Jessica's Reviews > The Alienist

The Alienist by Caleb Carr
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's review
Oct 12, 2007

did not like it
bookshelves: here-is-new-york, aborted-efforts
Recommended for: someone with different tastes


I thought this book was gonna be soooooooo awesome, and I was just gonna love it sooooo much. Everyone loved this book, remember?? Plus it is about one of my favorite periods in American history, and parts of it take place in my beloved Bellevue Hospital (the old one that's a shelter now -- the best example ever of "transinsitutionalization")!

Alas, the harder they come, the harder they fall. Maybe I didn't stick it out long enough -- do I ever? -- but I just couldn't stand the writing style. Also, I don't have the stomach I did when I was younger, but I can still handle pretty graphic, disturbing content if it's done right. I didn't feel like it was done right. James Ellroy can give you the gruesome, sensationalistic forensics report, and it works; this guy, according to me, cannot. This book had no soul, or no heart, or something....

Ah, but who knows, maybe I was just cranky when I read it. This book had so much going for it -- Theodore Roosevelt! New York City history! Nascent psychiatry! -- that it must be good.... right?
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Reading Progress

October 12, 2007 – Shelved
October 12, 2007 – Shelved as: here-is-new-york
July 2, 2016 – Shelved as: aborted-efforts

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Jessica Oh man. Everyone on Bookster LOVED this book. Should I give it another shot? Was I just being a jerk? Is there something wrong with me????

message 2: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:05PM) (new)

Rachel The people on Bookster love everything.

message 3: by matthew (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new)

matthew i just love that head doctors were once called alienists (though i knew that before this book came out)!

message 4: by Lesley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesley I really liked this book, but I really only read it because I found myself at the airport with nothing to read and this is exactly the sort of book you find in airport gift shops (along with Harry Potter and Bridget Jones). But let me tell you it was a fantastic airplane read! Try reading it on an airplane next time. Perhaps an airplane to Boston!

message 5: by Monica (new)

Monica When Jessica says "blech!", I say "ok, nuff said."

message 6: by Cyn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cyn Plodding - that's what this book was. I was quite disappointed.

message 7: by Sawan (new) - added it

Sawan grrrr. put me off it now.

message 8: by Pam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pam B Great book. Lots of history of New York in the early days. The writing is great and after a slow first chapter it grabs you and you can't put it down. Of course if you're only into romance novels or cat mysteries or the like you won't like this!

message 9: by Cyn (last edited Jun 19, 2013 11:27PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cyn Dislike for this has zero to do with romance novels or cat mysteries - whatever the heck those are.

If you're only into well-crafted novels you won't like it! :p

Michael O'Neill Thank you, thank you, thank you. I kept seeing four and five star reviews for this book and had to ask "Is it just me?" If you didn't read this book all the way through to the end you are lucky. If you didn't like the first three quarters (or however much it was) you would have hated the last quarter. It totally fell apart with elementary school "how do I get out of this?" writing. It just kept getting worser and worser.
Every time I see a Caleb Carr book front and center at any bookstore (except the airport, which doesn't count) I give it a very wide berth. Contrived, juvenile, escapist, and enough to convince me never to pick up a book by this so-called author again.(less)

message 11: by Zachary (new)

Zachary F. I think I accidentally flagged this review... My bad if I did!

Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Plodding. That's the word I was looking for. I read all of it, but only because at that time I was desperate for anything written in English that didn't have to do with my work. It just didn't grab me and I didn't find the main character believable, even as a Gary Stu figure.

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