the fist few chapters of 'everything is illuminated' are sprinkled with a comfortably earthy humor, and a lack of Important Srs Bznss that's rather rethe fist few chapters of 'everything is illuminated' are sprinkled with a comfortably earthy humor, and a lack of Important Srs Bznss that's rather refreshing for a much-lauded litfic sort of novel. the next (most of them) chapters run that earthy humor into the ground by becoming relentlessly charming shading on into twee, spiked with the inevitable srs bznss, being as how this is a book about searching for one's family post-Holocaust, after all.
jonathan safran foer (see? kinda twee right there) hires a guide team from a ukranian travel company to take him to the village he believes his grandfather fled from during WWII. parts of the novel are the (hilariously) poorly-translated POV chapters of his guide, part are the author/narrator's grandfather's tale leading up to WWII, and part are from the founding of the village 200 years previous. the timelines are supposed to echo and reflect on each other, on the meaning of love, and on the futility of something or other or all. occasional snippets of shining brilliance are bogged down in a morass of words that often come across like someone trying to be shiningly brilliant. there's a good novel in here, burdened with a bit too much Style to be elegant....more
billy pilgrim has "come unstuck in time," we are told. his experience of his own life floats without warning or reason back and forth to any moment inbilly pilgrim has "come unstuck in time," we are told. his experience of his own life floats without warning or reason back and forth to any moment in his personal timeline, between birth and death, or marriage, or optometry school, or a far-off planet, or the WW2 bombing of dresden. it's earthy and occasionally funny and deeply strange, it straddles that fascinating neither sci fi nor fantasy stretch of "speculative fiction," and very literally meanders all over the place...and ultimately lost me because of it. having faulkner forced down my throat in grade school has forever ruined me for stream-of-consciousness aimless wanderings, and the interesting premise of experiencing any moment in your life at any time wasn't enough to overcome the annoyance generated by that exact same premise. the literary point to billy's wanderings is never clear (i kept trying to force it to build up into something rich and meaningful in my head), and i can't come up with an a-ha! moment for why a non-linear structure tells this tale best. unless, of course, it's all because of the aliens' philosophy that even though you know exactly what will happen you can't change anything in time, you can only choose to focus on the parts that made you happy...which, quite frankly, sucks. ...more
beware any reviews giving more than the merest outline of the plot: this novel in the best part of the penny-dreadful tradition needs to be suffered tbeware any reviews giving more than the merest outline of the plot: this novel in the best part of the penny-dreadful tradition needs to be suffered through unspoiled.
once upon a Victorian somewhen, a clever little guttersnipe is offered a chance to help out in a long con. in return for acting as a lady's maid to a reclusive heiress, and convincing her to marry, she'll get a cut of the girl's fortune. what follows is a tale part 'dangerous liasons,' part Dickens, and part Bronte - it's full of genteel madwomen, nefarious plots, dastardly rakes, crumbling derelict mansions, tricksy identity, and a dash of clandestine lady-love, all ratcheted up to the most delicious tension. there's a few too many pat circumstances, but it's far more fun than you'd expect "lit fic" to be. ...more
it always seems a little pretentious to rate a true classic. I'll just say that this was by far the most delightfully charming and funny dickens I'veit always seems a little pretentious to rate a true classic. I'll just say that this was by far the most delightfully charming and funny dickens I've ever read...and that in our modern times, one can't help but long for a savage editor to rein it all in. ...more
if you've seen the lovely 2006 movie version, you've pretty much read this book: an indian couple settle in the US shortly after their marria2.5 stars
if you've seen the lovely 2006 movie version, you've pretty much read this book: an indian couple settle in the US shortly after their marriage, and proceed to raise their kids in america; despite all their attempts to infuse their kids' lives with bengali heritage, these kids are americans, with a very western approach to life & love. the story meanders through 30 years by skipping through them as snapshots - it's a slim book, with an intimate scope. by spending a good bit of time with each of the principal characters, everyone's desires are touched on. the mother's desire for a sense of community is just as reasonable as the son's wish for the same thing, even though they both mean very different things by the concept. neither rebelling against tradition or embracing it automatically results in happiness for anyone, so that by the end, the story isn't a morality play on whether or not people need to follow their ancestor's lifestyles. instead, it's as untidy as real life, which is both its strength and flaw.
having seen the movie version several years ago probably ruined this book for me. i'd easily give that movie 4 stars, and the book probably deserves the same - the former is a very faithful adaptation of the latter. reading the book after seeing the movie feels like wandering through an extended plot synopsis, and my mental images of the written word are all from that film. the director's vision, sharpened the focus of Lahiri's words and brought out a few emotional highlights by making it clearly a book about the son rather than the family's diverse experience. in this version, his parents' lives are the bookends and foundation to his own. it's a less egalitarian (and possibly less honest) version of this story, but it's definitely more emotionally engaging. ...more
i managed to get to the end without skimming too much, so the fair part of me wants to give it two, but the only reason i didn't twow, one star, huh?
i managed to get to the end without skimming too much, so the fair part of me wants to give it two, but the only reason i didn't throw this across the room at several different places is because i love my ipad very much. if you're not deeply interested in:
repetitive day/dream sequences rape hitting people upside the head with ballpein hammers casual racism casual brutality to women not covered under the heading of "rape" brutal racism stream-of-consciousness internal monologue verbal diarrhea repetitive day/dream sequences hitting people upside the head with "blunt object"
then i suggest you avoid this particular book, being as how there's the above in full measure, repeatedly. i'm completely ok with an author dragging my mind through the muck, as long as there's a payoff at the end...and here, there are no quiet moments of beauty, no insinuations of human kindness to leaven this bleak, bloody, intestine-draped shabby hotel room. if it was possible to bleach my brain, i'd do so, as there are a few choice scenes that i really hope won't linger in my subconscious like i think they will.
the narrative switches perspective between a police detective and a journalist each investigating the yorkshire ripper murders that took place in 1977; both the cop and the newspaperman have their own shady dealings that muddy up the situation and make the ripper murders merely a background to their own messy lives. unusually, this one was the only book of peace's 4-volume set describing these crimes to be included in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and it most definitely does not stand on its own without familiarity with the first one.
it helps to remember that the 1001 books list was compiled mostly to cover the development of the english-language novel, not necessarily the best books ever written. so sometimes in reading through these, you end up with some unusual or experimental writing, either the first or the best example of some literary technique. if this is the shiniest diamond of stream-of-consciousness depressingly gritty crime fiction, i'm soundly disinterested in pursuing other examples....more