Juliet's Reviews > The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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Jul 03, 13


Okay, I originally gave this one star but then had to go back and re-rate it to a two b/c I surprised a couple of you guys and in my impulsive way, I realized perhaps one star was a bit too knee jerk.

It's not that I hated The Glass Castle, it's just that it irritated me with its self-conscious narrative style. Too much "look at how horrible things were!" and not enough detail or challenges to make me really care.

The same stories are told and re-told throughout the memoir novel, and they rely too much on symbolism for my taste. I don't know how many times The Glass Castle is mentioned, but it was clear enough the first time we're told about it. Yes, I get it. Pretty shiny vulnerable fragile fortress - drunk father whose fantasies are selfish and unstable. Mother who's out to lunch. No money - just imaginations. Okay. Got it.

Then, before we really have connected to any of the characters in their youth, we fast forward to today's NYC in which lo and behold, the storyteller is a successful writer. Gag.

Basically, this book is a pale imitation of The Liar's Club. Karr's book is a jump off a cliff into a bravely realized memoir with enormous depth in the details, not to mention the writer's conflicted feelings about the meaning of father, of mother, of family, of self. By being so specific about her life and her family's life, Karr touches us deeply about family and self, too.

Walls had an interesting life, but the story reads like someone else's family's trip. So that's why I'm giving it a 2. :)
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Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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Maureen One star!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I loved that book!


Juliet hahahah! I had read The Liar's Club first so this one felt like a watered down version. It's not fair to compare, but it didn't grab me.


Shelli I couldn't disagree more. If anything, too much effort was used by the author to leave out normal childhood reactions so as to not put a whiny label on the memoirs. And truly, I can't imagine more detail in a book.


Juliet That's a good point, Shelli. I think you're right - the author does seem to want to avoid sounding whiny, and she does leave out normal childhood reactions. But I am left with a different conclusion - the result to me is a self-consciousness that keeps us on the surface of the narrative. It felt like a scrapbook rather than a novel.


Alline Thanks for mentioning The Liar's Club. I read it years ago (and found it profoundly affecting) and so this pales in comparison. Or maybe I'm just a bit "done" with the who-had-the-worst-childhood game. On the other hand, it reminds me to be just a bit more kind to neighborhood kids who may seem scruffy or hungry - one never really knows what's going on...


Rachel I love it that you hated this book. I liked it well enough, but I think you made some good points.


Suzie Q I can't say that I hated it exactly. One of the things that bothered me was how dry her writing style was.


Chris I think if you come from a life experience entirely separate from the things she went through, you have a hard time understanding her style and POV of things but I directly related to it. If you're in crappy circumstances and you want them to change, you don't do it by boohooing over sad, poor you, you DO something about it. I feel that's the kind of mindset she has and that's why her style completely makes sense to me. I actually would have enjoyed the book less had it been watered down with pages of philosophical introspection about her feelings. When they were relevant and important, she included them in a concise and direct manner. I also agree with how she formatted the book. I saw it a a collection of her memories and interpretations of the events she recalls as being influential to the person whom she is today. I think that is also why her first husband, even though she was married to him for several years, is so minor. He did not influence who she became.


Daniel I feel like your review couldn't be a worse description of what the book is.

You say "Too much "look at how horrible things were!" and not enough detail or challenges to make me really care. "

Seriously??? One of the reasons this story is so gorgeous is because Walls left out all the self-pitying, self-reflecting analytical rhetoric and just presented those amazing moments. But what is even more impressive is that she did not write this with the intent of gaining some pity party from her readers. Instead she showed the characters in her life as they really were; she described the beauty of her creative, unrestrictive parents by simply telling their story. No analysis of her own was necessary because by the end of say 30 pages the reader understood them in a more personal, natural level.

And concerning symbolism/imagery, I happen to think she had the very best form of it. The glass castle kept reappearing, but in an organic fashion that strengthened the beautiful, pitiful undertone of the story. It was not the annoying analytical tool of the author that you described.


message 10: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen McLeod um, you understand that this is a true story, right?


Juliet Jen wrote: "um, you understand that this is a true story, right?"

Yep!


Juliet Chris wrote: "I think if you come from a life experience entirely separate from the things she went through, you have a hard time understanding her style and POV of things but I directly related to it. If you're..."

I appreciate other readers' engagement with this story but don't feel the same way. I also don't think it's necessary to have had similar life experiences to appreciate her story. On the contrary, I just found Mary Karr's book Liar's Club (also a memoir about a challenging childhood) superior. Glass Castle feels like a soap opera to Liar's Club rich drama.


Andrea I liked this book much more than any of Mary Karr's. To each their own I suppose.


Arlene I agree with you....


message 15: by Alexa (new)

Alexa Petrova Kinda like yours?


Stephanie I have to agree with Juliet and I'm not even done reading it...it is very easy to put down...


Pandionhalatius37.6 I suppose I'm entering the who had the worst childhood game... Better than YAC stereotypes! (Maybe... I might have just jinxed myself.)


Tracy Hmmm, not enough details or challenges? There is no way I could recount my childhood with so many incredible details. I agree that at times I was ready to move on to something new, but I think the book is rich in details. I felt like we got to know the children very well before she was in NY. I guess it's just difference of opinion. It's a true story that belongs to a real person. She wrote it for the world to read it. Not everyone has to like it. People can pick apart her writing all they want, but the stories are still true. The things she had to go through as a child broke my heart. Who cares if she wrote it just perfectly so that everyone would love it. Look at the big picture. Look at what this woman went through. I applaud her. What an amazing woman, no matter how well people think her story was written.

She never once acted in a way that said, "look how hard we have it." She did the exact opposite. I'm truly inspired for how this family loved each other so much even with all their faults. I like that we were able to see the characters for who they were, it wasn't tainted by anger or other emotions. She just simply told her story. I'm glad I got to read it. Today as I got up and fed my children breakfast, I felt just a little more grateful for the food on our table.


message 19: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen McLeod But how can you say "gag" about the fact that a writer grew up to be a writer and wrote her memoirs? It shows a base lack of understanding of the nature of non-fiction and makes you...uh...let's say less than credible.


Juliet Very glad to hear others enjoyed it. I'm sure you'll love the film when it comes out as well. I'll pass.


Bonnie Jean Feldkamp It's not a novel. Your review lost me once you identified it as fiction.


Juliet Good catch, Bonnie. Corrected!


Maureen You changed your one star review to a two star review? Juliet, I am shocked!


Celeste I am currently on page 102. The first few pages were very interesting and thought that I was in for a treat. About 50 pages in I was uninspired, kind of bored actually, but will continue with the read in order to be able to give it a full grade; have laughed a little about four times so far. Maybe I will change my mind towards the end.

So far have found an incredible amount of run-on sentences, commas that should not be there, a double-negative, possible typo, sentences that don't flow well, paragraphs that should not have been paragraphs, commas that should have been added, etc. Were was the editor on this, out to lunch?

In addition, in some areas the book feels that pages were filled with filler material.

Nothing Missed, Everything Missed and Nothing Missed Everything Gained Volume II are fantastic reads in my humble opinion, well done pieces of work by a brand new author. The Glass Castle doesn't even come close, so far that is.


message 25: by Cionics (new)

Cionics You summarized my views pretty precisely. I'm frankly not sure why so many people are ecstatic about this book. It seems pretty embellished to me. Plus, the transition to NYC is so abrupt.


message 26: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Arens This book is amazing. If writing is here to help people understand one anothers experiences and to allow us to become one with the writers story, than Jeannette Walls has delivered. She explains her experiences and vividly scary, yet realistic memories very well.
It is so "matter of fact" while at the same time allowing you to see the beauty in all human beings. You can tell she comes from the very pit of her soul while writing.
I'm glad i didnt judge this book on such a level as Juliet,
so that I was able to experience the harsh beauty that this girls story has to offer.


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