This book might merit a higher rating than I've assigned. I loved reading the book-just ate it up-but I don't know that it's necessarily a GOOD book....moreThis book might merit a higher rating than I've assigned. I loved reading the book-just ate it up-but I don't know that it's necessarily a GOOD book.
Morgenstern's portrait of a mysterious, magical circus culture is super-engaging. I read the book basically straight through in about six hours and never got bored. If the characters are mainly types, they are well written types that one can't help but root for. The love story is penultimately the emotional heart of the novel, but on a page-to-page basis, takes a backseat to descriptions of a tattooed Chinese contortionist, a genius German clockmaker, and an exclusive clique of adult circus fanatics.
The biggest issue is that Morgenstern promises excitement more than she delivers. We get hints of what magic is concealed in the maze of circus tents. We're told that the main characters' love affair is unswerving. But ultimately, we're left with promises unfulfilled by vague hyperbolic descriptions.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend the book as a fun, relaxing read. (less)
The plot moves slowly but overall the suspense is sustained well. The payoffs are good, always odd and grotesque.
The more philosophical passages can b...moreThe plot moves slowly but overall the suspense is sustained well. The payoffs are good, always odd and grotesque.
The more philosophical passages can be difficult to plow through but it's worth it. Eco illustrates medieval monastic life in a nicely detailed way. He also exposes the rarely recognized relationship between postmodern skepticism and medieval religious thought.
The main characters are obviously incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and another character is modeled on Jorge Borges. If you're in on these literary jokes, the book seems incongruous and quite postmodern--even as it illustrates medieval thought and aesthetics.
Mitchell pulls off six genres in the span of a single novel. Settings and languages are breathtaking. Furthermore, the thematic and character connecti...moreMitchell pulls off six genres in the span of a single novel. Settings and languages are breathtaking. Furthermore, the thematic and character connections between the sections keep the reader more or less grounded.
I was expected a big revelation of sorts at the "end"--the middle section--or at the actual ending. Instead, each section paid off in small revelations. Sure, there's not the typical rise and fall of action which modern readers expect in a novel, but the steady revelations are satisfying enough for even a second read.
The real mind-boggle here is how Mitchell manages to fit each narrative within the next (or the previous?) The layers of narrators and which character is READING which narrative when create more puzzles than I have solved. The text constantly calls itself into question--for example, the plot of a journal is too paced, too perfect, as one character observes. Eventually this question of measured pacing is used to uncover the fact that, hundreds of years in the future, a character's entire life has been manufactured by the government.
This is a skilfully written novel, a novelty if nothing else, full of quotable passages and deftly interwoven literary allusions. Simultaneously heartbreaking, intellectually engaging, and, at times, hilarious.(less)
This is one of the truest (read: heartbreaking) novels I've ever come across. Diaz combines copious literary, sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming allusions wi...moreThis is one of the truest (read: heartbreaking) novels I've ever come across. Diaz combines copious literary, sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming allusions with so much code-switching slang that the reader is left hopping and skipping along, grasping at whatever obscure references she can. Surprisingly, the novel is relatively easy to read. The switches in narration (and occasionally minglings of the main narrator Yunior's voice with the voice of Oscar himself) can be confusing is the reader is unsure of what she is looking for. It's actually quite simple: Yunior narrates the whole novel except for a small section in the middle where Oscar's sister Lola takes over.
Another annoyance for first-time readers may be the footnotes, which often overwhelm an entire page. They generally contain in-depth details of the Dominican Republic's history and can be easily skipped if necessary. I do recommend that any reader go back and give the footnotes their due, as the information contained there is quite interesting, if not totally relevant to the novel's plot.
What makes this novel really worth reading is Oscar, the ultimate Other. His weight, intellectual inclinations, love of Geekdom, speech, lack of sexual experience, and ethnicity (a Haitian-Dominican mix, which doesn't exist if one listens to Trujillo) make him a complete anathema, suited really to no community at all. Though he is a frustrating character, I found myself loving him for his uniqueness and persistent optimism. Anyone who has felt too different to possibly succeed in the world can relate to the pathetic but lovable Oscar, who does achieve his dreams in the end. (less)