May 24, 08
Read in May, 2008
I was expecting to enjoy this book far more than I did. Rarely is there a book I start that has me so uninspired that I just want to throw in the towel, and this happened to me several times along the way, though there were moments when I thought it might redeem itself. I've only read one other Jane Smiley book, A Thousand Acres, and I loved it. She is really a master of detail. Perhaps I kept going because I was so startled by how thoroughly different the subject matter between these two books could be-- and how Smiley could have researched the subjects so intimately. I will likely read some of her other books now simply to see her range. But ultimately this book was pointless. The premise that a group of Hollywood types and their families would hole up for 10 days at random simply because they were upset by the onset of the Iraq War, and then would stick it out for 10 days (again, a random number of days), and along the way decide to change venues to an elaborately decorated hidden mansion likely owned by Russian mafia was all just far too much conjecture. I think Smiley herself must have gotten bored along the way and decided she had to switch it up to a new location where each room was more exotic than the next, only so that she had something else to describe. If there was meaning to be found in the dialog or some take away message, I didn't find them. Nonetheless, she's good enough at telling you what you are seeing that you can at least derive some pleasure from the voyeurism.