Loretta's Reviews > You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates
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Sep 13, 2010

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Read from September 03 to 13, 2010

I need one of two things to pull me into a book: a compelling plot; or interesting, compelling characters. I have read really great books that only had one of those, but there has to be at least one - plot or character.

For the first 100 or so pages, this book had neither to me. I almost gave up on it, which I very rarely do. But I persevered, and when the book finally got into Warren, the oldest brother of this messed up 1950's family, I finally had a character I was interested in and cared about. Shortly after that, some plot things started happening, so, phew. I did care enough about the book to finish it.

But I didn't actually like it all that much. It had its moments, including some beautiful writing. But too much of the writing consisted of long, pointless stream of consciousness meanderings. They did not move the plot forward, and although they did reveal character, they did not do so in a way which made me care. The downward spiral of these characters messed up relationships all took fairly predictable turns - it was depressing as hell. There was a little bit of hope and redemption at the end, but not enough to have made all those digressions worthwhile to me.

Here's my fundamental problem with this book: have you ever the "rule" about plot - if there's a gun shown in Act I, it better be used by Act II? Well, there were guns shown, and never used, and I knew as soon as they were shown that they'd never be used.

Not in a big hurry to read any more JCO. Not writing her off altogether, but certainly not high on the "must read more" list.
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09/05/2010 page 150
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Renee Interesting comments. I read this so long ago that I don't remember the details, just that I liked it overall, and that it had a page in it that mesmerized me and I read over and over. It was one of those stream of consciousness pages, where the father is thinking about the bomb, and the need for the shelter, and then ends up saying that it's all about positive thinking in the end. I thought she captured something really interesting in the way his fear and anxiety were detailed and then the stupid little thought about positive thinking caps off the whole thing.

If you do go back to JCO, there are some others that I think are better. Blonde. Because it is bitter and because it is my heart. What I Lived For. I've read about a dozen -- but I make no pretense trying to read them all.


Loretta One of the good things about this book, which I should have commented on, was the insight into that whole Cold war/bomb shelter era - and both Lyle (the father building the bomb shelter) and Warren (the oldest son, peace activist for unilateral disarmament) were the most interesting characters to me, for how they deal with that whole thing so differently.

If I come across "Because it is bitter..." I might have to pick it up and give it a try, because that is a truly excellent book title. Right up there with "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter".


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