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.’
After my amazing luck with John Boyne’s The Absolutist last year, I decided to always keep an eye on Other Press releases and I’m glad I did. I requested a copy of this book directly from the publisher and I quite enjoyed it. This is my honest response and I received nothing in return.
To start, I’d like to say that the only other review on Goodreads is worthless (to me, at least). Why bother reviewing a book if that’s all you’re going to say? The person has, in essence, re-written the synopsis of the novel (on the back cover), without any additional insight or synthesis and it came across as snide to me. If you didn’t want to read “frothy froth about rich French people and their angst,” then why’d you read it? It never pretended to be anything else and that’s why I appreciated this novel. It’s times like this when I wish I could give half stars on Goodreads because it’s not quite what I would consider 5 stars, but not quite as low as 4 stars. Now on to my response.
This novel is everything that it claims to be, an amusing inside look at the codes, manners, and morals of high society, and it’s nothing more.So if you don’t want to read a comedy of manners, then don’t. It’s sort of what I imagine Austen’s works were like when they were first published and reactions were similar to the Goodreads reviewer’s.
Swoon. That’s my review, that’s it. I have nothing more to say. And that has nothing to do with Mr. Darcy, okay well maybe a little, but not as much as you’d think. And just to provide you with fair warning, this isn’t so much a review or response as it is a fan-boy “I love you Jane Austen” post. So read on if you like, you’ve been warned!
I’m not sure how many times I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, but I definitely feel like I should read it more often! I planned this re-read to coincide with the 200th Anniversary and I’m glad I did because it had been far too long! It also counted as one of my re-reads for The Classics Club. Hopefully the next time I re-read this novel I will be able to write about the characters or the story and have less fan-boy love, but I honestly doubt it, I mean look at all the crazy spinoffs I read even though they can never approach the original!
Honestly, I think it’s very difficult to talk about a book like this. I mean 200 years of intense debate and like/dislike pretty much covers everything you could possibly talk about. I mean you could check out this article (thank you Harvard Book Store) or you could even check out this blog post from Bitch Magazine‘s Adventures in Feministory series which includes the great observation,
“Austen may have a reputation in the popular imagination as the author of proto–chick-lit novels with sentimental love stories, but readers who pay close attention know that there’s quite a bit of realism–and feminism–in her fiction. Elizabeth has backbone. She knows what she’s worth, and she holds out for what Shakespeare would call a ‘marriage of true minds.’”
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.