I borrowed this book from the library and could not bring myself to finish it before it was due. I didn't feel that it was worth renewing or purchasinI borrowed this book from the library and could not bring myself to finish it before it was due. I didn't feel that it was worth renewing or purchasing since I just could not get invested in the story. And I really ought to have been invested! I am Kanaka Maoli and grew up in Hawaii. I learned a lot about the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and some of my family members are active in the Sovereignty movement. What I am trying to say is that I wanted so much to love this book and am disappointed that I did not.
However, it should be noted that I am not the target audience for this novel. The target audience seems to be non-Hawaiians or those with less interest in or knowledge of Hawaiian history. Perhaps readers who are simply looking for historical fiction would be able to connect to the characters in ways that I could not.
It's not as if this novel is just poorly written. The author is definitely accomplished, but there were certain details that were not incorporated into the novel, and these details completely disrupted any suspension of disbelief that I was trying really hard to maintain. (I call it "finding the penny".)
The detail that made me return this book to the library rather than renew it or purchase it to add to my collection, was the absence of two critical parts of ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). The kahakō (macron) is placed above vowels to lengthen the sound of the vowel, which can completely change the meaning of a word. The ʻokina is a Hawaiian language consonant that looks like a backwards apostrophe (sort of) and indicates a glottal stop. This also completely changed the pronunciation, and therefore the meaning, of a word.
For example, the protagonist Laura is given the nickname of "Malolo" by David, a Native Hawaiian associated with the royal family. This made me alternately roll with laughter and roll my eyes with impatience, because I figured David was actually saying Mālolo, which means flying fish. (There is some great description of a flying fish that lands on the deck of the ship Laura takes to Hawaii, and I assumed that this was the author trying to use foreshadowing or other literary shenanigans to add more dazzle to the Laura / David sequences). However, the word malolo without the kahakō over the first a means either to rest or low, as in a tide. We call my teenage son "low tide" when he hasn't showered. Okay, so I know that's just a personal aside and that could definitely have been ignored if it wasn't the fact that Malolo is the name of a sugary drink syrup sold in Hawaii. We used to drink that because we couldn't afford actual juice. Also another personal aside, but hey. We read books personally don't we?
Maybe the kahakō was removed during printing and if that is the case then this is the fault of the publisher and not the author. Still, it should be noted.
Like I said, it was the that might not even register to other readers. BUT, these are big details to me. I am generally really thrilled that this book exists, because I LOVE seeing books about Hawaii and Hawaiian people. I seek them out aggressively and want to think really highly of any book about my homeland, so it is always a little disappointing to find one that just doesn't sit right.
There were character and storyline factors that kept me from enjoying this novel, so I guess my inability to finish this book, and this one star review, isn't only due to my pedantic ʻŌlelo issues. The writing was at times poetic and stirring, but other passages were extremely distant and reserved. I could not get a "handle" on any of the characters, save the seamstress that appears only in the beginning of the novel. I thought the beginning scene between the seamstress and the protagonist was one of the best one in the part of the novel I read. And when the royal family was introduced, I just couldn't get "into" them. And these are people I have revered since childhood! What a shame. Perhaps it would have gotten better, but I just could not bring myself to find out. And I am super bummed out about that.
I am only giving this book a one star because I did not finish it. I didn't think the passages I did read were only one star passages, and most likely the rest of the book isn't actually a one star book. But this (kind of stubborn) reader gave up on this story, so one star it is. If I ever finish the book in the future and change my mind, I'll let you know....more
This was my all time, number one, absolute favorite book when I was a child. It's one of those things that has survived my many moves, and not on acciThis was my all time, number one, absolute favorite book when I was a child. It's one of those things that has survived my many moves, and not on accident.
The illustrations are simple but absolutely beautiful and perfectly fitting with the theme of imagination. They're almost deceptively simple and I adored looking at them, trying to figure out how to imitate whatever was depicted.
Christina Katerina's imaginative play always inspired me to create my own fantastical tea party or castle or race track and I'm glad that I am able to share that love of pretend with my own kids. I read it to my twelve year old over and over when he was little and he still remembers it almost as fondly as I do. My daughter is one and while I'm not ready to share it with her because she's still chewing on everything, I can't wait 'till she's ready. Hmmm, I wonder if it's available as a board book... ...more
The premise is solid and exciting, and Amy Hatvany clearly has the chops to tackle this subject matter; she handles the charUltimately disappointing.
The premise is solid and exciting, and Amy Hatvany clearly has the chops to tackle this subject matter; she handles the characters of David and young Eden with beauty and grace. The treatment of present day Eden, however, feels like it belongs in a completely different book of lesser quality. The build up of David and young Eden feel organic and authentic. While heavy handed, even the cooking scenes seemed to fit somehow. Without that feel of authenticity, the present day cooking scenes felt belaboured and the characters surrounding Eden all felt like caricatures or stereotypes. Eden's idealistic (but wealthy, fortunately for the final scene) boyfriend ties up the lessons to be learned in tidy little bows and I didn't feel like Eden had to stretch very far as a character. Even her big "explosion" at her mother seemed to fall flat. Where there should have been YELLING, there was only yelling.
The absolute worst part of this book was a literary tic that Hatvany displayed when trying to convey a sense of...intimacy or I don't even know what during moments of dialogue. On a few occasions, characters would say something - and I don't have the direct quotes here but this is pretty dang close - with their chins lowered to their chests. The first time, it seemed weird. The second time? Okay maybe that's what this one character does. Got it. But when other characters did the same thing, it was a giant throbbing thumb.
With that being said, I will be seeking out other Amy Hatvany works, because the bits in this book that work, work beautifully. And even for all my issues with the book, I am very glad to have read it.
I'm giving this book a generous rating of two stars as an average. Broken into two pairs of loosely related stories, the book in its entirety deals wiI'm giving this book a generous rating of two stars as an average. Broken into two pairs of loosely related stories, the book in its entirety deals with the processes of birth. Three of the stories deal specifically with childbirth and one of them with the birthing process of artistic creation, as an author struggles with the aftermath of having published one of the other stories in the book. Incidentally, the "book" that the fictional writer had just published was my favorite of the four stories and almost made my bump my entire rating up the three stars, and so while I thought his presence in the book was pretty darn boring (and it wasn't mentioned on the back of the book either) I still had a soft spot for his character.
I have to say that I really liked the themes in here, and the connectivity between the stories, and I wanted so much to come away from this reading with a positive feeling. Instead, each of the pieces ended exactly where the stories became the most intriguing and I was left feeling disappointed. I was trying to be analytical and hypothesize that the stories ended like that on purpose just as pregnancy's natural culmination of birth is both an end and an exciting beginning, but if that was the author's intent, then I felt like I had to reach to get to it. It felt as if this book was just a revision of a later, more powerful and refined final draft that would have pulled all of these ideas together more profoundly.
The stories themselves were mostly interesting in their own way as well, but in the end I found each one of them lacking. I thought the characters were only halfway interesting and so I only halfway cared about anything that happened to them. I was, however, very impressed with the author's ability to move between the various voices effectively and give each piece a distinctly different voice. For the most part I thought that the writing displayed was very skilled. The imagery used was very impressive. But it just wasn't enough.
The greatest disappointment, even above the homebirthing character's complete lack of understanding of homebirths or perhaps even birth in general, was the manner in which the futuristic birth story was presented. Written as a series of interviews, it wasn't long before the story that I had been anticipating most became my least favorite to read. I wanted to know more about the society the prisoners had fled and the illegal, wild village that they had briefly held together, but the author chose otherwise. The repetition of the questioning and the insistent changes in language could have been interesting in a longer novel, but as the stand alone representation of the author's world, it was actually kind of annoying. Even finding out at the end how this story was connected to another one in the book was totally uninteresting, though the revelation could have been sublime.
I'll definitely seek out other works by this author, as I think she's very talented. But I just hope that her stories and executions are better refined in other publications. ...more
**spoiler alert** I adored this book, but couldn't get beyond the first few pages until the second try, over a year later. It sat on my bookshelf unti**spoiler alert** I adored this book, but couldn't get beyond the first few pages until the second try, over a year later. It sat on my bookshelf until I had absolutely nothing else to read in my house, and in desperation I decided to go ahead and start it again until I could get to the library or bookstore. Two days later, I gave it a 5 star rating here. Not too bad for a book I thought I'd be hating...
The story is dark and gruesome, but the writing is so enveloping and pert that I didn't feel as if I was reading some overwrought, swooning gothic novel. The story moves at a fast clip without sacrificing imagery or robust secondary characters; both can be found in great abundance. I really did feel immersed in the town of Sunderland, trapped by the quarantine and fearful of the cholera epidemic. The town's citizens effectively helped convey the everyday life of our primary characters, and some of the more outlandish actions taken by them had more impact and seemed more realistic when taken in context of their surroundings.
I did find the events at the end to move along a little too quickly, much like the end of Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth when I wanted to relish one antagonist's grisly comeuppance, but just as in that novel, it actually seemed like the point here. Being swept away by the momentum of the mob mentality, there was little time for reflection on the intensity of the action, which was a beautiful contrast to the very descriptive writing used to convey previous dissections of sneakily acquired cadavers. To me, however, the pace did seem a little too frantic. Rushed.
Gustine's son is an interesting plot device rather than a character, but I have to admit that I didn't think that his passing was conveyed with enough intensity. True, it triggers the whirlwind action of the rest of the story and maybe it was the writer's intention to have that moment spark the frantic energy that would take the reader almost to the very end of the book. But still. Same as the action mentioned above.
Speaking of the end, I found the resolution of this story very satisfying. Having learned much about the character of The Eye and her similarities to the young girl Pink, it was wonderful to leave the book feeling hopeful for Pink's future. I found her to be completely annoying throughout the novel and could not even feel sorry for the lack of attention that led to her, well, stupidity. But as I was happy to hear in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that moving away from Longborn and staying close to the Elizabeth's influence at Pemberly helped mature and change Kitty, I was relieved to read that Pink may have had a chance, with Gustine's help and away from her own father's lodging house. And, in the end, I felt horribly sorry for The Eye, misunderstood, even by herself, until the very end.
If you've picked up this book and couldn't get into it immediately, I encourage you to at least give it a good try again. That is, if frank discussion of human dissection and grave robbing isn't reason enough for you to turn away. ...more
The diary format makes this a quick read and if it weren't for the fact that the author is using already deCome for the novelty, stay for the orgies!
The diary format makes this a quick read and if it weren't for the fact that the author is using already developed characters, the book might be highly entertaining. However, even the very Austen-like writing can't improve upon the disparities found between the original characters and ones found in this version. Don't mistake my point; I enjoyed the book on its own merits and it may have warranted even a generous THREE stars. But because I was expecting to see familiar faces, the rating must be reflective of my dissatisfaction. The original Mr. Darcy is too much of a prig, highly aware of propriety, to carry out some of the more licentious behaviors scripted for him in this raucous retelling. Risk the Darcy name with the chance of a bastard with a Netherfield maid? And did I say orgies? Yes, orgies. Not one, but two orgies hosted by Lord Byron? Oh, Darcy. What have they done to you?
If you're looking for even more seduction and intrigue than was found in the original telling of the Darcy / Elizabeth romance and absolutely insist on descriptions of Mr. Wickham's half naked form, then do not hesitate reading this tawdry tale. But before you delve deep, or even beyond the fist few pages, be prepared to cast aside the characters you know and love (and those you love not at all) in exchange for wholly new personalities. If you can do that adequately (and I could not, in the end), then you might think this a very worthwhile diversion. However, if that is truly your aim, you might better be served by a reading of the very enjoyable Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen....more
*****I want to say up front that this is an essay on having read this novel, and not your typical review. If you think this kind of thing is dumb, tha*****I want to say up front that this is an essay on having read this novel, and not your typical review. If you think this kind of thing is dumb, that's fine for you but this means a great deal to me so please don't bitch at me for not talking enough about this amazing novel. I'm not here for that.*****
I am excited about the trip, but still I am angry. Taking my children home is important to me, but this is not just a homecoming. It is a fact finding mission. One I resent having to make.
We fly on Tuesday and are in Target on Saturday to find things to entertain the children on the plane. The youngest gets activity books and the oldest gets novels. I am not getting anything because I already have three non-fiction titles packed away. I don't expect to actually read them, of course. After all, this is traveling with children.
It is also traveling with purpose. No matter how much I am looking forward to seeing relatives I haven't seen for over a decade, I know what waits for me on Thursday. We're touring what is effectively our family cemetery, looking at a plot sort of near our dearly departed to see if we want to place Mom's ashes there. Eight urns can fit in the plot. I've already decided it would be comforting to me to know where my remains would go after my death, so this would be my plot too. Me and mom in the ground together, whenever that would be. It feels weird to think of it, but there you have it.
Funeral arrangements are never a vacation.
I don't even know what kind of funeral arrangements we're looking for, to tell you the truth. Mom never gave us instructions.
“Just do whatever makes the most sense to you,” she told me over and over again. I am terrified of this phrase. She never actually means it.
I am angry at Mom, livid that she gave us absolutely no ideas on what to do with her remains. But I am going to make this as pleasant as possible, and not only for the children. I have been homesick in earnest every single day for at least the past four years – since Mom died. I weep for my Koʻolaus at least once a week. And now, here I am. Buying coloring books to keep my daughter busy on the plane.
I tell my son he is buying two books I've selected and he is arguing with me. This is how it always goes with us. I read the back to see if the plot would be remotely interesting to him and then read a few pages in the beginning and in the middle to see if the writing is engaging. His style, so to speak. I've rejected six or seven titles already and have found one that is a definite yes. Another most likely yes. I tell him I'm getting them both and he groans. He doesn't want reading. He is just here to tell me that none of these titles are good enough and he needs to go a few aisles down to electronics instead.
I say no, this is what you're getting, and walk out of the YA book aisle, towards the childrens' books because maybe there is something there exactly right for my young daughter. A slender novel falls off a shelf and lands on my foot, and I laugh because I actually was frightened for a moment. I pick the book up off the floor and reach to put it back on the shelf, only there is no place for it. It doesn't belong in this section.
I look at the cover again, read the title and the author: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I remember seeing mention of it in my social media channels and being deeply intrigued. I peek at the first pages and put the book in my cart. I guess I am getting something for myself after all.
I read the first chapter that night, immediately inserted into the Lee family's anxiety. The prose is crisp, easy. Pulling, really. Driving. I realize I am turning the pages faster and faster as the night goes on. I don't want to but I pack the book away, saving the rest for the plane.
Once we're in the air and my son turns on his laptop, I open the book again. The novel, Ng's debut, is a powerful read about a mixed-race family and their struggles to live a "normal" life in their small 1970s Ohio town. The tragedy of the middle daughter's drowning is laid out in the opening line and the entire book centers around this unchangeable, devastating fact. The question of who Lydia actually was during her short, apparently complicated life quickly becomes the thrilling whodunnit of this deeply personal look into one family's relationship with themselves and their community. The layers of truth about togetherness, separateness, and secrecy are revealed in how each character operates within the confines of this very tightly knit mixed-race family.
I suddenly find myself delighted, giddy almost. I look back at the cover for a second and realize I accidentally bought a book that has me positioned squarely inside its target audience.
Being mixed-race and growing up in a racially diverse place such as Hawaiʻi makes the story of the Lee family seem all at once familiar and foreign to me. I understand inherently the complications of a family coming together and splitting apart in very different ways and with very different agendas. I feel that I know Lydia's parents and their opposing ideas about quiet assimilation and assertion of differences. Small, nuanced sentences detailing the conflict of trying to find a place in the world leave me feeling both sorrowful and understood. I weep at many passages, finding in the book a deep resonance with so many of the lessons I learned as a child.
What isn't familiar is the concept of growing up mixed-race in a small town that just doesn't know how to deal with "Orientals". (The term is used throughout the book, which I know is meant to be jarring to our current sensibilities. After all, Oriental was the acceptable term back then and I need to remember this story is not set in the present. It is set in different, perhaps more...complicated era, which gives Ng's characters a more complicated stage for their drama.)
In Hawaiʻi, pretty much everybody is mixed something. I think back to goofy competitions with classmates in which whoever was the most mixed (could claim the most different ancestries) won. I couldn't conceive of a place where we would be the "other" so to speak. Moving to the Northwest from Hawaiʻi and finally learning about these kinds of differences made me realize how blessed I was to grow up part Hawaiian in in (some of) my ancestors' homeland. And reading this book as an adult gives me much to think about the differences between now and the 1970s of my youth. Of Lydia's youth.
Lydia's struggle to perform for her parents is deeply familiar to me. I know too well the desire to be a good enough daughter to keep your mother from disappearing yet again. It is terrifying and it is confusing, and it can be so, so damaging. But most of all, it cannot be done. Living someone else's version of your ideal life is an impossible journey and many of us paddle away from shore just trying to find the courage to find our own way. Many of us do not make it.
My own mother disappeared on us regularly, and while she didn't engage in Marilyn Lee's meticulously planned, secret flight to finish medical school, her icy silences could last weeks. Whenever I was deprived of her motherly sunshine, I felt bereft, clingy, and utterly insecure. Like Lydia, I would promise my mother anything, agree to anything, in order to coax from her the gift of her company. But unlike Lydia, I wasn't ever able to keep my promises. I failed my mother early and often, pushing her away again and again. Or so that's how it seemed to my pre-adolescent mind. I believed, and still sometimes do, that I earned my mother's silent treatment through the undeniable truth of my inadequacy.
I remember my years of small, irrational rebellions against the notion of perfection, when the relationship between me and my mother vacillated between strained and explosive. I deeply cared about her opinion of me and tried in vain to be good enough in her eyes. But whenever I faltered (and I faltered often), she withdrew from me again. Chilled by both my mother's absence and my knowledge that I would always be wrong no matter how hard I tried, I engaged in angry, destructive behaviors as if to prove exactly how much I did not care.
Of course, this was never actually the case.
There may have been no winning with my mother, but she was laid back in comparison to some of my friends' mothers. I know very well many girls who could have been Lydia. Who tried everything they could to walk the paths laid out before them. To do what was not just good, but perfect. I know even more who rejected the very thought of meeting their parents' ideas of perfection, seeing it for the trap it was.
Watching Lydia have this same kind of epiphany, become determined to have her own little rebellion is heartbreaking. I knew from the beginning how her story would end, but it was a mere data point in those long ago pages. By the time I reach the end of her point of view chapters, I know Lydia. I know the terrifying abandonment she has suffered and is preparing to suffer as her brother's departure for college looms. I understand the bizarre compulsion that leads her to the lake of her undoing. I feel how mixed-up she is; how literally misguided. This is her first delirious attempt at doing something completely her way, and she is lost for it. And all of it, the whole entire gut-wrench of a novel, is there to show us exactly how her entire family and the world around them helped this tragedy occur.
I am angry at the Lee family on behalf of Lydia. I am angry at Ohio on behalf of the Lees. I read another passage about fitting in, about trying to find one's place in the whole shitstorm of racist, sexist, America and I tuck the book back into the seat pocket. I wipe my eyes again and wonder how many times I've had to do so while reading this small, quick little read. All of them, I laugh to myself. I have cried exactly all of the times.
I open the book again. I only have a few pages left to read and we're not even halfway to Hawaiʻi. I look over at my son, who is reading the definite yes book I bought for him at Target. I ask him how it is and he tells me it's the best book he's read in a long time. I tear up at this too, knowing that I chose that title because it seemed like the kind of book he likes to read, not the kind of book I think he should read.
I am grateful, I think. Absolutely relieved. I finish the book and cry again. I think about my appointment at the cemetery on Thursday. I think about Mom. I am still angry. Resentful that my sister and I have to decide where she should rest, when every decision we've ever made left her sullen, withdrawn. There is no way to do this right, I told my sister once while planned this trip back home. No way for us to know what she might have actually wanted.
I think back to Lydia, the way she died just on the cusp of the life she was going to live for her. I think of my mother's silence. I realize, as if for the first time that my mother is dead. That there truly is no way to know what she would have wanted. What kind of funeral, what place of final resting, would have made her happy. I realize that my mother knew this trip was not for her, but for me. We'll rest her where we think is best, and we will do our best to honor our decision. It's the very last thing we will ever be able to do for her, and she won't even be there to see it.
Mom is gone, and we are here. This is our call and there are no wrong answers. We will do our best without asking her approval, because finally, finally, it doesn't matter. We'll never know if Mom would have approved or not because she isn't able to. She is gone. Her icy silence has turned to mere quiet, and we are the ones left to decide how to go on. ...more
Having read this immediately after the ridiculously raucous The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, I found myself satisfied with this author's rendering of oHaving read this immediately after the ridiculously raucous The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy, I found myself satisfied with this author's rendering of our noble hero, yet found everything else about the book completely lacking. This version follows the Darcy we know and love fairly faithfully, but that may very well be the novel's undoing. While it may seem interesting to read the "he said" side of the story, in this attempt, it actually...isn't.
Still, the story is familiarly sweet and the diary format clips right along making this a very quick read. And since, admittedly, you'd only be reading something like this because you wanted to spend more time with Lizzy and Darcy and Bingley and Jane, and yes, even Mr. Collins, it is definitely not a waste of the sparse time and effort you'd exert in its consumption. If you're looking for a Mr. Darcy diversion while in bed with a cold or on the bus to and from work, you could do far worse. ...more