Excellent book. Sadly, as usual, my time is an issue right now so I'll be back with my thoughts on this book sometime later. I will say that with someExcellent book. Sadly, as usual, my time is an issue right now so I'll be back with my thoughts on this book sometime later. I will say that with some exceptions, one would think he or she is reading about attitudes that exist currently in this country, rather than in 1936. It's frightening that with all of the "progress" we've made since the 1930s, some things never seem to change. ...more
Don't write a comment flaming me because I didn't love this book. I just didn't. Bottom line. I didn't hate it, but it's not going to appear on my perDon't write a comment flaming me because I didn't love this book. I just didn't. Bottom line. I didn't hate it, but it's not going to appear on my personal favorites list for the year. It's a very s--l--o--w buildup of a story to an ending that well, frankly, has been done before. The scenario is very different, but I think having read so much of Lovecraft (and the authors he's influenced over the years) sort of spoiled it for me, so in a way, it's not the author's fault that I didn't like this one as much as I might have. It's kind of like seeing a movie then going back to read the book -- you already know what's going to happen so there's less of an impact by the time the ending comes around.
Jamie Morton, a man in his early sixties, recounts his life story in this book, one that first took a strange turn when he met the Reverend Charles Jacobs at the age of six in 1962. Jacobs, as Morton notes, is his "fifth business," "the joker who pops out of the deck at odd intervals over the years, often during a moment of crisis." Jacobs has an odd hobby, working with electricity, and his "youth talks" with the kids of the Methodist Youth Fellowship often involved lessons where he used electricity or couched his lectures in electro-speak to illustrate the points he was trying to make. He was very well liked among the congregation, swelling its numbers to peak levels, and really made an impression when he used an electrical device to help bring back the voice of Jamie's brother Con after an accident that left him mute. All is well until the fateful day that the reverend's wife and little boy went out in their car and were killed. Afterwards, in his grief, Jacobs goes to the pulpit where he began "edging into blasphemy" by renouncing doctrine on the afterlife and by renouncing religion in general as the
"theological equivalent of a quick-buck insurance scam, where you pay in your premium year after year, and then, when you need the benefits you paid for so --pardon the pun--so religiously, you discover the company that took your money does not, in fact, exist."
The reverend is fired, of course, and leaves town, but it's not the last time Jamie sees him. Over the next several years, he will cross and recross paths with Jacobs, and a connection is made that will ultimately change Jamie's life and question his understanding of all that he has come to know as reality.
There is a veritable slew of literary influence to be found woven throughout this book -- Arthur Machen and Lovecraft are the big ones, but you'll also find in Jacobs a bit of Captain Ahab going after his white whale. Mary Shelley is definitely represented here (in more ways than one), as is M.R. James, Ray Bradbury, and I'm sure there are a few others that I've missed. There are also, as in many books by this author, bits and pieces of King's own life (and other work) to be found here. As usual, he starts out in small-town America, where the people in the community are your neighbors in the true sense of the word, making everything seem so normal and easygoing that you just can't wait to see what's going to provide the catalyst that changes everything. He also continues his theme of innocence lost, here with a major twist. When King is writing on religion and the whole spectacle of the religious-healing-tent-revival he is amazing, making the reader feel like he/she is right there in the crowd. But on the flip side -- it's so slow -- by page 299 I was thinking that ""maybe, just maybe, we're starting to get somewhere in this book. One can always hope." And frankly, I just didn't feel like the payoff was worth wading through Jamie Morton's entire life story. I see so many ways that this book could have been better, but oh well.
Perusing the normal book-related websites, it seems that people just can't get enough of this book, and the ratings are definitely high. I wouldn't be surprised to see Revival jetting into the top ranks of the NYT bestseller list soon, but for me, I'm doing that hand thing that means iffy. ...more
You know, I'm the first to admit that I'm not very talented in the writing area, so it is really difficult for me to express hoBig Bertha here again.
You know, I'm the first to admit that I'm not very talented in the writing area, so it is really difficult for me to express how very much caught up in this book I became. I'm no literary expert, so I have trouble waxing on about all of things literary experts wax on about, and I think in my case it's pointless and dishonest to even try. I am just an ordinary reader person, willing to say how a book affects me, with no pretensions at all that I'm even on anyone's freakin' radar as some kind of literary expert. However, I do enjoy reading and making comments about what I've read. I don't read to dissect or to find something to sneer at if it's not so good, but rather to learn, to appreciate, and to find something that actually speaks to me about what makes people who they are. I found all of this and more in this book. I'll also say this: If I were a writer, my guess is that I would appreciate that someone lost him or herself in a world I'd created; as a fiction reader, I can only say that it's my highest compliment to a writer. That happened to me here. I loved this book. Bottom line.
Since I'm very short of time today, I'll just link here to the comments I made about this most excellent (imo) book on my online reading journal, not at all a literary blog of course, but rather a hobby I started eons ago to help keep track of my reading life. ...more
In the book's opening pages, author Harry Crews says that he has "never been certain of who I am," and that he's "slipped into and out of identities as easily as other people slip into and out of their clothes." But he knows for an absolute certainty that whoever he "has its source" in Bacon County, Georgia, and that
"... what has been most significant in my life had all taken place by the time I was six years old."
What he's put together here, he says, is "the biography of a childhood which necessarily is the biography of a place, a way of life gone forever out of this world." With an old shoebox full of photos by his side, Crews goes on to tell of a hardscrabble first six years of life first on a farm in Bacon County, his "home place," then in a brief move to Florida, and finally back again to Georgia.
I haven't had the pleasure of reading any of Crews' novels yet, but my guess would be that themes that will be found in any of his writing are probably found in here as well. Here are a few I've discovered: the power and art of storytelling, poverty, family, "courage born out of desperation and sustained by a lack of alternatives," fantasy/myth as an integral part of survival, alcoholism, women, and fathers. And then, of course, looming over all of those likely candidates, there's the American South, which is why, whether or not all of the events depicted here in Harry Crews' young life are true isn't really an issue here. It is, after all, a "biography of a place," and somehow, he manages to pull it off without roaming into the usual poor-Southern farmer stereotypes, and does it in such a way that humor manages to come through the worst of harsh and tragic.
The only thing left to say, since this is a book best experienced on one's own, is that the quality of the writing drew me in pretty much immediately. I know it's cliché and even trite to say this, but frankly, I was just spellbound all the way through it. Reading this book was an experience on its own -- it was so very easy, even without the help of McCurdy's drawings, to imagine it all in my head, as if Crews was writing and illustrating all at the same time. It was also very easy, once I got the reading rhythm going, to see just how his small world made sense to him in the context of his young life.
Highly recommended. One of my favorite books of the year. ...more
Rustication begins with an absolute teaser. Someone, presumably the author since the initials at the end ofI hate star ratings ... this one like a 3.75
Rustication begins with an absolute teaser. Someone, presumably the author since the initials at the end of the Foreword are given as CP, has discovered a document that had "lain unnoticed for many years" in Thurchester's county records office, one that "casts light" on a now-forgotten murder. Inside this journal he had found a "number of anonymous letters" that had some bearing on that case, and he is intrigued by the testimony of a police officer who admitted that while investigating the murder and going through these letters, there was one which he'd only been allowed to read part of. The rest of the novel is this recently-unearthed journal kept by seventeen year-old Richard Shenstone, and what follows is a dark, twisty and ultimately satisfying story which takes place 1863-1864 on the southern English coast.
Palliser has always been a personal favorite. Some time ago I read and re-read his The Quincunx, which was my launching point into the world of Victorian sensation writers such as Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Just FYI, the term "sensation novel" refers to works of the period that deal in a very large way with family scandals, crimes, sex and all sorts of lurid things not spoken of in polite society. Palliser has in many ways has recreated the same sort of atmospheric creepiness here in Rustication with the isolated, gloomy house filled with secrets, a few characters who are prone to delusions, the undercurrent of sexual and other tensions that run through day-to-day village life, the portrayal of women jockeying for position among their own and the higher classes, and the reproduction of the hand-written threatening letters. He also gives us a somewhat unreliable narrator in Richard Shenstone, now cut off from Cambridge and slowly heading toward another "severance," providing all the makings of a good, mysterious melodrama that kept me from putting the book down for longer than absolutely necessary. It may start a little slow, but keep reading -- you will not be disappointed....more
The first thing I'll say here is that this book is not really geared toward cozy mystery readers or people who enjoy action thrillers or whodunits. ItThe first thing I'll say here is that this book is not really geared toward cozy mystery readers or people who enjoy action thrillers or whodunits. It's much more complex, it's very dark and frankly, it's weird in a very pleasing aesthetic sort of way that appeals to me. The second thing I'll say is that I've decided to reread this book -- I'm positive there are a number of things I missed the first time around. Certainly a reread isn't a requirement for this book -- but it's just how I do things when I really want to get to get the most out of a novel. So I'm not really leaving a review for now -- that will come later.
For right now, I'll leave it at this: if you're into darkness in your fiction or books that explore the dark side of human nature, you will certainly be rewarded here. I can also vouch for the quality of Nakamura's writing now, having read all of three of his books that have been translated into English. When I have finished reading the novel again, I'll post my final thoughts.
As it so happens, I was given an ARC by Soho (for which I am grateful), but I bought a hardback copy of this book for my library, so if anyone is interested in the ARC and you live in the US, I will gladly pass it on - and pay postage. I certainly don't need two copies. Just leave a comment.
It's impossible to pigeonhole this book into a particular category, so I'm not even going to try, square pegs and round holes and all that. There's aIt's impossible to pigeonhole this book into a particular category, so I'm not even going to try, square pegs and round holes and all that. There's a lot going on in this little book -- it's a very unique and different take on the usual haunted house story, it's a ghost story, it's pulpy, and there are a number of spots where it's also funny. While it's not particularly frightening (or at least it wasn't to me), The Master of the Macabre is still a little gem of a book and makes for fine pre-Halloween (or any time for that matter) reading.
Set in 1940s England, author Tayler Kent has been under a bit of stress over a four-week period, perhaps due to the "mental strain" of working on finishing a "complicated biography" he's been working on, but he doesn't think so. He's been having strange dreams of shadowy figures with vivid eyes -- a pleading woman and a "commanding and servile" man, "compelling" him to "obey them." Rather than seek medical help, he decides to take a trip to his cottage on Romney Marsh, where he hopes to find some much needed peace and quiet. He makes a brief stop at his club, where he is handed a package left for him by his friend Carnaby. Kent is to deliver the package to the Old Palace of Wrotham, the residence of "The Master of the Macabre." There is no other name given, and Kent shrugs it off as a joke, wondering what Carnaby's up to this time. As he's heading out, the weather is terrible and turns into a terrible snowstorm; on the road, where can barely see and loses control of both brakes and steering, he skids and is enveloped by a "gigantic snow-slide." While trying to escape being buried in the snow, he injures his leg. Despite the pain, he makes his way to a "fine old place." It seems that Kent is expected -- and preparations have already been made for his stay there. The elderly gentleman who greets him is Hoadley, general factotum to the home's owner, Charles Hogarth, who is also known as (you guessed it) "The Master of the Macabre." Things start taking a strange turn the very first night of Kent's stay, and while he's laid up, Hogarth shows him a collection of strange relics that he's collected over the years, each with some sort of bizarre story attached to it, and shares his belief that "every so-called inanimate object in this world...has a being" of its own, which also extends to the house and the objects found within. This theme recurs throughout the book, and is especially highlighted when Hogarth realizes that someone else has laid a claim for one of his valued possessions. Hogarth is a collector of "the material of odd happenings," -- both his own and others -- and has spent time setting them down into manuscripts "for the few." These stories, the mystery of the house itself, and the secret behind Kent's sleepless nights slowly unfold as the book progresses.
As Hoadley so eloquently reveals, "this house is very susceptible... to susceptible minds." It also has "influences," and no one who comes to work there will ever stay there after dark. Hogarth also reveals that the house is "alive," that it's "just like a human being with moods" that need to be humored; it's a house with a mind that needs to be understood. The house also has "powerful and insidious" properties, with some rooms much more alive than others, and are more often than not, places where history repeats itself again and again. However, this book goes well beyond the standard haunted house story filled with ghosts or other terrors. Hogarth himself is a strange figure, a sort of detective who ferrets out the strange, and as Mark Valentine notes in his introduction (which should definitely be saved until after you've read the last page), his creator finds himself in "good company" among other authors who have written books with a "major plot and conspiracy, augmented by piquant minor side-adventures," none the least of whom are Arthur Machen and Robert Louis Stevenson. The introduction itself is enlightening, with a very brief history of the rise of the "investigator of the uncanny" and the occult detective.
While the language may be a little overbearing for a modern reader, I had no problem with it, but then again, I love classic tales and have also spent many an hour with my nose buried in the work of golden-age writers of detective fiction who also tend toward the sort of verbosity found here in places. Some of the stories are delightfully pulpy, while some are just, well, there's better word than "macabre" to describe them. There were times I couldn't help but chuckle (the story entitled "Concerning a Mad Sexton, A Drunk Hangman and a Pretty Girl" actually brought out a belly laugh) even as dark deeds were being done. Also, don't let the "investigator of the uncanny" thing turn you away from this little book -- while it may not provide readers with in-your-face horror that many modern readers crave, it's still a fun little book that needs to be looked at in its entirety rather than just in story-by-story mode. It's definitely a book to be appreciated, and I give kudos to Valancourt Books for bringing it into the present. ...more
If you've read Rebecca and you think that's all there is to Daphne Du Maurier, think again. This collection goes well beyond Manderleya 3.8 rounded up
If you've read Rebecca and you think that's all there is to Daphne Du Maurier, think again. This collection goes well beyond Manderley, taking the reader into lives that seem very normal until you begin to notice that something is just not quite right -- and by then, it's too late to stop reading.
If you want the longer version, feel free to click on through to my online reading journal ; otherwise, stick with the shorter version here.
You'll find that the author covers a range of themes: isolation, love, loss, grief, dislocation, revenge, obsession, fate -- all very human attributes that here take on a different sort of significance in the lives of her characters. The beauty in these tales is that her people are just going about their every day lives -- at least at first. For example, In "Don't Look Now," a husband and wife are in Venice on holiday to help them to deal with their grief over their dead child. In "Split Second," a widow with a young daughter away at school steps out to take a walk and returns home. "The Blue Lenses" is expressed from the point of view of a woman who is recovering from eye surgery. All of these things are very normal, very mundane, and described very well by the author. But soon it begins to dawn on you that something is just off -- that things are moving ever so slightly away from ordinary, heading into the realm of extraordinary. By that time, you're so caught up in the lives of these people that you have to see them through to the end. The joke is on the reader, though -- in some cases the endings do not necessarily resolve things, but instead, point toward another possible chapter in the characters' futures. While the author doesn't do this in every story, when she does, it's highly effective and leaves you very unsettled and in my case, filled with a sense of unease thinking about what's going to happen to these people next. As one character notes, "Nothing's been the same since. Nor ever will be," and that's the feeling I walked away with at the end of several of these stories.
All in all, a fine collection of stories, definitely recommended. NYRB classics has really done readers a great service by bringing these stories together -- my advice: if you're interested in trying out Du Maurier's short stories, this edition would be the perfect starting place....more
here's how far behind I am -- I finished this book the end of last month and am just now getting to it here. aarrghh!
Village of Secrets begins with thhere's how far behind I am -- I finished this book the end of last month and am just now getting to it here. aarrghh!
Village of Secrets begins with the coming of the Nazis to France in 1940 and the establishment of the Vichy government under Pétain. It wasn't long until measures of repression against certain targeted groups ("foreign" Jews, Freemasons and Communists) began; the campaigns against them were accompanied by propaganda that targeted these groups as "dark forces of the 'anti-France'." However, as time went on, it became clearer that the Vichy government was expected to play a role in helping the Nazis implement their anti-Jewish policies -- not just the foreign-born, naturalized citizens, but eventually the French-born Jews, who'd mistakenly believed that their status offered them some modicum of safety.
If you believe the myth that started circulating in 1953, a pacifist-oriented pastor named André Trocmé in the French parish of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon "helped save some 5,000 hunted communists, Freemasons, resisters and Jews from deportation to the extermination camps of occupied Poland." According to a magazine article that year, Trocmé had instilled his own belief in non-violent, peaceful resistance among his parishioners, and it was in this spirit that they were led to take in, hide, and sometimes get people whose names "appeared on Nazi death lists" safely over the Swiss border. Over two decades later, in 1988, Le Chambon was designated by Yad Vashem as the only village in the world to be "Righteous Among Nations," an appellation that in combination with a number of articles, documentaries, and memoirs about this remote village in the Massif Central, perpetuated the ongoing myth about Trocmé's role and that of Le Chambon as well.
But there's a problem here: by focusing solely on this small, remote village and this peace-loving Protestant pastor, over the years that "myth" has ignored a lot of other people -- those from other places, of other beliefs, and even a number of humanitarian authorities who literally risked everything to help save people designated for the camps. In this book, the author takes on the realities behind the myths and examines the changing and still-controversial discourses evolving from this historical period.
Either I add a too-long review, or you can click here for the long one at my online reading journal. Here's the short version: as its bottom line, this book most thoroughly examines how ordinary people responded to very extraordinary circumstances during this time period. It is a well written and meticulously-researched narrative that uses first-person accounts of people who lived to tell their tales due of the help they received from others, as well as accounts from some of those who helped them to survive.
I have to say, this is not only one of the best anthologies I've read this year, if not the best, but one of the most cohesive4.5 rounded up to a 5.
I have to say, this is not only one of the best anthologies I've read this year, if not the best, but one of the most cohesive from a thematic standpoint. The editor, David Rix, has done an excellent job here, putting together a number of pieces that frankly, I couldn't tear myself away from without a lot of resentment toward whatever it was that made me put the book down.
I have more to say at my online reading journal, but the long and short of it is that while I have my own personal favorites from this collection, the book as a whole is simply amazing. It's one of those books that once you've turned the last page becomes embedded in your brain and never leaves, and I'm reminded of it every time I hear a train whistle in the distance.
I know I just added this book yesterday, but I opened it at 1 pm when it arrived, let everything else go, skipped dinner, and read the entire night thI know I just added this book yesterday, but I opened it at 1 pm when it arrived, let everything else go, skipped dinner, and read the entire night through because I could not put it down. I guess you might say that I LOVED this book:
a) It's about polar exploration, probably my favorite nonfiction reading topic in the universe, b) it's by Hampton Sides, who has not let me down yet with any of his books, and c) it's just so engrossing that I couldn't stop reading it. I'm pretty tired and cranky right now, but what the hell -- it was so worth it. Once again Hampton Sides has proven that he is not only a master of his topic but also a master of storytelling.
I've written up my thoughts about this book at the nonfiction page of my online reading journal; feel free to click on over. For now, I'll just reiterate how fanbloodytastic I found this book.
I seriously can't do this book the justice it deserves, but In the Kingdom of Ice is an absolutely phenomenal story told by a master storyteller, and it deserves as wide of a reading audience as possible. Even readers who might not normally be excited about the history of polar exploration would love this book -- the story is harrowing enough, but Mr. Sides highlights the humanity and the sheer bravery of these heroic men facing the unendurable in one of the most unforgiving environments in the world. The book literally reads like a novel, complete with cliffhangers, moments for rejoicing, and above all, page-turning scenes making it impossible to set the book down. It's an ultimate true "rollicking adventure" story, one that should be on everyone's reading list. To answer other reader criticism, yes, there's a lot of detail involved, but none of it is wasted space or used as padding as so often seems to be the case. I cannot recommend this book highly enough -- on the favorites list of 2014.
... someone should get in touch with Ken Burns -- this would make a fascinating PBS special....more
There are very few novels that have ever a) made me squirm while reading them and b) made me feel like I really ought to go and wash my3.75 rounded up
There are very few novels that have ever a) made me squirm while reading them and b) made me feel like I really ought to go and wash my hands each time I set the book down, but this one succeeded in doing both. At the same time, the novel is compelling enough so that I couldn't not pick it up again -- the characters are so repulsive that I just had to keep reading.
If you want plot outline, etc., you can click here to go directly to this entry in my reading journal blog; otherwise, read on for what I think about this book.
Summer House With Swimming Pool leaves the reader to examine the motivations of each and every character in this novel, especially those belonging to Schlosser, who as narrator is the only source for what actually happened. The reader knows from the outset that there's something not quite right with him; as he goes about dispensing his own observations on his world, he interjects the teachings of one of his old university profs whose own bizarre beliefs got him tossed out of the academic world. Parenthood, especially the raising of daughters is a huge theme -- here these young girls are thrust into a space of irresponsible adult behavior that creates an obviously sexually-charged environment. How do parents protect their daughters in this situation? The question of violence and what might set it off in otherwise outwardly "normal" seeming people is also examined. And as noted above, the adults in this novel are pretty repellent -- and one would think that the good doctor would learn something from his experiences, but well, I leave it to the reader to decide whether or not this is the case.
There's always more going on underneath the surface in this novel, and despite its repulsive characters and very difficult material (especially as the parent of a young daughter), I couldn't help but remain mesmerized throughout. It's twisted, disturbing, and definitely not for the squeamish -- and despite all of the uncomfortable squirming in my chair while reading it, it's even sometimes darkly funny. However, it was always compelling me forward. My only criticisms of this novel are a) the ending sort of faltered -- for one thing, the main character just sort of ran out of steam in comparison to the rest of the novel, and for another, considering the tone of the rest of the novel, it just didn't pack as big of a punch as I would have expected; b) the action sort of sags in the middle before it picks up again. Bottom line though: I liked it and would easily recommend it. I probably should have started with Mr. Koch's The Dinner; I'll be pulling that book out here very shortly. And I'll also say that should another one of this author's books be translated and published here, I'll be one of the first people to buy it. ...more
I have a lengthy review on the crime page of my reading journal, so if you want the longie, click here. Otherwise, read on.
Aslike a 3.85 rounded up
I have a lengthy review on the crime page of my reading journal, so if you want the longie, click here. Otherwise, read on.
As Sorrow Bound opens, DS Aector McAvoy in Hull, East Yorkshire, is called to a horrific murder scene which might be gang related - McAvoy's boss tells him that the murdered woman had recently spoken out publicly against street dealers wrecking the neighborhood. When another woman is murdered, the police make a discovery that throws the gang-related theory right out the window. However, while Aector is busy with the police-mandated shrink, moving his family into a new home and trying to function in this investigation with very little sleep, a drug runner makes a serious error that will bring a cocky, self-styled "prince of the city" drug dealer with a lot of serious, well-placed protection behind him crashing into the life of one of McAvoy's colleagues and into the lives of McAvoy's family.
David Mark's third entry in this series featuring DS Aector McAvoy is the best he's written and also the darkest of all three books. For some people the dark tone of the novel may be a drawback, but for me, it's a definite plus. He ratchets up both the tension and the darkness, and there's nothing at all formulaic to complain about in this series of police procedurals. Once I picked it up, I didn't want to stop reading it.
So here's the big niggle (which is really hard to scoot around since I don't really want to give anything away): one of the main recurring characters does something that is so totally out of character and so completely unexpected that it absolutely threw me into "WTF?" mode. Then not long afterward, the same person, who you'd think would be so frightened as to listen to advice at this point, does something so foolishly stupid as to be just plain dumb, also very much out of character. I suspect that the repercussions that may follow for the last scene in this novel will lead to a major game changer for what's next in the series, and to an even bigger angst-fest than I've seen in any of the McAvoy novels so far. And since I'm a big fan of both McAvoy and of David Mark, I will be waiting right here to see it all unfold.
While you most certainly can read this book as a standalone, I'm a true series purist so my advice is to start with The Dark Winter and continue with Original Skin before reading Sorrow Bound. I found that by now I have a better feel for the very angst-laden DS McAvoy and what drives him. Just a heads up: this is no cutesy little cozy.
My thanks again to Blue Rider Press for the lovely copy they sent me to read. ...more
I don't think it's fair to give a star rating to this book when I'm so torn. Maybe a 3, I don't know -- I'm not a big critical reader, more on the casI don't think it's fair to give a star rating to this book when I'm so torn. Maybe a 3, I don't know -- I'm not a big critical reader, more on the casual side, but this book has some issues.
I have a longer entry about this novel at my reading journal, where I do a plot summary as well as what's written here, so click if you want that, hang here if you don't.
To be very honest, I'm sort of torn in my reaction to this novel. There is quite a bit about this novel to like - but it also has its down side, which is why my reaction is sort of muddled here. I'll start with the positives.
I was very much taken with the family history being so prevalent throughout the story. Cordelia, for example, often turns to Brumwitt's paintings that she's so carefully studied -- Woody once told her that the "history and the future" of the family were to be found in Brumfitt's paintings; he'd "painted all of the memories of Loosewood Island, even the ones that hadn't happened yet." At one point in the story, she even references a painting during a radio call for help to describe a situation she doesn't want everyone listening to know about. This same technique is used by the author at various important points where the paintings mirror what's happening, helping to move the action along so that he doesn't have to spend a lot of time describing what's going on. I also liked how he incorporates the tourists who have at some point decided to stay on the island who have set up a community of artists, and the "Brumfitt walks" that people can take. Another positive aspect of this novel is the closeness of this community of long-time island regulars who now find themselves being invaded by contemporary issues that are encroaching upon the way things have always been on the island -- the modern meth trade for easy money that substitutes for the traditional hard-work ethic, the arrogance of the seasonal tourists who build their houses and complain about the lobster boats blighting their ocean view, lobster poaching, and outsider views on lobster fishing that pits money against sustainability. Then there are the characters in the Kings family. The sisters have their spats, which is realistic; I was most especially drawn to Woody for his ability to reign in his daughter when she got too uppity and gung-ho, and to Cordelia for sticking up for herself, for the value she places on family history and tradition, and because as scrappy as she is, she ultimately ends up not coming across as some one-sided tough-as-nails person who captains her own lobster boat.
Now for my issues: In the first part of the book, where the author introduces the family's mystical lore, the island's history, and the Kings girls during their childhood, the writing is just so good, flowing very nicely and sucking me right into the story. I remember thinking at page 84 that if the rest of the book is written like this, I knew I was going to love it. Alas - we not too much later take a turn into sheer melodrama, centering on the drug dealer who came back to the island after his father died. When some of the locals get wind that he's on the island, not fishing but dealing meth, they take care of him in their own way. Add to this a murder subplot involving a showdown at sea, and the combination of the these scenes left me surprised at how much the book's tone had changed and had become reminiscent of a western movie or modern-day vigilante flick. The change highlighted for me the overall inconsistency in the writing. And while I was really into the Kings' family relationship, and wanted them to turn out well, the ending got plain sappy. Plus, let's get real: the whole King Lear thing just didn't come across as well as it might have.
I'm really torn on this one. For the most part, I liked the people in the Kings family, I was taken with the idea of this small, closely-knit island community facing some tough issues and changes coming from the outside. I didn't even mind the more fantastical elements built in to the novel's beginning, although one later instance in particular came across as a little too far-fetched to be taken in stride as just another moment of magical realism. It's just that the unevenness of the writing got to me after a while and left me kind of shaking and scratching my head. I'd tentatively recommend it based on the positive aspects mentioned above, and I will say that even though this book may not be a favorite of mine for this year, I'm still going to pull out my other novel by this author (Touch) and give it a try....more