Looking back, I’ve realized that this novel is sort of like a proto-’Love Actually’ – in that it is a network of love stories with interconnecting people who are only revealed slowly throughout the book. I felt the author did a great job at this even if it did cause me no end of frustration for the first couple hundred pages. I kept asking myself where this book was going and why the sisters from the beginning of the novel just disappeared, but they eventually reappeared and tied the story together.
Although the book clocks in at over 880 pages, it didn’t feel as if it were 880 pages. I believe this is a credit to the story and the language the author used. Her writing was not difficult to read and there were many beautiful passages and great descriptions, just look at how many quotes there are in my Additional Quotes section below. The one line that just made me laugh and think oh wow that’s me was
“When a conversation has taken a wrong turn for us, we only get farther and farther into the swamp of awkwardness.” (146)
It is just the perfect description of what happens when I pretty much ever open my mouth. I mentally thought ‘honey I’m mired in the swamp of awkwardness and am like the swamp lights (will-o’-the-wisps) that trick you into the swamp and then you die because you get lost, but without the death and lots of awkwardness.’
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was beautifully written, it didn’t really leave me with much of an opinion. It’s hard to say whether this is because of the writing or the very succinct writing of the plot and story. Many times the books that leave me wanting more are the books that I desperately cling to because I don’t know the happily ever after.
In this book you get everything and it’s great, but the author wrapped the story up in a perfect finite package with only a hint of a what’s next, which was great at the end, but not enough to leave me wowed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad I read it and can’t believe it took me this long to jump on the band wagon and I would recommend it to everyone, I’m just sort of lackadaisical about it. There were two great things that stood out for me, the minor characters (and animals) and the juxtaposition of the old Jacob and the young Jacob.
WARNING and APOLOGY: this post starts with a rather long tangent about literature, art and people. (Sorry! Probably should be two posts, but I’m lazy.) If you don’t really want to read it (but you should there are a few great quotes) skip to after the third block quote. And to get it out-of-the-way, The Picture of Dorian Gray is the January read for my books into movies book group at the local library and conveniently appears on my Mount TBR (extended) list and my Classics Club list!
Now for my tangent, I’ve noticed as I read a wider variety of literature that the authors I’m drawn to have a lot to say about books, reading and writing. I have a lot of respect for authors who are able to reflect on writing, books, and literature within their own books and stories. In his forward to The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes the below quote.
“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” (4)
And I can’t help but appreciate how incredibly insightful and powerful this is. Imagine if all the people threatened by books, who’ve burned books, who attempt to ban books, and those who just refuse to read certain books actually understood this. I love this quote so much it’s my new email signature and I’ve added it to the great book quotes on my sidebar (only the third)!
Now, having read two books by Michael Ondaatje, one thing is certain: his writing is incredibly smooth and beautiful, especially when it comes to the description of scenes and settings. The best comparison I can think of is a deep voice talking soothingly (like James Earl Jones or Donald Sutherland. And in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I read Ondaatje’s books with a Sutherland voice in my head. In the Skin of a Lion is my third Mount TBR book, but not an officially listed book, but one I expected to read.
As I read the story, I kept forgetting that the novel is told as a retelling of the story. It starts out with, this is when (and how) this story is told and I just forgot about it. And forgetting about this really affected my ability to enjoy the story. I kept thinking this is pretty disjointed and wondering who the narrator was talking to. Rereading the ‘forward’ helped put it back into perspective, but I should’ve paid more attention from the start.
What a messed up novel. And I mean that in a really good way. Like I’m shaking my head saying to myself, ‘What in the world?’ I mean seriously, where do authors come up with ideas like this? I’m sure Levin at some point discussed it in an interview, but I don’t really want to know it’s that strange.
(Also, in honor of the occult in this novel, I’m posting this on 12/12/12 at 12:12. Haahaa! – It just happened to be ready to be posted on 12/12/12 and I was like might as well post it at 12:12)
I read Rosemary’s Baby for our Books into Movies book group at the local library, and for lack of a better word, it was an interesting read. Perhaps strange is a better word, or odd, but not like oh this is strange, but like what a strange ass story. Regardless, this book once again reaffirms why I am glad that I participate in a book group with such a wide range of individuals. It takes me out of my reading comfort-zone and introduces me to some pretty interesting and weird novels. I’m strangely looking forward to the film if only because it is such an iconic thriller, and from the introduction I know that it stays close to the book.