Brief reviews of books I read in May...
The Tiger's Wife
This book got so much buzz that I was sure I would love it. And although I did like it...a lot!...I had some problems with it, too. This first novel, written by some ridiculously talented young author (seriously, she's 25), is set in a thinly veiled, post break-up Yugoslavia. The main character is a young doctor, Natalia, who learns that her beloved grandfather has died in a far away village across the new border. Why was he there and why didn't he tell anyone where he was traveling? The novel is made up of alternating chapters: some about Natalia's quest to discover where he was going; in other chapters she shares two beautiful folktales that were stories from her grandfather.
One of the folktales is about The Deathless Man, a man who can literally not die no matter if he is shot, drowned, etc. The Deathless Man can look at the remnants of coffee grounds in your cup and tell you when you are about to die. The grandfather met this man at least twice, and appeared to be looking at the time of his death. Honestly, he reminded me of the narrator of The Book Thief. The second folktale the Grandfather tells her is about The Tiger's Wife. She was a deaf-mute woman from his childhood home. She was abused by her husband and her only companion is a wild tiger that lives in the nearby woods. These two stories are magical and entertaining, but they are also completely formed and beautifully realized. I loved reading those chapters.
I guess my problem is actually with that structure of the novel. The conceit, the granddaughter tells these family stories, is just a little too thin. Natalia, like her grandfather, was a doctor. And yet there are all these chapters where she talks about how she went back to the village and interviewed people and learned these stories. When exactly did she have the time to hone these masterful storytelling skills? She not only knows the secrets of the villagers, but also of these mythical characters. Something about it just doesn't quite fit. The switch from Natalia the narrator to omniscient narrator can be jarring at times. Ultimately, the A plot: why was her Grandfather in the faraway village, just isn't strong enough to hang the B and C plots (Deathless Man/Tiger's Wife) on. It feels unbalanced.
Is it a dealbreaker? No. I enjoyed the book tremendously. It's a beautiful meditation on death, destruction, and separation: When your fight has purpose -- to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent -- it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling -- when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event -- there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.
Okay, so this was a disappointing outing for Sookie and company. First of all, the main plot was a dud: who is responsible for the firebombing of Merlotte's? There's absolutely NO urgency to solving this mystery whatsoever. It happens, but no one really seems to care, and once the mystery is revealed, it's a total rehash of a previous villain. More importantly, nothing happens to move the main recurring plots forward: what is the future of Sookie and Eric? What will happen with the new King and his continued harassment of Eric and Pam? What's up with Bill? What will become of Sookie's relationships with the fairies? Is she really going to end up with Sam? This book just felt like filler. I guess Charlaine Harris is only going to write 13 Sookie books, and this is 11. I hope she's saving up the good stuff for the last 2. If you're still interested in reading it after that lackluster review (it's still Sookie!), I will mail it this week.
This was courtesy of my delayed flight out of Orlando. I downloaded in the airport and read it on the plane. I really enjoy these books and want to say once again how proud of I am of myself for not rushing through and reading all of these all at once. I've been pacing myself to about one per month, and that's been nice. I don't really have much to say---I just enjoy the supernatural goodness, the paranormal romance, and the imaginary world she lives in. I also like the small clues about Georgina's past as the books progress. I wasn't that surprised to see her relationship with Seth hitting the rocks in this book. I really was struggling with that aspect of the books, to be honest. Who would put up with a girlfriend with that job? I'm sad for her, though.
Also, another fantastically cheesy cover. The great thing about the Kindle is that I can read stuff with these junky covers without feeling the least bit embarrassed!
I picked this one up on the Borders Bender. I like Carl Hiaasen, whose novels are funny and interesting and light. He's written a series of YA novels that my students really love. One reason I picked it up off the pile was that since I was just in Florida, I thought it would be fun to read a book by a Florida author. It's always more interesting to read a book set in a place after you've been there! It was just what I needed as the end of school arrived. This is a thinly veiled retelling of a Lindsay Lohan type starlet. All of her handlers scheme, plot, and maneuver to keep themselves rolling in the money. It was a hoot. I'm sure I will forget it all in about 5 more minutes, but the closer I get to the end of school, the trashier the reading.
Sort of a light month for me, reading wise. But I've only got four more days of school, baby. Let the reading begin!