I didn't realize until a couple pages in (I just bought the single sight unseen) that this was a prequel of sorts, when Chet and Bernie meet. Lots ofI didn't realize until a couple pages in (I just bought the single sight unseen) that this was a prequel of sorts, when Chet and Bernie meet. Lots of fun, especially Chet's thoughts about the cat. ...more
The synopsis for A Conspiracy of Friends explains that the character Barbara is shocked by the revelations of her boyfriend and this confession causesThe synopsis for A Conspiracy of Friends explains that the character Barbara is shocked by the revelations of her boyfriend and this confession causes her to question her involvement with him. This is one of the first times in a McCall Smith book that I've actually been offended by a character's thoughts or actions. Wait, that's not true at all. There have been plenty of times I've been properly offended by the actions of a clearly bad guy - as most of McCall Smith's bad guys clearly are from their introduction. Problem here is that I liked Barbara, and then she goes and does something that, if the roles were reversed and she confessed to her boyfriend what he confesses to her, she would be seen only as a terrible victim, and properly so. Her refusal to see him as such is sexist on her part and pretty offensive. I suspect McCall Smith was aiming for something as an amusing surprise but it fell utterly flat for me. It surprised me in that I like this author so much because I usually have such an affinity for the views on life and thoughts of his characters.
A Conspiracy of Friends veers into more unbelievable territory than the first two Corduroy Mansions books (even considering Freddie de la Haye's role in the last one). But I have to wonder how difficult it can be to sustain plots and characterization a for such a long serialization. Not that that's a free pass, but that's okay because there's always a little bit of fun ridiculousness in his stories and that's part of his appeal....more
Have you ever met someone who's gone through something traumatic - it doesn't have to be surviving a bombing (where his mother did not), like Theo inHave you ever met someone who's gone through something traumatic - it doesn't have to be surviving a bombing (where his mother did not), like Theo in The Goldfinch, but at least something you know would be damn hard to recover from - and wondered how they do recover? Or even look back on your own recovery from such an event and wonder how you ever managed?
Theo's journey of struggling to his feet and figuring out how to understand the good and the bad behaviors of himself and those around him is the core of The Goldfinch. It's heartbreaking and fascinating and tremulous to experience this particular character's journey. It's also about friendship, love, loyalty, kindness (which seems a rather simple word but is as valuable as the painting here), art, history.... so, so much and yet it's not all too much. I'm not going to be one of the many reviewers who say that this book is too long because I like long books and didn't find anything extraneous here. If you don't like some philosophy, some searching by the characters, you might feel a bit bogged down but I always found these bits really bits rather than chunks and always something to which I related and over which I ruminated.
Tartt is more talented than any other author I've read at conveying gestures by characters that I can immediately understand because I've seen them in people around me, "My dad put his arm around her wait and drew her to him with a sort of kneading motion that made me sick."
She re-affirms for me why I travel and why one should accept and seek out new adventures: "...no, the ocean gives me the shivers but then I've never been on an adventure like yours. You never know. Because -" brow furrowed, tapping out a bit of soft black powder on his palette - "I never dreamed that all that old furniture of Mrs. De Peyster's would be the thing that decided my future. Maybe you'll get fascinated by hermit crabs and study marine biology. Or decided you want to build boats, or be a marine painter, or write the definitive book about the Lusitania."
Pippa's vulnerability (and own recovery from the same trauma): "She accepted my hand in hers, without saying anything - all bundled up, she hadn't let them take her coat. Long sleeves in summer - always swathed in half a dozen scarves, like some sort of cocooned insect wrapped in layers - protective padding for a girl who'd been broken and stitched and bolted back together again." Lines like this are what makes Tartt's writing so beautiful for me - some might think using both stitched and bolted is redundant but I find them both absolutely pertinent and necessary.
The painting The Goldfinch is, of course, pervasive through the novel both in it's physical presence and also in all it's symbolic levels, but this description of the "little guy" (as Boris would say) in the painting is just perfect and heart-rending: "Yet even a child can see its dignity: thimble of bravery, all fluff and brittle bone. Not timid, not even hopeless, but steady and holding its place. Refusing to pull back from the world."
Oh, my god. I want to quote so much from this book. I'm feeling teary, having transcribed these lines. I know people talk about books that have changed their lives, books they will return to, books that are milestones in their reading careers. SECRET: I'm an English major. I am always reading, I am always finding books I adore, I am always exhausted by excellent books and dread picking up whatever's next in the queue because I'm certain that it'll never live up to what I've just experienced. So I assure you, I am affected. But the secret? I'm not entirely sure I've had one of those books until this one. One of those books that I will call one of the pinnacles of my life, of my experience. I read some incredible books, right up there. But I think this is the first in that ultimate, intimate category.
But I have to - I have to one more quote. It's long, but, well, just, HERE, take it:
"Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted - ? What if the heart, for it's own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility, and strong social connections and all the blandly - held common virtues and instead straight towards a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster? Is Kitsey right? If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight towards the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is singing at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement, the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or - like Boris - is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?"
Okay. Just ONE more: "And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and a privilege to love what Death doesn't touch."...more
I am particularly impressed by her suggestions and advice to introverts about how to move around in the woWow, incredible book.
Just... so... spot on.
I am particularly impressed by her suggestions and advice to introverts about how to move around in the world,including how to both improve their own intellectual and social lives, and their roles in the lives of the extroverts they love (or just those they want to get along with). So many self-helpish/psychology text present their concepts but with little concrete advice as to how to deal with differing responses to the world; Cain definitely follows through. I will be keeping my copy on the shelf for continued reference. ...more
A couple of niggling things unfortunately decreased the value of the overall story. One of those things was the consistently strange, almost seeminglyA couple of niggling things unfortunately decreased the value of the overall story. One of those things was the consistently strange, almost seemingly random, use of italicized words throughout the text. I'm sure I'd find plenty of fellow English nerds here with whom I could commiserate, but others could very well ask why it could possibly matter so much. Well, because there is clearly so very much love and energy and effort invested in fully immersing the reader in the world of this story, and every time an italicized word for which it doesn't make sense to italicize that word within the context screams across the page, it immediately negates that effort and harshly drops the reader from the world. I kept puzzling over these words, wondering why, and whether I was missing something (and given the story, I suppose this is an actual possibility - though I doubt it), and I was distracted from Pessl's creation without justification.
Argh, okay, rant over (I just really wished that hadn't happened).
Don't wait until the end (or 62% of the way through like I did) to get the (free) app to unlock extra content while you're reading - it's not necessary for understanding, but it does greatly enrich the experience.
This was certainly one of my favorite novels this year (and I do seem to have read a disproportionally high percentage of 4-5 stars in the last 12 months or so). Creatively inspired and pathetically jealous, at the same time. Lovely concept and execution, quite engaging....more
There really isn't a whole lot of mystery to this book - not that I think it would necessarily be categorized as such - as you know from the first pagThere really isn't a whole lot of mystery to this book - not that I think it would necessarily be categorized as such - as you know from the first page that Marnie, on the day of her fifteenth birthday, and her younger sister Nelly bury their parents in their back yard. With such an opening I anticipated I would know what happened to them by the end of the book, (view spoiler)[as in, who exactly killed Gene, but Marnie's ultimate reasoning about that is enough of an explanation for me. But the "facts" were never firmed up, which was okay because (hide spoiler)] but ultimately the details of what happened to Izzy and Gene - they are the most heinous people in the book, if not the world - don't matter in the least, because the story is all about the relationship between the sisters and also their relationship to the shamed and lonely old man living next door, Lennie. There's even a dog, for my personal entertainment, but he doesn't have much of starring role other than horrifying the girls by digging up various parts of their decaying parents.
The story is told in short chapters from either Marnie, Nelly, or Lennie's perspective. O'Donnell gives all three distinctive, unique, and very engaging voices. Honestly, I couldn't pick a favorite. Could you?
Nelly: "I admired his roses first and then his door, painted and glossed and with a brass nameplate. Our own door is bashed and broken, the window smashed and boarded. A dreary state of affairs. He smells of talcum powder, is possessed of china cups and matching saucers. He uses side plates for breads and for cakes. It was all rather wonderful. Pristine. Polished. I played the violin later. Something forced upon me in the end. Marnie must always have her way you see and with no regard for one's temperament. If only she knew of my nightmares and of the dancing violin waking the dead from their slumber. If only she had seen them rise from their graves as I have, waltzing to a melody of my making."
Marnie:"Riding past on your bike boys will give you the once-over and someone might whistle, but mostly no one cares about a girl riding her bike, it's too hot, they just want to be still and bask a little. They want to stretch out on the grass and listen to some music. They want to pull out the paddling pool for the weans and sit with their babies and their girlfriends and some want to do their washing, but mostly they want to love. Snogging and sunshine go hand in hand in good weather, so does shagging under a blanket and come winter there will be a lot of lassies with big bellies. Glaswegians don't need the darkness of a nightclub to live it up or get it up; consequences are words for teachers and lawyers, sometimes judges."
Lennie:"It happens fast when it comes for you, the callous quickening, the blood stilling, the breath falling swift as a swallow. I held you tight then, bound you petrified to a life withering and anchored in silence, but you escaped me and a quiet calm embraced the room, a kindness drawing you close and letting you go. The passage of a gentleman."
As other reviewers have noted, despite the (very) darkness of the story and the narratives, The Death of Bees does end with optimism, but don't let that make you think you won't pay for that ending with apprehension and loss and tears, as most very good stories do.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
beautiful. And it's not even the story/plot so much as it is the writing, the ideas, the images (though that's always the way with Gai...interesting.
beautiful. And it's not even the story/plot so much as it is the writing, the ideas, the images (though that's always the way with Gaiman, for me). I wasn't even all that excited by the plot while reading and yet I finish with an otherworldy, warm, strange, almost confused, pleasure that just infuses me. ...more
Somewhere, and I've read enough reviews of this book while anxiously awaiting its release so I'm not sure where, this novel is described as a cross beSomewhere, and I've read enough reviews of this book while anxiously awaiting its release so I'm not sure where, this novel is described as a cross between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Time Traveler's Wife. Having sped through the book in only three days (a record given my recent lack of time for reading), I can only imagine the writer of the comparison did so because Time Traveler's has, obviously, time travel in it, and The Girl has a young woman determined to avenge the bad things that have happened to her. Both of which this book has, though avenge isn't really an appropriate word, even, as Kirby is looking for the man who attacked her it seems, at first at least, more out of fear, curiosity, and justice for herself and her dog, and never necessarily anticipates vengence. Other than those two distinct elements, I cannot imagine the basis for comparison. Instead of attempting to amalgamate other books to describe one instead of just letting it stand on its own merits, I appreciate it when a reviewer attempts to describe a book more originally, or at least simply.
Difficulties about this book? That there's no basis for Harper's motivations, though he's clearly a bad person to begin with, which could have been a good enough excuse, and certainly no explanation of the origin of the House. I'm not sure that there has to be, but it does continue to be a series of nagging questions that can distract from the story. And don't read it if you're sensitive. It's difficult, not just on the blood and gore level, but on a distinct and talented level of making the reader imagine what it must be like to feel and think as the victims did.
And the most difficult things about the book: work, sleep, making dinner - you know, those annoying things that keep you away from a deeply engrossing story.
I loved the characterizations, I enjoyed the inclusion of (view spoiler)[a believable and root-able romance (hide spoiler)], despite the tenderness of doing so in such a disturbing story. The writing was simple but beautiful, thrilling and engaging. I adored the different personalities and trajectories of the shining girls, and quickly became attached to most of them (view spoiler)[though one, strangely, we never get to know until after her death by way of interaction with her mother and this makes her distinctly less sympathetic than the other girls (hide spoiler)]. I can't imagine this not being a best-seller and I was so thrilled to score the first hold place at my library. Perfect "summer read," whatever that means anymore.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more