michael spencer's Reviews > Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
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's review
Aug 20, 2007

liked it
Read in August, 2007

3.5 stars, though it says differently above. Worth reading, and owning, but perhaps I should have bought it on sale. Reviewing this book is taking me a good amount of time after finishing it. There are many things that I think ought to be said about the book, but I am unsure how they all fit together. In addition to this, I have to keep myself unaware of the award-status and the fact that my grandfather was a navyman and a sailor at heart.

The language is rough but rhythmic, representative of the typical life he seeks to represent. The vocabulary, though mostly good, does seem - especially in the first quarter - a little overdone, as if he is deliberately trying to use words instead of letting them flow out of his impetus. However, this does not drag the book.

What does drag the book, I feel, are three things in particular: two parts objective, one thing entirely subjective. First the subjective: I do not particularly enjoy courtroom novels (as might be seen from my star-reviews of Grisham). Next, the objective: I felt that at times it was languid, that parts were unnecessary, inefficient, unnecessary and eventually functioning as writer's slack in order to keep him thinking for future material. I found myself regularly checking to see how long I had to go for the chapter, and it was regularly 6-7 pages before finish. There were parts that seemed forced, as if he felt he had to come up with something brilliant when such was not required, and thus those times sounded inauthentic from him as an author. The third thing is, frankly, that there are nuances I believe are inconsistent with the background of whole groups of characters; for example, Buddhist tenets are misrepresented, even reversed once, to fit the mindset of the character in question. Perhaps this is on purpose, but if it was to be purported as fact, it was incorrect and took a little of the momentum away.

However, there is much about the book that keeps it sleek and enjoyable. One is the character development, that as far as I can tell is quite accurate for the personalities he chooses, and he maintains a sense of mystery about persons, so that one never fully knows any of them - this is accurate, realistic, and appreciable. Again the tone and flow is also well-representative of the setting which he seeks to portray. (Albeit, it is an entirely fictional setting; San Piedro Island cannot be visited, which affords him great leeway in character development as well. This last bit is perhaps a drawback to the full potential of his skill.) In addition to these things, his careful use of language, his ability to shift back and forth to be accurate about completely polar opposite opinions held by the characters, the flow of the storyline and graceful swtiching of the grammatical tenses (which was by far the strongest aspect of the writing - I found myself frequently engrossed in something and then all of sudden wondering how I got there, which means he lost me enough to stop paying attention to his writing ability altogether): all of these make this a book worth reading and keeping.

Being awarded the Faulkner is what drew me to it, but it may be the case as well that there was not as much fierce competition as of late. For all of these things, I gave it the rating above. A well-written novel, and worth enjoying. At the very least, being from a distinctly Northwestern voice, it made me crave blueberries and coffee!
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message 1: by Anna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna It is a read well worth your time!

message 2: by michael spencer (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

michael spencer Thanks, Anna! I'll make this one next on the list, then. :)

Hope you're well!

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