Note: some of our members have reported that not all read dates are showing on this page. While we work on making sure they correctly display on this page, you can still view your dates on your review or on the book page.
Caveat: What follows is the review of a book that I originally read and reviewed in May, 2000. My thoughts and review of the book today, I think, woulCaveat: What follows is the review of a book that I originally read and reviewed in May, 2000. My thoughts and review of the book today, I think, would not be the same as they were 16 years ago. However, since I have no intention of re-reading the book to provide an updated review, the following will have to suffice.
There are some books that are difficult to put down. Ann Beattie's first novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, published in 1976, kept my attention for twenty hours or so. The chilly scenes of winter tend to melt appropriately as one grows accustomed to Beattie's characters, who become like familiar friends you don't want to leave behind after the last page.
In some ways, this is a simple novel, but dangles into narrower and more profound themes, a sort of cultural expose that hints on issues as complex as defining gender or exploring the meaning of love. The narration is a bit jagged, which was disorienting in the first few pages, and I'm not sure I always appreciated Beattie's style of inserting images of previously described motifs into the stream-of-consciousness narration through the use of fragmented sentences. But it worked, and here and there it worked quite nicely.
Chilly scenes melted appropriately...Reading it in one sitting...
The strongest element in this novel is the characterization, coupled with the descriptions of daily experience. The protagonist, a twenty-six year old man, is a sort of cynical lover, who loves his womanizing best friend, loves his mother and perhaps even his step-father, and of course loves the woman he can't have. He is sentimental and idealistic at times, projecting Norman Rockwell images of his own desire for personal and familial communion, but he is also bitterly realistic, especially when this involves his own losses and his own mother's gradual loss of sanity. We are brought into his emotional realm in a concrete manner, able to empathize with him as he relates with the various characters who people Beattie's wry and ironic universe.
Another interesting element of Chilly Scenes... for me are the cultural references. Written in 1975, twenty-five years ago (when I was seven years old), the twenty-something baby-boomers in this work have quit drugs, settled down, grown a bit harried by responsibility and skeptical about man/woman relationships, yet still await Bob Dylan's latest, recommend Janis Joplin, wonder what kids on allegedly drug-free campuses do?, and see everyone in the world as possibly a bit crazy, and worthy of pity. The references to various pop musicians and celebrity figures of the time add a certain cultural quality to the novel, while at the same time expose the superficiality of the culture itself, especially in terms of defining love and interpersonal relationships in a meaningful way.
Overall, this novel is an entertaining and excellent read, with well developed characters, an intriguing plot, good descriptions and a lot of humor. It's chief drawback is that it ended too soon....more