.
The book is a bit more chick lit than most of the books I read. I’ve enjoyed quite a few books in the genre but I don’t consider it to be one of “my” genres. Maybe in part because of the books and reading theme, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Luckily the romance never ended up being a huge part of the book; books and reading and family love and community was always central. It’s a very optimistic story, especially regarding people’s ability to change and to love.
4 ½ stars
recommended for those who enjoy reading, books, writing, bookstores, book discussions, quirky communities, atypical family stories, coming of age stories...more
I read this book’s Audible Macmillan audiobook edition. I’ll be reading the hardcover edition too. It’s a wonderful choice for an audiobook. The narraI read this book’s Audible Macmillan audiobook edition. I’ll be reading the hardcover edition too. It’s a wonderful choice for an audiobook. The narrator, Morven Christie, is superb. I’d have never otherwise gotten the pronunciations correct if I’d read a paper edition, but I yearned to see what people and place names, and other words too, looked like on the page, and the hardcover edition has a map. I love maps in books. Not having maps is a real downside of audiobook editions, for me. My real world book club is going to be reading this in April and I’m going to be rereading it, and reading the hardcover edition. I enjoy being read to, but my current lifestyle isn’t conducive to audiobooks. I thought I’d be able to lie in bed and listen, but I often had to rewind by 30 seconds or more, too many times to count, and it turns out that I’m too sleep deprived to stay alert when at rest and listening to a book, even with black or green tea as an aid. I think I might be able to get into audiobooks if I ever regularly have at least an hour minimum sessions on treadmills or at least an hour uninterrupted in a car, things common in my past but not recently and not likely in my near future. I think with my current lifestyle the only way I’d read more audiobooks would be to simultaneously read a paper edition, but whatever word deviations occurred would drive me slightly nuts.
I was incredibly curious so I looked up information about the main character as I was reading, so I knew some of what to expect. This book stayed true to the real story. Of course, some of what was written had to be conjecture, but I bought the author’s theory, and naturally what the characters said was made up, but even a non-fiction wouldn’t have been able to provide that kind of information.
My opinion about capital punishment wasn’t changed one whit. I don’t think anything could change it, but this book strongly validated it.
The book is marvelous. I got an excellent feel for what Iceland was like circa early 1800s. It was almost too realistic. The sense of isolation and doom came right through the pages and wrapped itself around me. I literally kept turning up my heat as I couldn’t tolerate feeling physically cold while I was reading it.
It wasn’t the ideal book for me to read right now. I’m certainly glad I didn’t read it over the holidays. I enjoyed how it was told from the point of view of so many characters. I loved watching how certain characters’ attitudes and opinions changed over time.
The last chapter seemed a bit rushed to me but perhaps that was apropos.
I was shocked about how ever-present religion (Christianity) was in that time and place, how brutal life was for even the luckiest humans and animals, how survival itself was such arduous work.
The story is beautifully and skillfully written. I particularly enjoyed the exceptionally fine writing, made particularly impressive by the author’s fairly young age. I’m not surprised she’s getting her PhD. The characters are incredibly believable and the ways the reader gradually learns about them is exceptionally well done.
I know I’ll always remember Agnes. I’m glad I read the book. It’s an amazing book.
Despite all this I did consider giving it 4 stars, but given its excellence and the powerful effect it had on me, I can’t give it less than 5 stars.
I’m no longer finding reviewing much fun, and posting reviews in 4 places, along with other information such as shelves, and book editing at one place, well it all feels exhausting rather than enjoyable. Editing would take way too much effort, so I’m afraid my frequent typos and other mistakes will remain as is in virtually all my reviews. Ditto my omissions; I often think of more to say after I post a review but I think those things, however important they might feel to me, are going to have to remain unsaid.
I highly recommend the book and also strongly suggest readers have fun, amusing, or otherwise distracting things planned for after every reading session....more
I thought I might not enjoy this book due to its gimmicky format and what I thought would be pabulum sentimentality.
I really liked it though, in partI thought I might not enjoy this book due to its gimmicky format and what I thought would be pabulum sentimentality.
I really liked it though, in part and despite the above. I found it to be a really fast read.
It helped me to make a list. As I got to them, for each of the 15 chapters, I wrote down name of the person, their location, and the year that appear at the front of each chapter. I probably didn’t need to do that, but it helped me keep track of who was who and where and when they were at the time.
This book screams to be reread. Reading it a second time would make it even more fun to see how everything comes together, knowing in advance what is not known until later on/the very end.
The writing is beautiful and I enjoyed the writing style. The characters are interesting. The times/places held my attention too. The book’s chapters take place (not in order) between 1929 and 2010, at several places in the U.S. (New York and Los Angeles, California) and Europe (England and France). The storytelling is wonderful. A lot about the characters and their circumstance are skillfully conveyed in relatively few words.
I did get a tad irked at the central message (see the title) but sort of liked it too. I also got irritated because I think the story was meant to elicit certain emotions and thoughts from readers and that assumption was not suitably or sufficiently subtle for me.
The book completely held my attention when most books these days are not doing that. I think it’s a story that will stick in my mind. Very cleverly crafted....more
I doubt I’d have read if not for my real world book club, and even though I barely liked it, I don’t regret reading it.
It is hilarious at parts but II doubt I’d have read if not for my real world book club, and even though I barely liked it, I don’t regret reading it.
It is hilarious at parts but I can’t give it more than 3 stars because this is one case where the whole adds up to less than the sum of the parts; many pages were entertaining, but the whole story didn’t wow me.
I do like how it’s funny in sad parts, including the suicide attempt at the beginning! loved that. However, when the narrator wasn’t amusing me, they were annoying me.
The story is very busy, sprawling, lots characters, lots going on, too weird structure for me and writing I found distancing, and it seemed very ambitious but for me it didn’t succeed and it ultimately felt like kind of a mess. I often do like big epic novels, but this one didn’t come together for me.
I think it tried to be profound (immigration, race, cultural, identity, etc. ) but I don’t think it succeeded. I was interested in Irie for a time, but then not, and I don’t think any of the characters will stick with me. I didn’t get that invested in any of them.
I didn’t like most of the deviations from the regular font text, but the family tree (on page 281 of my edition) was a hoot. I have some interest in genealogy and I’d love to see more detailed, honest family trees such as this one.
There are also lots of quotable quotes. I liked many including, “Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.” This quote does get repeated.
I’m not sure how to sum up my feelings/thoughts about the book except to reiterate how read certain pages was a pleasure but reading the book in its entirety was not. And, the whole wasn’t as good as some of its parts; the whole didn’t come together for me....more
I can’t rate this book with 5 stars because its fiction/non-fiction format drove me crazy. I’d rather have had a non-fiction book about the Mirabal siI can’t rate this book with 5 stars because its fiction/non-fiction format drove me crazy. I’d rather have had a non-fiction book about the Mirabal sisters. Given that there is one surviving sister I’d hope that wasn’t an impossible feat. If it really was, however, then I’d rather this historical fiction story have had entirely fictional characters as the main characters. The pertinent real people could have taken on more minor roles in the story, and then I wouldn’t have minded their fictionalization.
But this book really grabbed me. I ended up having actual nightmares because of and relating to this book. I thought the author did a tremendous job of giving an accurate feeling for what it might feel like to live under a dictatorship regime, and of being public, oppositional figures in such a situation. I enjoyed the writing style much more than I’d expected. I’d like to read other books by this author. I’ve heard her speak a couple times, and I’ve always come away favorably impressed.
I loved the humor in the book. I learned a lot about the time and place. I enjoyed the different voices, although I had to occasionally look back to see who was narrating.
I really enjoyed the characters Maria Teresa, and Minerva, but Patria less so. Maria Teresa struck me as somewhat shallow but very funny, Minerva as passionate and generous, and at times infuriating. Dede felt like a bit of a blur for much of the book; she’s the one who survived and who was available for providing some factual content. Perhaps it was her privacy that needed to be protected.
There weren’t many, but I enjoyed the little drawings in the story; some were like maps, though of small places.
My paperback copy had fascinating extras. The author talks a bit about herself; she was a refuge from Trujillo’s regime because of her father’s activism. I feel her passion coming through in her storytelling. There are discussion questions. And she explains about her choice to write this as a historical fiction novel.
I’d love to know how all the children and grandchildren and other descendents are doing now. I did get from this material how hard it must be to be a survivor of those who were and are martyred and revered. And I’d like to read more about this period in this place. I’m embarrassed that I knew nothing of it, even though I was alive (albeit young) during these atrocities. I’m always astounded and perturbed to read about horrific events that took or are taking place during my lifetime. I always think about what I was doing at the time, and how different my life was, and how ignorant I was.
I read this for my real world book club, and I finished it late, a first for me, but not because I wasn’t enjoying my reading experience. ...more
I’m struggling because I want to do this book justice but I am not in the mood to write a review. I want to get something down though when eve4 ½ stars
I’m struggling because I want to do this book justice but I am not in the mood to write a review. I want to get something down though when everything is fairly fresh in my mind, because I loved this book.
I read this as a buddy read with my Goodreads friend Diane, and also read it for my real world book club. I’ve been wanting to read this for ages, and I’m so glad I got to this no later than I did.
I even liked the love story, and I’m not a romance fan.
Many of the characters are so memorable. I love how the people are complicated and the relationships are complicated. They felt very real. I appreciate that a male author could write such an authentic seeming female character, telling the story in third person but mostly from her point of view. I developed such strong feelings for the characters, ranging from love and admiration to hatred and, until the end of the book, at times I felt confused by some of them. With some characters, I enjoyed getting to know them layer by layer; it’s how people generally do get to know each other.
There is also such a rich plot, with many twists, a few of which I guessed ahead of the reveal, most of which I didn’t guess, and a couple that I didn’t at all see coming. I loved how at one point in the story, I had to suspend disbelief in a major way, but then because of a twist, that part of the story made total sense, that really something else was going on that was a much more sensible thing to have happened. Everything, about people’s motivations and personalities, and what happens in the story, they all ended up making sense to me, even though some were emotionally disturbing. In some chapters, so much action is packed into so few pages.
I learned some things too. I had no idea that there were that many Jews left in Berlin in 1943. I got such a feel for WWII Berlin. The atmosphere came through so well, both of the city, and of Sigrid’s internal experience. At the beginning, in particular, the oppressiveness was so well drawn. Sigrid’s life as it was, the experiences in the bomb shelters, just everything had me captivated.
I loved the writing style.
I relished the suspense, and there was a lot of it.
I got completely engrossed in the book and it was really hard to put down. When I did keep reading, the pages, chapters just flew by. I was trying to keep in sync with my buddy (which we basically were able to do) and at one point the narrative was so gripping that, even though I was keeping careful track, I hadn’t realized I’d read from one chapter into the next.
Like many Jews, I've always wondered about what if I was in the Holocaust? Would I have been shot, drowned, gassed, starved, beaten to death, or would I have gotten out of occupied Europe in time, or gone into hiding, etc?? And then I wonder what if it was here and now and another group of people, a group of which I was not a part? Would I risk my life to help them directly? Indirectly? Would I help in ways with less risk to myself? Would I try to ignore the situation and do nothing? I'd like to think I would help, but I've never felt all that brave. I love these kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction, because they do make you think, as well as entertain you. This is a perfect book to get me again thinking of these questions. And there is a lovely 4 page long author’s note at the end that addresses some of the “what would you do” question.
This is a great book! I highly recommend it to all historical fiction fans, particularly those interested in the WWII years, and especially those who enjoy reading books with strong female characters....more
This is a tough book for me to rate. At a time when I’m finding it difficult to get through most books, it completely held my attention and I thoroughThis is a tough book for me to rate. At a time when I’m finding it difficult to get through most books, it completely held my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If it weren’t for a couple issues I might have given it 5 stars, but because of those issues I almost downgraded it to 3 stars.
It’s a beautifully written book. There are many memorable and lovely lines, so much insight in just a few words. I love the voice of the main character narrator, June. She is so engaging and interesting, and she’s a good storyteller. She is a believable 14 year old girl. I also really like some of the complexity of the other characters, even though the revelations never took me by surprise; in fact, the sister character I suspected what unfolded, but the way things were unveiled was well done. I appreciated how the sister-friend rivalry transpired, even though it was predictable, and even though it definitely veered into what I consider to be severe bullying, but I know that can happen in families. New York City and the 1980s were done to perfection and I had fun reliving certain things, even though at that time I was much older than the narrator, and even though one of the things was sad.
Some of what happened in the various relationships (and with the painting, etc. etc.) were awfully heavy handed with the symbolism but I forgave that. Everything was wrapped up a little too neatly, especially at the end, but I can forgive that too.
A couple things almost ruined the book for me though.
(view spoiler)[ The cigarettes Toby gave to June when she was only 14, not only even just once but regularly, left me not liking Toby as much as I would have otherwise, or as much as I think the author intended for her readers. It drove me crazy. But hey, I’d have been angry at Toby for simply smoking around June and exposing her to secondhand smoke. The constant cigarette dispensing had me infuriated. The alcohol didn’t bother me as much, but it coming from the other kids disturbed me much less than the alcohol that came from the adult, an adult who was supposed to be watching out for her.
Also, a second thing, the whole being in love with the uncle and then being sort of in love with the uncle’s widower boyfriend seemed weird to me, not that a girl could have sexual/romantic feelings for an unattainable adult, as that happens all the time, but just the way it was written, for me, there were some false notes. (hide spoiler)]
I’d had this book on my to read list and wanted to read it. I got to it because my real world book club is reading it. A couple friends have told me that they cried at the end. I didn’t; I was moved but not to the point of shedding tears. I did frequently smile at many points in the story. Overall, I really liked the book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I zoomed through this, whenever I was willing to pick it up at all, because I just didn’t like it and didn’t want to have to spend too much time readiI zoomed through this, whenever I was willing to pick it up at all, because I just didn’t like it and didn’t want to have to spend too much time reading it.
I should like it. I have many friends who’ve given it 5 and 4 stars, much of it takes place in “my era” and I feel as though I should like Irving’s work, all of it.
But this is just too weird for me. And I really couldn’t stand all the content about religion and faith and the way it was addressed I found incredibly irritating. Very peculiar story!
I couldn’t even care about the characters. Everything was connected and wrapped up neatly so I can admire that skillfulness but since I didn’t enjoy the story, I can’t muster that much admiration.
I’ll have to give it another chance sometime. The only reason I persisted and kept reading is that this book is the book for my next real world book club meeting. I’ll bet they’ll all love it. What’s wrong with me?! I guess this one just isn’t my cup of tea. Irving is often too strange for me actually, although I did like Garp and loved The Cider House Rules movie. I didn’t like this at all though. I will be interested in our book club discussion because I suspect I’ll be alone with that opinion.
Oh gosh. I didn’t record my reading start date and I have no idea when it was, but I know I started it over a month ago....more
What I loved about this book was finishing it and being free to go on to my next book. I came close to giving this 1 star but I just couldn’t becauseWhat I loved about this book was finishing it and being free to go on to my next book. I came close to giving this 1 star but I just couldn’t because I loved the map on the inside covers and the maps that are at the front of each chapter, showing the route as the Cherokee progressed, and I like that the Cherokee language is used at times throughout the book.
I’m very interested in the Trail of Tears but I might have preferred a non-fiction book or at the least a much better novel. I will not be reading the sequel, Pushing the Bear: After the Trail of Tears. If not for my real world book club I would have taken a look at the information about the Cherokee oral/written language and then abandoned the book; there HAVE to be better books about this subject out there.
Reading this was a slog. It was tedious when it shouldn’t be and I just couldn’t care that much about the characters when I should have. Sometimes I mildly enjoyed this as I was reading but I never got lost in the book.
I often like books such as this, with alternating narrators, but here some of the narrators seem to be there just to give the reader the history and background information about the removal. While I’m interested in the history and was glad to learn more about it, it’s didn’t make for a scintillating novel. The book is written in short little sections so it’s way too easy to put down the book, sometimes a helpful thing, but for me I’m not so sure it was with this particular book. The account felt very jerky; there was no good flow to the story.
I got really irritated when the conflict between the Cherokee and the European whites was presented as too evenly at fault. Yes, it was good to see sympathetic white European soldiers and not perfect Cherokee, but nope, the forced removal wouldn’t have happened without the whites coveting the Cherokee’s land. The Cherokee lived in cabins, had possessions, and were farmers, not at all nomadic by that time. Sorry, not evenly at fault at all. Not even close!
I did learn a lot. The Trail of Tears was much different than I’d envisioned. Many things struck me, including the fact that the Native Americans forced from their farms were also forced to pay landowners/farmers for passage over their lands. We American immigrants have a crazy history, which I suppose it just part of the overall crazy human history.
So, I’m glad I’m done and delighted to move on. I would like to read an excellent book or more, fiction and/or non-fiction, about The Trail of Tears. If any Goodreads’ members can recommend any, I’d appreciate it. I can’t recommend this book to anyone, but I’m curious about what my other seven book club members will say about this book....more
I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars for this book, but despite not being happy with everything about it, I think the story and its memorable ch4 ½ stars
I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars for this book, but despite not being happy with everything about it, I think the story and its memorable characters are so well crafted, and it touched me so deeply and affected me so strongly, that I have to round it up and give it 5 stars. That said, I’m not sure it’s the most ideal book for my next book club discussion. I am glad I pushed for us to read it though, for selfish reasons, because I’ve wanted to read this book since it first came out and I’m grateful that I finally got to it.
I loved the dictionary of flowers at the end of the book. I didn’t know about the language of flowers and now I’m fascinated. I referred to the dictionary throughout the book, even though the author usually wrote in the meanings of the flowers as they were mentioned. Then, I reread the whole dictionary after I finished the book. I’m disheartened to see that Kate Greenaway's book Language of Flowers is available only for library use only at my library. I’d love to borrow it and peruse it at home.
So regarding this book:
I really enjoyed the San Francisco setting. There were one or two things that weren’t gotten quite right, including our September weather, but most locales and directions were spot on, and I really love books set in San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area. The fact that the book’s events take place in San Francisco and surrounding areas is one of the reasons I was eager to get to it. And, of course, I’m always delighted to read books that belong on my orphaned-and-quasi-oprhaned-kids shelf. This one fits perfectly.
While I’m not typically interested in botany, even though I’ve always wanted a vegetable and herb garden and I do enjoy being out in nature, I loved the flowers and the vineyard and what I learned about them. I found it fascinating to learn some of the flowers’ meanings and also some of what it takes to be a successful florist. If I ever have cause to use or give flowers in the future, I’ll keep their meanings in mind. Until I read this book I was only dimly aware they had the meanings they do and did. I’m glad Victoria’s dictionary was somewhat updated from Victorian times to our modern time.
This book reads as a sort of mystery, as chapter by chapter the reader is taken from the present to the past, back and forth. I was very eager to see what would happen and what had happened. There was quite a bit of suspense. I was grateful that one major mystery was solved well before the end of the book, but the suspense continued until the very end of the story.
The book was a really quick read. There are many short chapters so it was easy for me to pick up the book and read just a little and then just a bit more.
Almost all the characters are unforgettable. They’re so well drawn. I felt as though I knew and understood them, and almost everything about them and their relationships rang true to me.
One of the author’s children is a former foster child and I felt she understood foster kids. I admire her for doing something with that knowledge. She’s co-founded a very worthwhile nationwide group called The Camilla Network (camellia means “my destiny is in your hands”) to support foster children aging out of the system: https://camellianetwork.org/. I’m going to check it out. We treat our foster children appallingly bad when they turn 18. There are few programs and they’re not adequate. I’m so glad when I find resources for them.
The rest of my review will be in spoiler tags and there are major spoilers. What I say is best read by those who’ve already read the book or are sure they have no interest in reading the book:
(view spoiler)[ Just once I’d love to read a book about a main character in distress who does not undergo major positive transformation. I realize why the author had Victoria finally fare as well as she did. This is a hopeful book and might be wonderful for kids who are foster teens or young adults, kids who have reactive attachment disorder, anyone who’s had less than adequate parenting, and who needs some hope for themselves. What happened did seem authentic and did end up working, but Victoria was incredibly lucky that it did. I think it helped that when she was ten, and again a decade later, she had someone who wanted to mother her. It helped that she took the language of flowers with her and had a knack and a talent for being a florist, and that she had a caring mentor. It helped that she found a young man who truly understood her and loved her. It helped that Hazel gave her a reason to think beyond herself. It helped that while angry she didn’t seem at all prone to anxiety or depression. I think the story was overly optimistic, but all that happens does seem possible. I do love how Victoria helped first one then three other young women who live in the group home she stayed in when first out of the foster care system. I suppose between Victoria, Grant, and Elizabeth, Hazel will have what she will need to thrive. But while it all works, I wasn’t thrilled with the end. She is a very strong person. I haven’t met many like her, but I’ve read of real people that remind me of her, such as Liz Murray and her book Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, and I’ve worked with a few, though they’re a small percentage of the kids who find themselves situations with a similar lack of nurturing. I know I would not have made it the way Victoria did and I’ve seen what happens to most foster kids who age out of the system, usually with much less support and inner strength than Victoria has. I continued to feel depressed and worried at the end, even though I know it’s meant to be a happy ending. Can Hazel even get a birth certificate? At least Victoria knows Hazel’s birthday, even though she doesn’t know her own actual birthday. Anyway, I felt depressed and sad and anxious and unsettled as I read the book, and those feelings didn’t dissipate despite the happy ending. End of rant for now. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book is a delight because its author is funny. So funny! She’s also scientifically minded. Sense of humor and scientific mindedness are two things I value highly.
And, it’s a good thing that this book is laugh out loud hilarious because I also had to get through reading about absurd and gruesome experiments on animals and people that she describes. The contents turned out to be partly about a subject I’ve always enjoyed: the history of medicine.
This is a remarkably quick read. I laughed and smiled more during the first half than the second half of the book, but I’m not convinced it got any less funny; I’m more inclined to think the humor wore thin for me, and I’d had enough of the subject. But there is plenty of humor throughout and even the “Acknowledgements” section is a hoot.
The book is organized beautifully; one chapter flows perfectly into the next.
Oh, and for all my talk of the hilarity present within these pages the subject is taken seriously, and with an open, albeit scientific, survey.
I must say I was a wee bit surprised by her expressed opinions in the “Last Words” section in the back of the book.
What I love most about this book (and Stiff and I assume her other books too) is that she takes her readers on a journey that she is also experiencing for herself.
There is an impressive Bibliography, materials listed for each chapter of this book.
My book club chose this as our October selection because it’s the month of Halloween. I’m not sure how much we’ll talk about the book vs. our own beliefs vs. general talk, but that’s the case for virtually all our book club meetings, no matter which/what types of books we read; most meetings we talk more about non-book related things than the books we’ve read, and the vegan food we’re eating and enjoying is a common enough subject of our conversation.
Why nobody else but me should pay attention to my rating or review, and should just ignore everything I say:
I’m reviewing this and “finished” this booWhy nobody else but me should pay attention to my rating or review, and should just ignore everything I say:
I’m reviewing this and “finished” this book only because I do that for all my real world book club books. I cheated. If I had a did not finish or abandoned shelf, I’d have used it, and not poorly plowed my way through the book. I speed read the book and I’m not a champion speed reader, so I wasn’t being fair to the book and cannot do it justice when talking about it. I missed a lot, including some whats and hows and whys. I was not in the mood to read it. I think it’s possible if I hadn’t felt rushed to read it and had been in the mood for it, I might have appreciated it more. It’s likely I’ll never get back to it though, but writing these review notes are to remind me about it and to help me to decide whether to reread it sometime in the future. I don’t feel guilty about improperly skewing the book’s Goodreads’ stats because it has so many ratings and reviews. It’s not this book’s fault that I was overwhelmed and frazzled and had a pile of books I would have preferred to read. The book never drew me in; I just wanted it to be over.
I stayed up late to finish it, not because I couldn’t put it down but because I wanted to put it down for good.
I have liked magical realism in some books but it’s never been a favorite sub-genre of mine. Here, for me it took away from the story. I’d have rather had a straight story novel, or even a non-fiction book about India’s history and independence.
I didn’t care about or get attached to the characters, and the narrator drove me crazy with his way of storytelling.
I printed out a character list to help me keep things straight, but found it wasn’t at all comprehensive and I looked at it only several times.
While some of the language was lovely, I didn’t like the way the story was told.
I love “twin” stories and switched at birth stories, but not this one, although for me, for a bit of time, the book got more interesting when the children finally got to age ten. When the narrator discovered them and they discovered each other, fairly interesting. But, the whole book was a slow crawl, filled with digressions, some of which I found superfluous.
This book, partly because of a narrator talking about times as though there when not during his lifetime, reminded me of some other books I’ve read with my book club, including Middlesex and Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and I think some others whose titles are now escaping me, but all books I enjoyed more, except for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, another rare one of our books I haven’t enjoyed, and the only other of our books I “skipped through” as rapidly as I could, and another one that had me amazed I didn’t love it.
This is the Booker winner of all the Booker Prize winners, and I have other winners on my shelf I really want to read.
It has many, many beautifully written passages.
My edition has an introduction to the 25th anniversary edition by the author, and he gives some background on what’s real, what’s fictionalized, how the book was received by people in the west vs. India, and by Indira Ghandi; all that was interesting information.
It’s brilliantly ambitious.
So, in summary: This book was not my cup of tea but I think it might have been me, me at the time I was reading it....more
I love the little pen & ink drawings of birds, with their names shown, that are at the start of every chapter. The chapters are extremely short, aI love the little pen & ink drawings of birds, with their names shown, that are at the start of every chapter. The chapters are extremely short, and this should have been an incredibly quick read, but for some reason it took me some time to slog through, even though I enjoyed it, and as the story went on, it grew on me more and more, though I wasn’t perturbed when I had to put it down.
It’s a gentle and slow little story, and I could have done without the fact that the ball in question is at the hunt club; it starts off quiet and simple and innocent but quietly yet surely gets slightly more complicated, though it never loses its gentleness. There definitely ended up being some layers, some darkness in what seemed to be at first a simple lighthearted story, but overall it remained sweet.
I’m not sure about this narrator. Those who have read the book: Who is the narrator? Whoever narrates the book, the voice is personable and easy to read.
I loved the locales and got a kick out of where and why and how some of the birds were found. I really enjoyed how the storyline and characters evolved.
I reveled in the wickedly funny little asides, and the witticisms are not at all limited to observations about birds and birdwatchers, not at all! I wanted to add some quotes but there are just too many and I couldn’t decide which ones to include.
In a way, I could rate this 5 stars or 3, so I’ll settle for 4, 4 ½ actually....more
This book has such an enjoyable writing style; it’s very accessible and the book is a really quick read, and a pleasant read, despite its tragic subjeThis book has such an enjoyable writing style; it’s very accessible and the book is a really quick read, and a pleasant read, despite its tragic subject matter. This book had a good mix of the personal and political, heavy on the personal, which I liked.
I got a great feel for various parts of Morocco and what it feels like to be an immigrant. I admired how while parts of this story are about big issues, the significance of the psychological aspects of family, including what’s happened in past generations, and of friends and community, and most of all the importantce of each person’s psychological makeup was shown clearly.
It was a little weird at first but I ended up appreciating the separate sections to show the different points of view of the various characters. It was a bit jarring, but it was effective.
This book is all about betrayal, both with malice and with supposed love and protection in mind. It’s also about the feeling of not belonging. It’s about poverty and injustice and other ills that can lead to poor conclusions.
I understand depression despair, rage, and I could empathize greatly with most of the main characters, the privileged and the poverty stricken. But, I was still not so sold on some of the events, not really. I was a bit stunned by the ending, even though I had a good idea of what was coming. I felt some relief that in the end the characters did seem realistic and true to how they’d been crafted.
My two main complaints about this book are what I consider a weak ending and the lack of humor. Yes, there are characters in good humor and even characters that experience amusement, but I was never amused. Perhaps it’s because I knew the gist of the plot before I read the book, but I felt that the book kept to a very narrow range of tone.
I was very engaged when I was reading, at least up until toward the very end, but the way the story ended left me unsatisfied; I was gratified by how some of the subplots played out, but ultimately I was disappointed; I think I would have been much more pleased by so many different endings, sad or happy or any mix of the two. This is wonderful storytelling but the story ended up letting me down....more
This story and its characters hooked me right from the start. Although I took a few days to read/savor it, it’s the kind of book that I found hard toThis story and its characters hooked me right from the start. Although I took a few days to read/savor it, it’s the kind of book that I found hard to put down, and I could have easily read it in a day.
I vacillated between giving it 4 or 5 stars. Most of the way through it was a 5 star book for me. I really enjoyed the writing style, the memorable characters, the account of the circumstances, and the amazing descriptions. But, I didn’t like some of what happened toward the end, though I did understand it, and I suspected what was coming. And, I thought I didn’t like the last line, but I’d remembered enough to know it was important to go back and reread a section toward the very beginning of the book, and I’m so glad I did. The author really perfectly tied everything together; it was so well crafted. So, 5 stars it is.
Library candy! I had no idea! When I read books about starving people, here during the Siege of Leningrad, I have an overpowering urge to eat, to overeat. That happened with this book. The events in this book are truly harrowing, but there is so much humor, and humanity too, that they were bearable to read about, riveting and barely bearable, but so compelling, and so poetic.
I enjoyed and was impressed with the friendship story, and I really appreciated that war was shown as horrific as it is; one didn’t need to be a Jew in a concentration camp to experience appalling suffering or death either. As a warning to the faint hearted (and I normally count myself as one of them) I will reveal that there is brutal violence and intense suspense in this story, but it was done so well, and I didn’t feel it was done in a gratuitous manner.
Lev, Kolya, Vika, and the author are people I am likely to remember. The Siege of Leningrad was told so well, I could feel it, the hunger & the cold & the fear, and the reading experience of it and other parts of the story were completely gripping, and that’s an amazing feat. This is the kind of story that can make the reader look differently at people and wonder about the circumstances of their earlier years.
So, given the author’s name and the circumstances, I’m now wondering how much is true and how much came from the writer’s imagination....more
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading the book but I’m balking at writing this review; although I do think perhaps I wrote more statu4 ¾ stars
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading the book but I’m balking at writing this review; although I do think perhaps I wrote more status updates for this book than I have for any other book. I was very lucky to read this book as a buddy read with Goodreads’ friend Diane, as well as for my book club (thanks to them for accepting my recommendation so I finally got to this) and as a bonus my friend’s partner is Hungarian and he was able to give some extra understanding and information about Hungary during the WWII period, and just regularly email chatting about this book with Diane made it a richer reading experience, and to top it off we managed to stay almost in sync with where we were in the book, and we started and finished the book on the same days.
I loved Julie Orringer's book of short stories How to Breathe Underwater: Stories when I read it years ago, and it made such an impression on me that I have to say it’s one of my favorite collections of short stories, so I’ve wanted to read this novel ever since it was first published, and it did not disappoint, and I’m eager to read any future books by this author.
I’ll start off with the few things I didn’t like as I might as well get those out of the way: Despite the dark content I thought it somewhat minimized and romanticized the experiences of Jewish citizens of Hungary during WWII, and it played around at least a bit with what was the reality. Not with most of it, but with some of it. Some of what happened just wasn’t realistic. Of course, some survivors have shown that truth really can be stranger than fiction; many of their stories seem impossible. Also, I didn’t need everything and everyone’s fates wrapped up so neatly and I thought that one character was wrapped up in an implausible way and I didn’t need to learn their fate firsthand, and yet I would have liked to know even more about one character’s life than what we found out, although that latter may not be a flaw in the book to not satisfy my curiosity.
But, this book is a masterpiece in my opinion. It’s epic in scope but despite its length I found it to be a very fast read. I thought there was stellar character development and storytelling. I love how my opinions of the characters kept changing, as they and their situations changed. To me, that’s a mark of a great author/storyteller, when I can be affected in that way.
I found the book very difficult to put down, even at the end of sections, and particularly right before the last section I had to keep reading for at least a few pages more before taking a break.
It’s beautifully written, and has amazingly vivid descriptions. I cared so much about the people and most seemed completely authentic. I enjoyed the way real people and events were incorporated into the story but, as is usual when this happens in a historical fiction story, I became curious about what was real and what was fiction; I did do online searches about some people and places and events as I read. And, I felt as though I was in Paris and in Budapest and in the other locations in the book, right there, in that time and in those places.
I love the brothers’ relationships with one another, how they so obviously confide in each other about everything and how they jump to help each other. I got a kick out of how Tibor stays in his role as the big brother. At first I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the love story/stories but I came around and ended up being glad they were there and thought they greatly enriched the story.
I just loved the epilogue. I found it moving and so genuine seeming.
Even the acknowledgments practically had me bawling and came as more of a surprise to me than much of the details of the story in the novel. I hope Orringer does another Q & A with Goodreads because I now have so much to ask her. (I also recommend waiting to read the acknowledgments until after reading the novel.)
This book is very quotable. Here are just a couple ones noteworthy for me:
"How astounding that a ship that size could shrink to the size of a house, and then to the size of a car; the size of a desk, a book, a shoe, a walnut, a grain of rice, a grain of sand. How astounding that the largest thing he'd ever seen was still no match for the diminishing effect of distance."
Andras: “And what if I fail?” Andras’ father to young adult Andras: “Ah! Then you’ll have a story to tell.”
And re the meaning of the title: When I started the book I’d assumed it referred to how there would be a link/connection between loved ones, even over great distance, the invisible but real ties between the brothers, lovers, and other people important to one another, and I’m sticking to that as one of its meanings.
But the only time the term was used in the book, well, I’d appreciate others’ opinions, including those of my book club members next week, and any Goodreads members who’ve read the book. And, interestingly, when I went back to find this quote I’d thought the book had that illustration as the description was so vividly real, as are so many of the descriptions in the book. So, referring to the main character Andras, who is an architecture student: “the invisible bridge” in chapter 27:
“and in honor of Andras, an article about a feat of architecture (Engineering Marvel! Paris-trained architect-engineer Andras Lévi has designed an invisible bridge. The materials are remarkably lightweight and it can be constructed in almost no time. It is undetectable by enemy forces. Tests suggest the design of the bridge may still need some refinement: a battalion of the Hungarian Army mysteriously plunged into a chasm while crossing. Some argue however that the bridge has already attained a perfect form.) … The architecture piece called or an image of the architect pointing proudly at an empty gorge.”
Well, and I was right; I didn’t do justice to the book. I enjoyed reading it and discussing it as I was reading, and I think I’ll enjoy whatever discussion we have about it at my book club meeting, but I don’t feel like writing about it. I do think I’ll be thinking about this book and its characters for a long time.
Oh, and I have to add, I got very attached to many of the characters and it's hard to single out anybody but I felt particularly fond of (view spoiler)[ Polander (hide spoiler)].["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This took me literally four weeks to read (and I put it down and read many other books during that time.) At times it really dragged for me, especiallThis took me literally four weeks to read (and I put it down and read many other books during that time.) At times it really dragged for me, especially in the earlier parts of the book. I wanted to shake Marion Stone (the main character, the story told by him, he giving details of what was going on even when he was unconscious or otherwise absent). One particular error in judgment of his toward the end of the book rang false to me, and I also was extremely annoyed about it, and not just because I cared about him. Some things that happened were just a tad too convenient to be believable. And, I hate it when books have many pages without page numbers on them; this book has many, many missing page numbers.
So, it sounds as though I didn’t much like this book. Yet, I considered giving it 5 stars, and I really did enjoy it, a lot. But, in part, because of the things I listed above, I couldn’t give 5 stars to this book.
I would have actually liked to try this as an audio book because I’ve heard that it’s excellent. But neither edition became available at the library quickly enough, and I had to buy a copy, so I bought and read a paperback edition. It’s currently a very popular book.
I’d been warned about the graphic medical content, but I did fine with that. (I don’t do so well in person, but experiencing it via the pages of books, I do well.) What grossed me out was the description of various foods eaten, including raw fresh meat. What devastated me the most was a scene with a dog and her puppies (page 247 of my edition).
I thought the book tended to get better and better as it went on, though I was engrossed from the start.
Captured perfectly was that exact moment (at age 12 for Marion and for myself) that feeling of childhood ending.
The epic like story is impressive, brilliantly told at times, but the main strength of this book is the depth and breadth of the characters and the relationships between them. They were startlingly vivid and just wonderfully written. I loved Ghosh, and felt more and more involved with the main character Marion Stone as the story went on.
The author is a physician and I think because of that he was able to bring some veracity to the book that another author might not have captured. I also like the way real history was inserted and how, at the end of the book, the reader is told what was true and what was not in this historical fiction novel.
The only true sadist I’ve ever known was a relative who was a general surgeon; it was refreshing to read a book about surgeons who, while all flawed human beings, were doing the best they could do....more
Many readers seem to think this author is a genius and his stories are wonderful. Perhaps, but my opinion differs. They were not to my taste.
This bookMany readers seem to think this author is a genius and his stories are wonderful. Perhaps, but my opinion differs. They were not to my taste.
This book has 171 pages and there are 46 stories; they’re obviously very short. Thankfully, for me, they were short and the book was short.
As I read I had a sheet of paper handy with loved, liked a lot, and liked as categories, for writing down short stories that fit each one. The results?: none that I could wholeheartedly put on any of those lists, although there were many stories where I really liked parts of them and was able to appreciate the effort. Many of the story titles were intriguing so I was eager to try many of them.
I felt assaulted by many of the stories. I disliked many of these enough to hopefully block them out of my memory and (only partially tongue in cheek) I’m hoping my memory has faded sufficiently that I won’t have much to contribute to my book club discussion in three weeks. I do like dark and disturbing books, including books that share some of the themes of these stories; I just didn’t enjoy this book. The worst of it is these stories didn’t even depress me or evoke any emotion, but left me mostly unmoved.
If not for my book club I would have stopped reading very early on.
I’m not saying these have no redeeming value and I don’t like discouraging others from reading books, even if I’m not a fan, so I say read the reviews written by other Goodreads’ members! However, I am a fan of the short story form and have often appreciated short stories that are very short, but not these.
However, I am genuinely curious what my book club members think of this book and I’m eager to hear from those who enjoyed these stories in order to find out what they enjoyed about them.
What I’m perturbed about is I’ve been eager to get my average rating for my Goodreads read shelf books back up to 4.00 from 3.99 because I do actually “really like” almost all the books I read. My uncharacteristic star rating of this book will significantly delay that shift....more
Well, I was afraid of this. As I read the book I thought I’d probably want to read books 2 and 3 of this trilogy. Then, at the end of this book, thereWell, I was afraid of this. As I read the book I thought I’d probably want to read books 2 and 3 of this trilogy. Then, at the end of this book, there were a few pages that are the first pages of book 2. I don’t know when I’ll have time/take the time to read books 2 and 3. I’m tempted to just ask friends what happened, but I’ll probably read them. I want to know more about Lisbeth Salander! What a unique character! And thanks to my book club because if I hadn’t had to read this book for my club, I might have given up and put it down sometime during the first 40 pages.
The first 40+ pages of this book went very slowly for me. I found them a bit boring and I didn’t understand what was going on. Then, I got hooked, completely hooked. I thought that the ending was somewhat weak, even considering that this is the first book in a trilogy, but the bulk of the book was a fascinating read.
I found Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, the two main characters, very intriguing. By the time the violence and other scary stuff started, I was thoroughly engaged in the story and invested in the characters. So, those difficult parts were slightly more tolerable to get through. It’s been a while since I enjoyed a hard-core (vs. cozy) mystery. For the most part, I guessed the mystery/mysteries fairly early on (using the helpful family tree and family list provided) and my guess(es) kept getting validated, but I was never 100% certain, so it was still a satisfying mystery novel. I loved the Swedish (and world) setting, the computer related and journalism professions of some of the characters, and the island (“closed room”) setting.
What a shame there are only these three books from this gifted author. I hope he knew about some of his success before he died....more
I’d wanted to read this book since it was first published (I first learned of it, and Gilkey, from one of my local independent bookstores), and so I wI’d wanted to read this book since it was first published (I first learned of it, and Gilkey, from one of my local independent bookstores), and so I was grateful when my real world book club decided to read it.
It was not exactly what I’d expected, a book about a man who loves books, and happens to steal them. The man in question is less a book lover and more a narcissist, sociopath and thief, primarily but not exclusively stealing books.
I was not as enthralled as I’d expected to be. I was appalled and I did remain interested, but not quite as fascinated as I’d expected to be, given how much I like books and given how owning/losing books has been such an important influence in my life, and given that this is a true story with a focus on San Francisco. I tend to be especially interested in San Francisco themed books. I did find this man’s family history very intriguing. I also enjoyed the information about rare book collectors and dealers, and some of the history about books in various cultures.
I know this is irrational but at times as I read I felt like a guilty witness.
I was particularly infuriated about the stealing from libraries, including my (SFPL) public library. I do often see the only copy/all the copies listed as “missing” in the online catalog. I’d known some of those books might have been stolen but always assumed they were more likely to have been lost.
I wish the footnotes that contain additional stories and text had been incorporated into the book proper because they were distracting as footnotes and the ones with extra stories could just have easily been included in the main part of the book.
What I enjoyed most was recognizing so many of the San Francisco settings.
One thing I learned is that, despite owning so many books, I am not a book collector, as the term is used here. I don’t aim to acquire valuable or rare books, not even signed first editions. And I have to say I’m grateful I’m a heavy duty user of the library. I don’t want people like Gilkey coming into my place to steal anything.
I’d recommend this book less for bibliophiles and more for readers interested in psychopathology.
3 to 3 ½ stars, which means it was a bit of a disappointment, but I still liked it....more
The library gave me a musty, beat up hardcover edition with a missing dust cover. I’m so visually oriented that in order to better enjoy the book I prThe library gave me a musty, beat up hardcover edition with a missing dust cover. I’m so visually oriented that in order to better enjoy the book I printed out pictures of both the hardcover and a paperback cover too.
I really struggled while reading this book and it took me forever to read it.
I enjoyed the main love story and liked the parts that take place in ancient Bohemia much better than most of the modern era portions.
While I was reading I felt as though I was reading a series of different stories. I felt that the plot disintegrated toward the end as the author seemed to go from writing a speculative fiction novel to a combination of philosophy, science, political, and health/longevity treatise, but not in a particularly interesting or compelling manner, or with enough accuracy either. The very end did bring all the parts together, and I suspected that it would. I think that the author tried to do too much with this novel; it was as though he was working out for himself some of the mysteries of life, but not in a way that entertained or enlightened me. Parts were brilliant but for me the whole was not.
I did find interesting the main theme of avoiding death, of the search for immortality. Immortality, perfume/smell/odor, and beets, yes beets, are the main subject matter of this novel. The god Pan makes an interesting appearance.
However, I found it long and rambling and at times irritating and annoying. It was a strange book. It’s hard for me to evaluate it given what was going on in my life while I was reading it. At another time I might have appreciated it more or been even more peeved by what I consider its flaws.
I do think it can make a good book club selection though, and I did read it for my real world book club; there’s some interesting material for discussion, especially regarding the ramifications of immortality.
Edited a day later: I just downgraded this book a star. Despite moments of brilliance and many interesting parts, at best it was just an ok book for me. I struggled through it and wouldn't have finished it had it not been for my book club. While I liked the author's ambition, I didn't really like the book enough to give it 3 stars. I couldn't even be bothered to write a long, thoughtful review because I didn't want to extend the experience....more
I’d wanted to read this book for a long time, so I was grateful when it was chosen for my real world book club book for our June meeting.
The4 ½ stars
I’d wanted to read this book for a long time, so I was grateful when it was chosen for my real world book club book for our June meeting.
I give it an extra half star for the fabulous author’s notes at the end: 1. that she admitted she played around with time though while she mentioned two discrepancies, there was a glaring one I’d noticed that she doesn’t mention, and 2. her biographical information how it relates to the subject matter of this book and why she wrote the book.
The characters are memorable. The story is very smart and funny and poignant. At times it’s hilarious, infuriating, tragic, scary, and the whole premise I found fascinating.
I love the alternating voices, different chapters told first person by three of the main characters, and the one chapter that’s told in third person too.
The book is well written and gripping; I had a hard time putting it down.
A few things about the era are just so wrong. While she mentions a couple of them in her author’s note at the end, I was irritated about them as I was reading the book. And one glaring mistake she never acknowledges. She included events that happened 1 to 5 or 6 years after the events in the book. No need for it! There were plenty of details about 1962-1964 that could have been added and those events/situations that applied to 1967-1970+ could have been left out; they weren’t at all necessary for the story.
At times the characters were a bit too much like stereotypes; I’d have appreciated a bit more complexity re their characterizations. (But, they’re all interesting people so this is a relatively minor quibble.)
Anyway, I really liked/loved this book and think it’s special, brilliant in some ways. At times I loved it and I definitely thoroughly enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t quite perfect enough for me to give it 5 stars.
My favorite review I’ve read so far of this book, proving that pithy reviews (does this even have the minimum number of characters to count as a review?) is my friend Kim’s: “I'm afraid that my grammar done be permanently impaired.” ;-)...more