The only other Hornby I’ve read is High Fidelity (the film adaptation was meh). And I loved the film adaptation of About A Boy, so I wasn’t sure where this novel would go. I hadn’t planned on reading it, but one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, announced they were going to do an episode a few months ago so I put it on hold and timed it almost perfectly to listen! (I missed the exact episode by a little less than week.)
I think the podcast hit the nail on the head when they talked about the story (Amazon link) being more focused on “the show [Barabara (and Jim)] rather than the funny girl of the title, Barbara/Sophie. But what Hornby didn’t do, was show us the show; he only ever referred to specific gags, situations or dialogue. Someone on PCHH said it should’ve been called “The Show” and I can’t agree more. It would be a better title and I would definitely have chosen to read it if that were the title too!
My friend Nick gave this to me to read ages ago and I’ve finally gotten around to it. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but the further I read the more I enjoyed the story (Amazon link). Coming in at under 200 pages, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Huxley fit into the novel without overwhelming the sense of lackadaisical whimsy of the people.
I am incredibly glad I read the foreword though, because I don’t think I would’ve understood this was a satirical novel of the British upper-class. I probably would’ve happily read it and thought, “wow these people are petty and ridiculous,” and then thought nothing more of it. It reminded me a lot of the various upper-class dioramas I’ve read from Jane Austen to Cécil David-Weill’s The Suitors, which is what Huxley was going for in his social criticism.
And I’m done. Eight days after I started Twilight,and over 2,600 pages later I’ve completed the four novels and the novella. First gut response: it’s not as bad as I thought it would be and I actually enjoyed myself as I read it. There is a major caveat, but that’ll come later. I’m glad I read them and now know what everyone was in such a fuss about a few years ago. I still prefer Harry Potter, but this was a fun side road.
I mentioned my caveat above and that’s the first thing I want to talk about. Meyer is an excellent story-teller and she definitely found small details to expand into a grand story. That in mind, her writing in the first novels left much to be desired. I mentioned it in Twilight and I only bring it up here because I’m torn between whether it was the writing or Bella’s character that caused me to temper my enthusiasm for the books. I know for that first book it was definitely both, but in the last book it was most certainly neither. In the three years it took her to write and publish the four novels (and even the extra two years to the release of the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner) Meyer’s writing and characterization improved 10 fold.
This novella takes place at the same time as the events in Eclipse take place. It gives a very small glimpse into Victoria and her vendetta over the last two novels. But what’s important to note is that it is by far the best written of all Meyer’s works that I’ve read. I’m sure it helped that it was a novella and she had a finite story to tell. It also probably didn’t hurt that Bella didn’t even appear in the novel until the last five pages of the novella :-D
Although we don’t learn much about Bree Tanner, we figure out pretty quickly that she is smart and a survivor. She doesn’t remember much about her human life and has only been a vampire for three months. As she develops within a crazy vampire coven, Bree begins to question her indoctrination through her time spent with Diego, another newborn vampire. I don’t know if we will get this same path to discovery and awed enthusiasm as there was in this novella. The discovery that vampires could spend time outside anytime and wouldn’t die, and the craziness of their blood lust through a non-vegetarian vampire was fascinating.
I’m not sure what to think of the series at this point. It’s not as bad as I thought, but it’s still not as good as everyone makes it out to be. I’m still not happy with how helpless Bella is and am very glad no one mentioned her obsession with Wuthering Heights before now or I would’ve been forced to read the series a lot sooner than now.
I did, however, gain a bit more respect for Meyer. (Shock! Horror!) At the end of the novel, there was included a preview of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide, which included an interview with Stephenie Meyer. In this she acknowledged one of the biggest faults I’ve seen in her writing: the lack of synonyms in her writing. I did notice in this novel that there weren’t as many issues and that either she’s progressed as a writer, or her editors became better at catching them, so that’s always a bonus.