Nicole's Reviews > The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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Dec 27, 08

bookshelves: absolute-crap
Recommended for: someone bored

Why is it that I hated this book when everyone else thinks it was good? It annoyed me on so many levels. I kept thinking to myself...."alright, I get it...life sucks, move on". I just have so little sympathy and empathy sometimes, especially in books, that this just IRKED me. Sure, the writing was well done, the prose effective, the story was a bit enchanting...I just could NOT understand why this book got such great reviews. In fact, the reviews is why I kept reading it. Had someone else thought it was CRAP I would have put it down without finishing.

Walls whines and complains through the whole book about how difficult her childhood was, yet she was still able to be admitted to an IVY LEAGUE school. Ok, my childhood wasn't as bad as hers, I am bright, yet I hadn't the je ne se quoi to get into an Ivy league. Perhaps, the editor deleted a HUGE chapter in her memoir which would have filled the gap between living in a weatherproof shack and going to college, but it just didn't do it for me.

Okay, so most people will likely bash me for being an idiot, but I really don't care. It annoyed me. That's all for my rant...thanks for your time. :)
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Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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Cindy Nicole,

Funny, but I don't recall Jeannette doing a lot of whining in this book. As far as, ...."alright, I get it...life sucks, move on" Don't you think she did? Most don't.


Nicole Cindy,

Like I said, I sometimes don't have a ton of empathy. I am aware of this quality and I acknowledge that I must soften sometimes. I agree she eventually "moved on," but it took how many pages? The book missed something big for me. She had a horrid childhood with insane family members, but how did she "move on?" That's all I'm asking.

I disagree that most don't "move on." In my opinion, if one doesn't surpass challenges, Darwinism will take over...we can all handle a lot more than we think.

Anyway, to me, the book missed a big part by not explaining HOW she went from such a horrific childhood to an Ivy League. Sure, she's successful...but so am I and my friends. We all face adversities in life. Some have worse upbringing than others, but everyone goes through crap. I didn't have to write a book about how I was kidnapped and taken to the other side of the world to become successful. No one helped me apply for college or even suggested a subject to major.

To me, the book never ended and I got to the point of not caring anymore. But, I read it a few years ago and who knows the state of mind I was in at the time. At the time, I didn't think it had any depth.

Perhaps, I should write a memoir. Hah! Nah, an editor would just hack out all the good stuff. C'est la vie.


Kelly Don't be apologetic at all about your review. I rated it even lower than you did. I hated this book with a passion. There wasn't anything of value to be taken from it whatsoever. Nothing! I've read a lot of memoirs. I like memoirs, but this was the worst of the lot. Walls shows no emotion about what happened and yet, almost seems to be pleading with the reader to tell her that it's okay to love her "quirky" parents (as SHE paints them) while the reader is thinking, "No dear, your parents weren't quirky - they were lazy and they sucked as parents."

Then she goes on about how she lived on Park Avenue while her parents were homeless bums. La-di-freakin'-da. I've read non-opinion newspaper articles that had me on the edge of my seat more than this. It was a terrible memoir because Walls just isn't a good writer who knows how to convey emotions. I think it only got published because she already had a job in the publishing industry and other people aren't used to reading good memoirs.


message 4: by Mel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mel The story is enchanting? Life sucks, move on? Wow, you must have led a storied life, or else yours was worse than what was portrayed in this book. A little harsh.


Lynnette Can't complain about your review at all. This book annoyed me and made me angry. It has nothing to do with you leading a "storied life" as a previous poster said. At what point is enough, enough?


David Don't read Angela's Ashes for god's sake. That best seller may bore you to death as well. :)


message 7: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I like a good memoir, but I can't get behind one that doesn't reveal the real work escaping a childhood like that. I agree Nicole, everyone has a hardknock life, some harder than others, but there's nothing particularly special about having fuck ups for parents, I'm surprised this was even published. Your review is spot on.


La Petite Américaine I absolutely loved this book and I appreciated how the author was able to tell the story of her fucked up parents without distance, without showing emotion. In all honesty, I can't understand why anyone would dislike this book. That's why I like reading reviews of books by people whose opinions differ from my own: when we love a book, we are often reading with tunnel vision and don't see the work as a whole, refuse to acknowledge any flaws in the writing. So, I'm glad to read your review (and any review by people who disliked a book I love) so that I can see the other side of the spectrum. Thank you for sharing.


Chris I understand your complaint, but I think Walls did address those issues. She made it from a crappy shack in the middle of nowhere to a Ivy League career by busting her ass. She moved from Welch to NYC with her sister and worked her way through school. She took crappy jobs at cheap newspapers to make her way up. Lori and Brian did the same things. I think thats the underlying message. You can have a crap childhood and still work your way out of it.
I also respected how she portrayed her parents. They were definitely far from perfect and she addresses their many flaws, but they were still her family and she still cared for them. Part of the story of her making it on her own was her learning how to say 'screw you' when it came to taking care of her parents and leaving them behind to take care of herself.


Rachel haha i agree with you 100%.


message 11: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim I saw this book as a comedy from start to finish, and a damned fine one. Sure there were moments when I felt sorry for the kids but I never got the impression the author was trying to wring sympathy from us the readers. Maybe it's just me. Living in Africa, well... If you can't laugh at things you'll lose your marbles.


Arlene So much of it did not seem plausible at all.


message 13: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Fields I agree with your review. I started googling reviews of the book to see if it was just me...I also found it just a bit implausible. Sure, these days it's accepted that no memoir is completely nonfiction, blah blah blah, but in a story like this a bit of restraint dials down my skepticism. Hey, maybe this says more about me & my life experience; it's certainly within the realm of possibility that an elderly woman could be spry enough to steal and ride a pogo stick down the street, or that a cheetah could just decide to be friendly and lick the hand of a child instead of chowing down on it. I just couldn't suspend my disbelief sufficiently, however, and when a book is supposed to be a memoir, I don't think it should set off that many alarm bells.


message 14: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Fields p.s. And I, too, thought the most interesting part was omitted, i.e., how does a person recover or remain resilient enough to make to an Ivy, NYC editing jobs and Park Avenue? That's an interesting story in and of itself, with or without the terrible childhood, and the way it was glossed over - the internal work and the exceptionality of it - I found truly off-putting.


message 15: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Scruggs I totally appreciate your review! I am only 1/3 way through and want to give up (and I rarely give up on a book) because enough is enough! Thanks for being honest!


Gail Um... "Je ne sais quoi." Coulda been what kept you out of the Ivies. :)


message 17: by Darren (new)

Darren Gail wrote: "Um... "Je ne sais quoi." Coulda been what kept you out of the Ivies. :)"

Laughing out Loud...no...I think it was her panache, or lack thereof, that kept her our of the Ivies ;-)


Robin Stephens I think the Ivies look for interesting people to educate the non-empathetic among us with diversity...


Caryn I just finished this book and really loved it. Juliet, if you're looking for that 'omission' of how she turned her life around, I think it can be found all through the book. Were you cooking your own hotdogs at aged 3? I could not have even begun to make food for myself at that age, even if it meant climbing up to the cupboard to get myself a box of raisins. -And to add I DID grow up in one of those 'pro-self-sufficient' households!

While her parents were on the one hand, horrifically neglectful, shiftless, completely selfish, they also had alternative attributes of love, (even if it was an uneven, unsteady, 'in-their-own-way' kind of love). They opened their children's eyes and experiences to nature, science, culture, art, acceptance and a world of possibilities that most parents cannot or do not do. In spit of the fact that I personally found their easy quips on their childrens' self-reliance to be convenient excuses for their own failings and disinterest, it did, in fact, instill a cast-iron self-reliance and determination in the older three. Only Maureen seemed to lose out, possibly because she was so much younger than the others, THEY took care of her, (she learned that being taken care of was the way to get by in the world), and because her parents had already deteriorated by the time she was old enough to gain from that alternative good that they had to offer. She missed the desert geology expeditions/ lessons, she didn't get her own star….

Furthermore, it was not surprising to me that Wells would be easily accepted to any Ivy-League school given her history, (alluded to constantly in the book) of work ethic, both academically and financially. She made great grades because she stayed at the library doing homework and extra work, because it was heated. She stayed in the bathroom at lunch reading or doing homework because she was ashamed to seem by the other kids without lunch. She babysat, worked in the jewelry store, collected coal crumbs from the road or recycled bottles because she was desperate - but by-golly, she did it! When she applied to Barnard, she was already working in the job (reporter) they were TEACHING her to be qualified for. Although it was a lesser newspaper, she would have made a success of her life with or without Barnard. They would be foolish to pass up such an applicant. Robin is right, the Ivies choose students who will bring something to the table. She brings a LOT. One of the scenes I was most disappointed in was at Barnard, when the professor scolds her for her lack of knowledge or sympathy for the homeless. She let them down by not speaking up and 'teaching' them/ giving her opinion as based on intimate knowledge with two of those homeless outside the classroom windows. I hope that professor read this book. Had she brought her unique and true perspective to the table that day, well that is why they accept these out of the box applicants. It adds to the discussion. It broadens the horizons of both fellow students and professors.

I don't know if you lack empathy. Maybe you lack a breadth of experience yourself and simply cannot relate or extend your understanding far enough to 'get' this, to encompass it. You missed the 'lessons' right there from the beginning. You missed everything she was saying. That's also kind of inherent in your concern that she got into an Ivy and you didn't. (Who reads a book thinking that!?)


message 20: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth Peacock cooper Yes her life did suck and yes she moved on to become successful, in spite of her childhood.


Heidi Matthew Life sucks, move on??? I can't believe they survived an upbringing like that. I got annoyed by how her father took advantage of her and she let it happen but the children triumphed.


Lauren Thank you! I absolutely hated this book, and everyone I know is obsessed with it.


message 23: by Payton (new) - added it

Payton Ciolli I do not think that she whined to much. The thing was that even though things were hard on her she still continued and made the best of it. Also she was showing how her parents did things but how they gave her love and life lessons.


message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Fields David wrote: "Don't read Angela's Ashes for god's sake. That best seller may bore you to death as well. :)"

It did me!


message 25: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Fields Doesn't Walls write exhaustively about having to wear the same sleeveless white shirt to school every day? I recently came across the same thing in Stephen King's 2000 _On Writing_. Maybe I'm misremembering Walls' book.


message 26: by Lara (new)

Lara Kachansky "I just have so little sympathy and empathy sometimes, especially in books" so why did you pick a book based on those two factors? It's like saying
"stabbing myself hurts"
stabs yourself
complain about the pain.


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