**spoiler alert** I think I'm going to leave this one at 30% and just save it, maybe coming back to it someday. I don't dislike it, mind you. 15 years**spoiler alert** I think I'm going to leave this one at 30% and just save it, maybe coming back to it someday. I don't dislike it, mind you. 15 years ago, I'd have gobbled this up and likely stayed up for days to finish it. But I've been a really finicky reader lately, and it's frustrating - why can't I just enjoy something and leave it at that? - but also oddly freeing. In cases like this, it's saving my slogging through something I like but don't love, which is good, I guess.
My main issue here, technically speaking, is the point of view. It's obvious early on that the present tense of the narrator is far into the future of the place where the story begins, and in some early spots - while we're in the thick of Darius' retreat, for instance - we're allowed small asides, interjections of perspective, from older Bagoas. But those spots are few and far between, and when the POV shrinks down to only his relationship with Alexander, none of that perspective is available anymore and we're stuck, reflection-less, in the psyche of a teenager. To be fair, that teenager is absolutely the only person who should be telling this story, given the vast amounts of abuse that have been heaped upon his body and mind. But much as I love Renault, it turns out I don't trust her with this boy's point of view or with his tone. She's shallow in her treatment of both his story and the larger cultures through which the story moves, which is fine for the era in which this book was published but not enough for me now. I'm just... the wrong reader, I think. I wanted more.
I'll very likely pick this up again when I have more downtime - postponed, not altogether abandoned, for now....more
It's been a couple of hours since finishing it, and I've never been so torn about a book. This is a consequence of its structure and rhythms, I think It's been a couple of hours since finishing it, and I've never been so torn about a book. This is a consequence of its structure and rhythms, I think - it's a slow-moving quick read, a book inside a book (or maybe a book outside a book, it's hard to say), a personal journal and writing manual and literary bitchfest and elegy and love story that is simultaneously none of those things. Somewhere in the middle of it there is a sentence, something like "If you find the right tone, you can write about anything," which may just be the most direct hint as to what this book is. Or maybe it's not so much about tone as about structure and form. It's like taxidermy, in a way. Like a mismatched musical score.
There are standout parts - for me, anyway. The 2nd person POV is engrossing and lovely. The dog - the dog!! - is terrifyingly well-drawn. I've never read a book before that takes such care to understand the linguistic and epistemological divide between a human narrator and a (let's face it, alien) intelligence.
But. But! The conceit, the metafiction aspects of it, I don't know what to do with those bits. I didn't want them. So I'm torn.
It's a heartbreaker though, be warned, and so affecting....more