Monday, April 19, 2010

Atonement - Ian McEwan

yes, yes. THE MOVIE TIE IN EDITION. It's what the library gave me, okay? And yes, it makes it impossible to read the book without picturing the lovely Kiera Knightley as the rebellious Cecilia or the oh so dreamy James McAvoy as tortured Robbie. But, you know what? Who cares? I loved this book. And maybe it would have been heartbreaking for me if I had pictured Ryan Gosling the whole time I read the book and then found out later that James McAvoy was given the part of Robbie.

Oh wait, I'm not 14. And this isn't Twilight. Har har.

So, anyway, all of you movies adapted from books/movie tie in editions of books haters can just shut it.

This novel was incredible. So incredible, it only took me a week to read it! Can you believe it, friends? ONE WEEK. I'm not so much proud of myself (I can read a book in a day if I really want to, duh), but more so excited that I found a book on the list that I actually found completely captivating. I had to know what happened next. And so I found myself coming home after 9 or 10  hour work days, fixing myself a drink and taking a bubble bath with this book. Even in a complete state of exhaustion I was compelled to find out what that little bitch Briony would do next.

Oh, am I being too insensitive? Was Briony just a sheltered, precocious child who made a mistake and was bullied into sticking by her lie? No freakin' way. She was a spoiled brat. And even if she thought she was protecting her sister, it doesn't take long to realize that everything has gone to shit and maybe you should tell someone the truth. Maybe then a great love isn't destroyed. Maybe then you don't turn the lives of everyone around you into a complete tragedy. I have no sympathy for Briony. I thought her attempt at redemption (becoming a nurse, really?) was completely trite and her falsified "atonement" only infuriated me. 

Have you ever actually become angry while reading an epilogue? Because I totally did. I was pissed. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU MADE THAT LAST SCENE UP? WHAT? WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME???" Okay, I didn't actually shout, but only because The BF was very focused on his video game, and also, shouting at midnight makes neighbors very angry. But I was shouting on the inside. My little stomach was swinging its fists and my blood cells were a'boilin'.  

The gist: Another depressing novel, yes. Tragic to the very (infuriating) end. But, so, so worth it. It's beautifully told and so gripping you won't be able to think about anything else until you've finished. And even then, you'll probably mutter to yourself occasionally about that little b-word, Briony.

UPDATE: OHMYGOD. You mention that stupid vampire series ONCE (AS A JOKE), and google starts putting ads up for ways to "find your own Edward". BARF. I hope putting this here doesn't mean I get more crappy ads. Just to be safe:

A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray (seriously read it....amazing!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

American Pastoral - Phillip Roth

Yes, it took me a long while to read this book. After reading 3 books in January, I took a few weeks off, and then decided to dive back into the list with Phillip Roth's American Pastoral. I could not get into this book for the life of me. It took me weeks (months?) to get through the first of three parts. Once I made it past that, though, the rest of the book was a great read. The first part is a first person narration of growing up in a town with Swede Levov, our protagonist. Swede was the boy next door, the all american boy with great looks, and incredible athletic talent. He had it all, and everybody loved him, wanted him/wanted to be him. While I understand Roth's purpose behind this first part of the book (to demonstrate how great it was -from an outsider's perspective- to be Swede Levov growing up. How years later when they meet up again, the narrator is shocked to find that Swede appears to be an empty shell.) It seemed as though his life was an easy ride and he never had to stop and wonder about the world and his place in it. I understand this introduction to the story, but it also seemed unnecessary. I almost feel like it takes away from the actual story.

The next two parts have more of an omnipotent narrator; whether this is the same narrator from the first part now just writing Swede's story, I'm still unclear on. Please feel free to let me know if you've also read this book. Either war, the narrator was right. Swede's life was pretty great. He grew up, married a beauty queen, successfully ran his father's business, and bought his dream house. He was living the "American Dream". The only blemish on this perfect life was his stuttering daughter. Merry grew up angry and embittered by her inability to live up to her parent's legacy of perfection. As the story takes place in the 1960s, Merry uses the Vietnam war as her outlet. At 16, she commits an act of terrorism in their hometown of Old Rimrock and it changes everything for Swede. It is only now that he begins to question everything; to look inside himself for answers. This is where the real story begins. His internal struggle is sometimes to difficult to witness, but that is only a testament to the sheer brilliance of Roth's writing. I'm not surprised this novel won the Pulitzer, as it tears apart what it means to be an American and puts it back together in a jumbled, wonky sort of way. The way most of us can relate to (not that we all have children that commit violent acts and ruin our lives, but in that no life is perfect and we all have our problems).

I highly recommend this one. As usual, this novel is a bit of a downer (pretty on par with the list thus far), but all great stories have a bit of tragedy to them, right?

 If you're like me and struggle with the first 100 or so pages, don't give up on it! It's worth it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

3 books, 1 post

Holy weirdness, Batman. This is absolutely the best book on the list I've read so far. My mind is blown. The characters are so wonderfully written, you can see them; you almost know them. The dialogue between these characters is so off the wall and outrageous, I couldn't help but get giddy about it. Don Delillo makes what should be a simple conversation about the weather into something completely wacky and hilarious, but still incredibly brilliant. Periodically, I'd take a break from reading and find myself in awe. This book is unlike anything I have ever read. It's almost too brilliant. If you read this book and don't end up thinking that Heinrich is the coolest kid you'll ever come across, you fail.

You have to read this book!

Wow. Heartbreaking. Depressing. Beautiful. Tragic. These are the only words I can muster to describe this novel. Things Fall Apart is a story that takes place in late 19th Century Africa, with the second part of the novel taking place just as the Europeans begin to arrive. The culture that the main character, Okonkwo, resides in is rich with traditions, many of which would be considered horrific by modern standards. While this culture provides the backdrop for the novel, the real story comes in Okonkwo's endless struggle to prove he is a better man than his father, known for being lazy and having many debts.
Most novels have something which the reader can grasp onto and find familiar; a sense of comfort can be found by anyone. This novel was so different from anything I've ever read. I felt like a spy, trespassing on this very unfamiliar, often startling culture. While it is difficult to connect to characters who inhabit a world so very different from my own, I still found this novel to be beautiful and incredibly well written.

By nature, I am not a reader of science fiction. I can't get into the super technological lingo or crazy futuristic plot lines. Also, it's for nerds. I picked this book up only because it was on the list and was not looking forward to the read. While it did take me abou 2 1/2 weeks to get through it, I really ended up enjoying this novels. One step forward for nerd literature, one step backward for my coolness.

Essentially, through Snow Crash Neal Stephenson examines ancient topics such as language and religion through a futuristic technology driven storyline. I really found the book to be a brilliant criticism of organized religion. Fun, funny, thought provoking and fast paced, Snow Crash was one hell of a nerdy ride.