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.’
I received a copy of this via request on NetGalley and I am so happy I requested it. This is my honest opinion and I received nothing in return for it.
It’s times like this when I wish I went into teaching at some level to share a story like this with my students. It’s heartbreaking, but hopeful and I can only imagine what it would be like if I were an Irish teen reading this in the mid 1990s after it was written. Honestly, I would’ve felt just like Neil when he found out he wasn’t ‘the only gay in the village.’
I wasn’t sure what to expect of this novel and Tom Lennon (a pseudonym to protect his Catholic-school teaching identity and he’s still unknown) as an Irish author writing about LGBT characters had the decks stacked against him: Jamie O’Neill can do no wrong, John Boyne won me over with The Absolutist, Damian McNicholl put up a good effort with A Son Called Gabriel and Oscar Wilde is, well, Oscar Wilde. Needless to say, Tom Lennon did not disappoint, and as I listed all of those authors I realized his story pre-dated all of the rest by at least a decade with the exception of Oscar Wilde, so I’m excited his story is being introduced to the US.
It may have taken two weeks to read this book, but it was completely worth it. I don’t know the last time I’ve spent this much time basking in the beauty and wonderment of a novel. 1Q84 counts for my 2013 Mount TBR and Tea & Books challenges. Now on to my response, which is jumpy and hardly all-inclusive, but hopefully it portrays some of the wondrousness this novel is. Let’s just say I can’t wait to read more Murakami, regardless of if it’s a mind f*ck like Kafka on the Shore or like 1Q84, which is also technically a mind f*ck.
How does one even begin to classify Murakami. From the two books I’ve read the only things I can definitely say are that he defies genres and bucks trends, is incredibly well versed in classic literature and music and popular culture (films and music) and his descriptions are so vivid you don’t have to strive to imagine things because you see them completely formed in front of you. What I can appreciate is Murakami usually drops a line into his books which perfectly explain the books (so far, again I’ve only read two) and this books is (NOT A REAL SPOILER, but maybe skip the quote if you don’t want to know anything – the rest is okay though.), Click here to continue reading
Where to begin…seriously. I finished this novel Monday night after a whirlwind read—I could not put it down. I stumbled across this novel on Net Galley and requested a copy from the publisher and I am incredibly glad I did! The following is my honest response and the views/opinions are my own. I did not receive compensation to review the novel.
I’ve divided my response into three parts: my response to the novel, a brief comparison and my (rambling) thoughts and questions to those who have also read the novel. If you have any desire to read the novel (WHICH YOU SHOULD ALL BE!), don’t read part three. I’ll try not to say explicitly, but it may give some parts away. Sorry it’s such a long post, but it’s such a good book! I will definitely have to re-read it as I didn’t come close to discussing everything I wanted to discuss!
My Response to The Absolutist
WHOA…for once, it is fairly simple to describe my feelings about a novel I knew nothing about going in: I fell in love. The overall story is incredibly gut-wrenching and heartbreaking by the ending, but you have to fall in love with it and the characters (even those you want to hate) because of the story and Boyne’s writing. I have never read Boyne, but have seen The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
I searched out this novel after reading Howard’s End is on the Landing and thoroughly enjoying Hill’s writing style. And after finishing The Bird of Night I’m even more convinced of her amazing writing style and ability, it’s no wonder the novel appeared on the Man-Booker shortlist in 1972 and won a Whitbread Novel Award (now called Costa Book Awards), and it’s definitely no surprise I found it stirring. I will definitely have to check out more of her work.
The Bird of Night is a story of love and madness. The narrator of the story, Harvey, looks back on his life and his time spent with Francis, the poet, and Francis’ rise to fame and coinciding decent into madness. There’s no way I can even begin to grasp everything in this compact novel, but I can definitely appreciate the beauty of the language and the intensity of the story. The quote below sort-of sums up the novel, or at least what I got out of the novel.
“And if he is mad, it is because one man’s brain cannot contain all the emotions and ideas and visions that are filling his without sometimes weakening and breaking down. But he will be perfectly well again, he is generally well. When he is not he is in despair and when he is fit he dreads the return of his illness. What can that be like to live with?” (149)