I liked this a lot, so I must give it four stars. That isn't to say you will too. I will attempt to explain who and what the book is about and why itI liked this a lot, so I must give it four stars. That isn't to say you will too. I will attempt to explain who and what the book is about and why it spoke to me. I want to give you the feel of the book.
John O'Hara has in this novel imagined how it came to be that on June 8, 1931 the body of Marian Starr Faithfull, a beautiful young promiscuous socialite, liberal with drugs and drink, was discovered washed up on Long Beach, Long Island, New York. Accident, murder or suicide? The circumstances were never resolved. Two non-fiction crime books have been written about the death: The Girl On The Lonely Beach by Fred J. Cook and The Passing Of Starr Faithfull by Jonathan Goodman. Several novels have been written too. John O'Hara’s was the first and the one most well-known. In 1960 the movie BUtterfield 8, based on O’Hara’s book, starred Elizabeth Taylor. She won an Oscar for her role. The movie, the novels and what is actually known about the Starr Faithfull case all differ one from the other.
Look at the title. Are you wondering why the U is capitalized? BU refers to the telephone exchange number that went to the residences in a ritzy district of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
This is a novel where the characters are loose with their morals, drinking and sex. The setting is a posh area in NYC, the year 1931. Architects, journalists, industrialists, an aspiring author, Yale, Harvard and Princeton graduates hanging on to family name and wealth in the unstable years following the Great Depression and during the years of Prohibition—these are the protagonists. Times had been better, but the partying had not stopped.
So how has the author managed to write about such people? Why is it that readers do not turn away in disgust?
Gloria Wandrous, Weston Liggett and Eddie Brunner-- those are the three central characters to keep your eye on. Lots of characters are thrown at you in the beginning, and it can be difficult to make sense of what is happening. Be patient; you will recognize who is who soon. Even if the people perhaps do not live lives you admire, you can still come to like them. As you come to know what lies in their past, empathy and warm feelings grow. Gloria is just coping as best she can with what life has thrown at her. I felt a warm spot in my heart for Gloria, despite what she does. Eddie is her best friend, and I liked him a lot too. Weston is not my favorite, but even he is not all bad, through and through. An author who can make you see the good in such characters is talented.
The book contains sexual child abuse. There are both misogynist and racist statements. What is drawn is REAL life. If you cannot deal with that, the book is not for you.
I like the realism. I do not mind reading about gritty life circumstances. The sex is not graphic; it is candid and it is real and it remarkably well draws sex from a woman’s point of view.
The lines are bubbling over with humor. Dry humor that is sometimes satirical, sometime ironical, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
The author’s ability to draw people through what they say and what is going on in their head is fantastic. At home Gloria feels she is “surrounded by furniture she would not bump in the dark.” She observes how a police bitch (dog) teaches her favorite tan pup “hardly more than a little piece of meat……….to stand up like a man and not sit down like a pansy” to pee. What do you think of this proposal of marriage? “Remind me to marry you next summer.” And here is another description of Gloria: “She swung her butter knife like a bandmaster’s baton.” I have written down just a few fragments here and there, and maybe from these few bits you cannot get the mood or see the humor, but take my word for it, the lines are very, very good. The dialogs stand out as being exceptionally well-crafted.
The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Gretchen Mol. The story is told, moving from one character to another, often we are in the characters’ heads. When we are in Gloria’s head Mol’s intonation is utterly superb. Gloria is no demon, and hearing her voice as Mol speaks Gloria’s thoughts and words is the added dot over the i. When Mol speaks men’s words the intonation is not as good. They sound just a bit more base than the women, but if you are listening carefully to the author’s words you know who is speaking anyhow……..even if you might not easily hear it. Her intonation for Gloria is so wonderful, I simply would not want any other narrator. Mol adds a dimension to Gloria’s character that I love; the voice you hear mirrors who she is. I am glad to have listened to the audiobook rather than having read the paper format.
Are you up to a book that presents real life in NYC in the early 30s? Then this is a book for you. I lived in NYC, not in the 30s but in the 50s. The energy of the city feels palpable. You can easily read the story just for that, to capture the feel of the city....more
The book consists of six short stories and one novella. The stories come first and are the following: Alabama Jones Burl First Snow The Peacock Highwater KThe book consists of six short stories and one novella. The stories come first and are the following: Alabama Jones Burl First Snow The Peacock Highwater Kingdom County Come
My average rating for the six was only two stars. Only one, the last one, would I classify as nature writing, which is what I thought I would be getting. The last story was my favorite. Having liked it, I have given it three stars. It is about a man who is dying. He canoes and walks off alone into the wilderness, in a place called Lord’s Bog. The other stories left me totally cold. Basically, they said nothing to me. All are on the depressing side.
The novella, bearing the book’s title, follows the stories. It is about the elderly Noel and his housekeeper, Bangor. They live in the fictional Kingdom County of northeastern Vermont. The year is 1927. A dam is to be built. Noel’s property, which has belonged to his ancestors since the 1700s, will be covered with water….if the damn dam is built! Should he sell out? Should he move to Oregon? What will be the fate of his beloved land, of wilderness and untouched nature in the years to come? Logging and hunting is what he has always done. The land is what he knows. Without it, who is he?
The novella is sort of a continuation of the previous story entitled Kingdom County Come, the story I liked. In the novella, I liked the portrayal of the relationship between Noel and his housekeeper. The relationship is shown to be deeper than what is merely visible on the surface.
On the minus side, I found the novella to be confusing, primarily because of the numerous water-control and lumber trade terms used. The region’s dialect confused me too; the names used for fauna are those I am not acquainted with. Sure, you understand after a while, but when listening, as I was, you do loose information. There is a long section about Noel’s ancestors; here the story feels “told” rather than lived.
When I have pointed out what I liked about the novella, it is what I have come up with after searching; I simply did not enjoy the tale all that much as I listened. Parts are exciting. It is an action-filled adventure tale at the end. There are some lyrical lines about nature. It was OK, so I am giving it two stars, which is how I feel about the entire book and the narration too.
The audiobook is narrated by Pat Bottino. In two of the stories the central protagonist is a woman. There is also Bangor, who plays an important role in the novella. This narrator does not come close to sounding like a woman, not ever and not even the sturdy, down-to-earth, tough women portrayed in Howard Frank Mosher’s writing. Neither does the narrator pause when he should pause. I could understand the words (minus the dialect) so I could call the narration OK.
I was looking forward to this book like mad; I thought it would be much, much better. In this respect it was a disappointment....more