Suzanne's Reviews > In the Night Garden

In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
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's review
Dec 24, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: started-but-did-not-finish, fantasy
Read in December, 2011

I may go back to this book -- or I may not. As so many have noted, it is not a work you can pick up when you have a few minutes to read, and I simply don't have the hours to devote to reading it straight through. Although, frankly, I can't imagine doing that, either.

I can understand why so many rate it so highly, but -- the word "pretentious" keeps coming to mind. As well as "convoluted" and "needlessly complicated." Valente is clearly in love with language and words; her writing is deep and layered and frequently evocative. I think, though, that this works better in poetry than in prose, particularly in prose works of this length. After a dozen or so pages, it becomes a struggle to decode her metaphors and analogies. I was always aware of her use of language, of how she was using words to create images and characters, rather than being immersed in the world that was created. I suppose another word I would use is "labored."

Many reviewers note that she is following in the tradition of "1001 Nights." True -- but those stories end in a reasonable span of time; many of the stories are resolved before the next one begins. We do not have to struggle through to the middle of the woods before we can begin to work our way back out. Because of the constant change of setting, character, plot, etc., I began to feel as though I were reading a book about her characters and their stories, rather than reading their stories, a sort of academic summary of the plot, as it were.

The three stars do not, as Goodreads would have it, mean that I "liked it." They indicate that, while I personally did not like the work, did not finish it, and have no intention of even beginning the second book, I do recognize that the work is original, creative, stylistic, and all those good things -- for those who have the time to invest in it.
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