Jacquelynn Luben's Reviews > Songs of the Humpback Whale

Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
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's review
Nov 20, 2010

liked it

I found this to be a very readable book, whilst on the other hand, feeling able to criticise its structure and some of its characterisation. Having recently included my thoughts on the structure of a novel at a presentation, I felt qualified to make this judgement.

After a crisis at home, Jane leaves Oliver, taking her teenage daughter with her. Because, ostensibly, she’s no good at finding her way across America, her brother, Joley, feeds her information via letters, a device which enables her to do a tour of sights in the USA and perhaps allows the author to describe places which she enjoyed visiting herself. This was the first unlikely thing to happen. Jane describes her trip to get to her brother chronologically, whilst her daughter, Rebecca, describes all the events, including the very dramatic happenings once they reach Uncle Joley’s apple farm, backwards. I could find no good reason for doing this, because it took away every element of surprise, and whilst I hoped the author would pull something else out of the bag at the end – she didn’t.

The husband Oliver seemed to be a workaholic, which was not the most unforgiveable sin as far as I could see. And he didn't celebrate family birthdays. I'm quite familiar with that myself and couldn't help feeling she should 'get over it.'

I also could not believe in the characters’ emotions and reactions to some of the events. In particular, regarding the death which occurs, I felt there would be much more grief, guilt and anger – which is not shown.

I took the title to be a reference to the different ways in which men try to attract or behave towards women. A good title, perhaps, because, it fitted the current trend of rather cryptic titles and got your interest. I haven’t read the author before, and understand from many people who have that this is a far inferior novel to some of her others, and this, I am prepared to believe.

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