I confess I'm stumped as to how to start this review because, gosh, this book was just awful. I read it through to the end but only because that's whaI confess I'm stumped as to how to start this review because, gosh, this book was just awful. I read it through to the end but only because that's what I do. The *best* thing to be said for this book, at least in this edition, is that it's small and lightweight; it won't weigh you down. But the writing, the story, the characters: what the hell? I read and appreciated "Ulysses." James Kelman's "How Late It Was, How Late" was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I don't *think* that I'm too thick to appreciate an author who plays with words or who chooses to be unconstrained by grammar or the most basic rules of structure. In this case, I didn't so much feel that the author was daring or creative; it truly felt like she just didn't have a clue. That's probably unfair but whatever she was attempting, if she was attempting anyting, didn't work. It read like a bad first draft of a first bad novel. Would Frances Johnson find a way? How would Frances Johnson negotiate this day? Who could Frances Johnson be? Who the fuck cares?
I read this when it first came out something like fifteen years ago and loved it. I gave it to a friend, who plays music, and he couldn't get past theI read this when it first came out something like fifteen years ago and loved it. I gave it to a friend, who plays music, and he couldn't get past the first few chapters, complaining that Rushdie knew nothing about writing music, being in a band, etc. Needing something to read recently, I picked up my old copy looking forward to loving it again--and hoping to get the taste of "Joseph Anton" out of my mouth.
Alas, either "Joseph Anton" has ruined Rushdie for me forever or I've become a lot less tolerant (or, to put a nicer light on it, more perceptive) than I was in 2000. On this reading I kept thinking, "Oh, Rushdie is monologuing again." Page upon page of one character or another pontificating and, seemingly, most of the time the reader is supposed to take it seriously. Oh, there were still parts I enjoyed; the relationships of the parents of the main characters are all nicely portrayed with the sadness of how those relationships fray and are destroyed but the main characters? I just wanted them to stop talking.
It was like, I realize, the bit in "High Fidelity" (film or book, it doesn't matter) where the main character, Rob, has dinner again with Charlie, the perfect sophisticated woman whom he was never cool enough for, and realizes just how vapid she truly is.
So I'm giving it three stars because I loved it when I first read it and came close to despising it on this reading. ...more
**spoiler alert** I've sort of sworn off goodreads but this book was just so truly awful that I'm writing about it. Like a least one earlier reviewer,**spoiler alert** I've sort of sworn off goodreads but this book was just so truly awful that I'm writing about it. Like a least one earlier reviewer, I used to read Martha Grimes and then got out of the habit. I picked up this book a while back and decided it would be a nice light read. God knows it was light but not so much on the nice. Oh, warning, there will be spoilers here.
The writing wasn't great but I don't require that in a mystery. What I do require is at least some vaguely believable plotting and understanding of timelines--both of which were rather lacking here.
Possibly I missed some subtle joke but the forty-year-old woman who claimed to have met Hemingway in her youth was one of the first notes that struck me as off--though that scene may have occurred after the English child and English superintendent discussed "rappelling." (Hint: it's abseiling in the UK.) Admittedly, I'm not an expert about WWII but I'm relatively certain that no members of the SS were smuggling their chlidren out of Germany either in 1939 or 1942. Certainly not among trains bearing Jewish children. And, again, I don't claim to be an expert about police procedures but I sort of think an autopsy would be done on a murder victim, revealing what he had or hadn't eaten shortly before being killed. One somewhat doubts that children of people working at Bletchley Park openly talked about their parents' jobs as codebreakers during WWII. It all more than strained credulity but I stuck with the book because, well, I do. The end has a "Damn, I need to wrap this up" feel to it and I'm still vague on what motive the "murderer(s)" may have had.
But, honestly, what the hell? How does such an utter piece of tripe get published, let alone become a bestseller? ...more
As I think at least some other reviewers have said, "Ocean at the End of the Lane" is more of a children's book with a few "adult" scenes than a bookAs I think at least some other reviewers have said, "Ocean at the End of the Lane" is more of a children's book with a few "adult" scenes than a book written for adults. Oh, at least one reviewer made the interesting argument that you have to be at least 43 years old for the book's portrayal of childhood to work for you. For me, the book was reminiscent of "Wolves of Willoughby Chase" both in style and content. I loved "Wolves" as a child and, when I reread it recently, in one sitting, I still loved it. I pulled "Ocean at te End of the Lane" off the shelf early Saturday evening and sat hunched on the end of the couch reading until I'd finished it at about midnight. It was a gripping and well told story, scary and alarming in parts and sweet and comforting in others. The descriptions of food were fabulous (the one break I took was to toast an english muffin and make some tea). The horror/terror of being a defenseless child was well portrayed. It's a good book. ...more
I've just revised my four stars to three though what I'd like is a 3.5. It was *much* better than I'd anticipated (and not a mystery at all; where didI've just revised my four stars to three though what I'd like is a 3.5. It was *much* better than I'd anticipated (and not a mystery at all; where did I get the idea it was?). Good characters and a nice storytelling style but I realized, on reflection, that there's a little too many happy endings for many of the characters. Not for all, no, but more simplistic "thanks to Awful Event Character A and B realize that they truly do love each other." So, good with flashes of brilliance....more
Sorry--I think this falls firmly into the "This was okay" camp. It had its moments but, as I said a hundred or so pages back, I just don't see what alSorry--I think this falls firmly into the "This was okay" camp. It had its moments but, as I said a hundred or so pages back, I just don't see what all the excitement is about the book. Stylistically, I don't see that the author was doing anything that James Joyce hadn't already done and thematically--I don't know. Maybe I missed it or misunderstood but all I seem to have caught was that life can be good or awful so if it's not awful, enjoy it? No point crying over spilt milk? It's a big wheel and it just goes round so live for the moment? We're all the same? Or, quite possibly, very likely even, I missed something. So many others have raved about it and I'm not necesssarily that discerning. ...more
Rarely have I been so pleased to see a Readers Guide at the end of a book.
I had high expectations of "Night Train to Lisbon" but now I'm just very relRarely have I been so pleased to see a Readers Guide at the end of a book.
I had high expectations of "Night Train to Lisbon" but now I'm just very relieved to finally be done with it so that I can move onto something--anything--else. It left me utterly cold. I *think* I was supposed to think well of Amadeu who is described on the back cover as "a doctor whose intelligence and magnetism left a mark on everyone who met him..." My problem is that he just didn't seem amazingly intelligent. I think that personally he would seem self-involved and boring as hell. "Hey Amadeu, how about we go for a drink?" one would ask to which he would reply, "One would really like to know oneself, blah blah and also blah."
His grand anti-religion statement at the age of 17 is undeniably better phrased but otherwise sounded a lot like every other 16-year-old who questions God. And it was much the same for his other remarkably insightful notes: stuff you hear in a bar after a few pitchers of beer. So it didn't work on a "great thoughts" level for me and I didn't find his personal story--or the framing story--particularly engaging either. (Is no one else a little disturbed at the 57-year-old teacher repeatedly thinking about his 17-year-old female students?) Which doesn't entirely account for why I'm so *very* negative; that, I think, stems from being subjected to 438 pages of "LOOK at how deep and profound these words are!" They aren't. ...more