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 re...morethe 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.(less)
the book blurb makes this sound like an action/adventure tale, a battle against evil enchantments and grim boarding schools.
'among others' is a 300-page love letter to books, most specifically, the books that defined your youth and shaped your worldview. Mor/Mori/Morwenna is an utterly voracious reader (mostly sci-fi, with a dash of fantasy), and this is her diary. she's opinionated and questioning, and her criticisms about what she's reading occupy a good chunk of the novel. other portions of her diary entries are made up of awkward teenage moments (her parents' divorce, moving to a new school, that gorgeous boy), and other parts are her interactions with the fairies of the welsh countryside and the consequences of manipulating the world with magic.
because, then again, that book blurb isn't entirely wrong. Mor's mother IS a witch, magic IS real, and sometimes saving the world is just something you have to do.
the mix of subjects feels incredibly real and autobiographical; just like real life, events don't often happen on a conveniently tightly-edited time frame. the flowy, meandering pace can occasionally get frustrating until you remember that it's part of the point.
you can debate for hours if 'among others' is a riff on Cat's Cradle, or more The Lathe of Heaven, or whether it's essential to have read Tolkien beforehand. either way, it's utterly lovely, and will add to your TBR pile in spades.(less)
over the course of several days, a 70s feminist black woman is inexplicably yanked back into the past to repeatedly rescue a white ancestor from his o...moreover the course of several days, a 70s feminist black woman is inexplicably yanked back into the past to repeatedly rescue a white ancestor from his own foolishness. through mundane bad luck, this man keeps putting himself in mortal danger, and fate (?) has decided on this mysterious method to save him. on each successive trip back, Dana spends a longer amount of time stuck on her ancestor's plantation, and is terrified, brutalized, whipped, beaten, and enslaved...yet continues to protect the life of her family member.
it breaks my heart to give anything less than a 5-star rating to something by Butler, but this one didn't enthrall me like most of the rest of her work. the characters and their reactions to this bizarre situation are utterly real, but this forthrightness is probably what lost me. slavery is horrific, mankind is capable of great evil to each other, and every human spirit can be broken, but I already believed this, and I'm not sure Butler had a lot new to say about it all. (less)
a floating, meandering dream of a tale that has beautiful moments, but ultimately fails to mesh together.
many members of a loosely connected group of...morea floating, meandering dream of a tale that has beautiful moments, but ultimately fails to mesh together.
many members of a loosely connected group of ojibwa families meet, love, hate, and cross paths over the generations in the minneapolis area. some of these people are seers, who have to dream the names of the next generation; others are ordinary bakers who nourish this one. things that would be played for shock value (or at least dramatic climax) in a more mundane author's hands - a kidnapped woman shatters her teeth on a bathroom fixture while trying to flee, for example - happen in a near stream-of-unconsciousness acceptance. truly, few things i've ever read have come as close to a dream's feeling of strange things washing over you with barely a ripple as this novel.
apparently, though, i'm a bit too conventional in my tastes to really suffuse myself in this type of tale. there's no real WHY to this story, just the sense that you're getting a fragment of an endless dream. for all that this story has moments of amazing beauty and wonder, i need things to have more meaning or more cohesive purpose. (less)
if someone wrote a sci-fi novel as a work of magical realism, it'd be 'bones of the earth'. for all that the loving research that went into this book...moreif someone wrote a sci-fi novel as a work of magical realism, it'd be 'bones of the earth'. for all that the loving research that went into this book shines through in clear-eyed detail about every long-dead organism populating the ancient earth, this isn't hard sci-fi. a smithsonian paleontologist is offered an opportunity to study dinosaurs in the living flesh, and he learns no more about the mode of time travel than we do. it's simply a gift from some far-advanced culture, a drop of magic thrown into the science of paleontology. instead of focusing on the mechanics, it becomes a tale of the humanity of all of it, a grand "what if?" 'bones of the earth' is a love letter to science in general and field research in specific, and a cautionary tale about scientific plagarism when the data is just so easy to steal. beautifully written, quick-plotted, and marred only by a somewhat soft ending. (less)
though i can't think of any other time this would be true, it certainly is here: if you've seen the movie, you've read this book. i rented the movie a...morethough i can't think of any other time this would be true, it certainly is here: if you've seen the movie, you've read this book. i rented the movie a few months ago, and liked but didn't love it, and assumed that (as is usually the case) the book would be more in-depth, richer, more revealing...just better. nope, same thing entirely.
if you've read the back of the book, or seen the movie trailer, you know the whole plot: low-born guy is obsessed with scents, and kills women in his quest to make the world's ultimate perfume. the translation from the original german into english is very good; there is a wonderful flow and rhythm to the words. within a few pages, i got the idea that this book was most definitely meant to be read out loud, like reading a rather twisted bedtime fairytale to someone. all of a sudden, the heavy narration throughout the duration of the movie made sense: same words, and someone *was* reading the tale to us.
like many of the other reviews here, i'll say that the story dragged a bit too much in a center "finding my true self alone in the wilderness" portion, but was otherwise pretty good. bonus points for originality and lovely language, but so-so on pacing and plot.(less)