It was not a bad experience reading this book, but I don't get all the hype? Maybe it's just that I don't really do well with novellas, but I really fIt was not a bad experience reading this book, but I don't get all the hype? Maybe it's just that I don't really do well with novellas, but I really felt underwhelmed when the story ended. There are lots of implications in the end, and all that is unsaid is just as important as things that were said. Ah well, at least it was short enough so I can at least be happy that I read one book in September....more
I loved this book from the very first page. I have read Marie Lu's writing before, but that was many years back, and I don't remember much. Reading ThI loved this book from the very first page. I have read Marie Lu's writing before, but that was many years back, and I don't remember much. Reading The Kingdom of Back really surprised me in a very very pleasant way. To begin with, Lu made a brilliant move by choosing Nannerl Mozart as a protagonist and introduced me (and I'm sure other readers) to this overlooked character in history. Nannerl reminds me of Woolf's concept of Shakespeare's sister, but also the very real Dorothy Wordsworth (although apparently Dorothy wasn't really interested in being a published author). Lu really made me wonder how many other sisters, mothers, wives we have heard of only in passing or perhaps not at all - women who never had the chance to even attempt to be immortal.
I am very much taken by the way Nannerl's ambition is described. I love that her ambition is never given less importance than her love for her brother. I love how beautifully Marie Lu shows that it is easy to be jealous of or even hate the person you love the most. When I read The Shadows Between Us a few months back, I was really upset about how that book (which I really disliked btw) was marketed as Slytherin romance, when the protagonist was just plain old evil with no other dimension. Instead, at the risk of empirical reduction, I would say that Nannerl is a much more appropriate candidate for a Slytherin protagonist.
Marie Lu's writing style is stunning here - extremely lyrical and poetic and very appropriate for a book that essentially puts music at its core. I loved that she latched on to the "kingdom of back" that the Mozart siblings had thought of when they were children, and the way she connects real life events to the magical, faerie-related story line. The way Lu deals with the aspect of gender discrimination is also worthy of praise - I could feel Nannerl's pain as she repeatedly failed to even gain respect from her own father. I also really appreciated that Lu kept it very realistic by showing the struggle at the most basic domestic sphere. Feminist historical fiction, especially young adult, sometimes tends to ignore the more core struggles and focuses on the larger context, and the patriarchal society is more of an external difficulty to otherwise snarky and bold heroines (which may be great fun to read, but isn't always very realistic). The Nannerl in The Kingdom of Back just felt so much more real, I almost forgot that I was reading a fictional version of the real woman's story.
My only issue with the book was that it could have been even better. I would have loved it if Lu had developed the other characters a bit more - especially Nannerl's mother and even Woferl to some extent. I understand that we only see Nannerl's perspective, but there were some details that were mentioned here and there about Woferl's ambiguous connection to the kingdom of Back that were not pursued later on. Moreover, even Nannerl's character itself could have been even more complex and interesting (I'm thinking along the lines of Hilary Mantel's character building style for some reason).
In general, however, The Kingdom of Back was a book I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend it to any fan of historical fiction (YA or otherwise). Some kind soul has also made a beautiful public playlist on Spotify which is perfect to listen to as you read the book!...more
I had really low expectations, so this was a pleasant surprise.
A couple of years back, I read The Testament of Mary by the same author, and wasn't ablI had really low expectations, so this was a pleasant surprise.
A couple of years back, I read The Testament of Mary by the same author, and wasn't able to engage with that narrative at all. There were many references I missed, and the writing did not attract me at all. So although I'm very interested in retellings of Greek mythology, I went into this one almost reluctantly.
But I found the writing much more engaging here, and the characters were beautifully crafted. Each of the POV characters - Clytemnestra, Orestes and Electra - had very distinct voices, and their individual narratives helped to unify the plot as a whole in a very smooth manner. There were some parts of this book that were strangely moving, and filled me with an odd sort of melancholy. I still don't understand all the references and possible metaphors/symbols, but I can say for sure that I enjoyed reading the novel. Which is such an improvement from The Testament of Mary.
Note: I have to mention this really interesting thing that Toibin did - an old woman tells a story to Orestes' friend, who tells Orestes about it, and I was very intrigued by the story because although it sounded like a myth, it didn't seem to be a Greek one. I found out after some intense Googling that it is actually an Irish myth. I wonder why he added that. ...more
This novel was slow, especially in the beginning. It took me days to get past the 30% mark. I used to read it It's difficult for me to rate this book.
This novel was slow, especially in the beginning. It took me days to get past the 30% mark. I used to read it every morning for about 5 minutes, and then move on to other books/work. The writing is pretty good - it's refreshing, but not to the point of seeming like the author is trying too hard. But lyrical quotes do not a good book make, especially when the plot is all over the place. After a point, however, things get more interesting - there is a story within a story, the protagonist gets some character development, we finally begin to piece together the magic realism part.
And then the ending.
Oh that ending.
It was beautiful. I loved the fact that things were tied up well but not too well. I was very invested in the story-within-the-story, and I loved how that part got resolved. And then there were some more beautiful lines which made me really, really like this book. I think the racial angle could be done better, and the magic realism could be justified more clearly, but overall I did end up enjoying the last part a lot.
It won't be my favourite book, but I'll remember it well. ...more