Londonderry, NH, United States | Member Since 2007
The good -
The bad -
shallowly developed characters
The ugly -
terrible narration. all the voices were the same and the man cannot do accents to save his life.
Tone reminds me of other books, written by persons of probably a similar age (under 35) - sort of an innocent voice, non-judgmental to the point of utter blandness. Don’t these people have opinions? Reactions? Dark thoughts of injustice and prejudice? I guess not. Political correctness is embedded in their DNA, apparently. Neither do they make mistakes or have setbacks. Maybe it’s wish fulfillment, but it seems like the general attitude of that generation is that things will work out for them just because.
The rest of the book is one big ad for how great Google is, despite every server in their universe not being able to crack a basic substitution code. And despite the massive build-up and the fervid paranoia of the Unbroken Spine, the secret turns out to be not so much after all. Kat takes it hardest which was amusing. Her first ‘no’. She didn’t deal with it very well.
Eh, I don’t know. I wasn’t overly annoyed while reading this book and picked it up for a palate cleanser, but I wasn’t fulfilled by it either. No deep secrets. No big reveal. The plot, on the surface, seemed complex, but wasn’t. Bland characters. No violence or dirty deeds. I guess if you like saltines, you’ll like this.
Wow. That sums up my reaction to the person Catherine was. Knowing she eventually became Empress and ruled for decades, all through the story of her horrible childhood and worse situation as Peter III’s wife, I longed for her to take revenge. Of course being the judicious, self-possessed and level-headed person she was, she did no such thing. Not directly anyway. Her wit, success and lasting legacy are revenge enough. Just where are her haughty great-aunt-in-law or vicious husband now in the collective consciousness? Nowhere and nobodies. Catherine was Great and she is remembered.
Not perfect though, and I think Erickson did her best to reveal Catherine’s flaws as well as her strengths, though I think the overall goal was to show a woman who succeeded against a state and a system designed to keep her down and relegate her to failure. Davina Porter did a great job with all the personal and place names, too. No mean feat.
The premise tugged at me because of The Man in the Iron Mask, the whole deal with Richard III and the princes in the tower and all those women who claimed to be Anastasia, Grand Duchess of Russia, and it is a little of all those. The inclusion of Vidocq adds a veneer of hard-boiled detective which is weird for this period (and locale) of history, but strangely it works. It balances the social striving that consumes a lot of the lives of everyone else, Hector included. And poor old Hector is in need of structure and stability, especially once he’s hit with the cyclone that is Vidocq. Oh is he ever the man out of his element. Eventually he gets up to speed though and proves an able “assistant” for the hard-driving Vidocq.
Like any good piece of historical fiction, this book blends the real and the unreal so skilfully that it’s hard to distinguish. Hector Carpentier, his family and friends are wholly fictional, but the royal family and Vidocq are not and provide anchors of believability. Then there is Hector’s narration. He’s yanked out of his comfortable self-pity by Vidocq’s driving enthusiasm and persistence and his whole attitude of surrender, first to his circumstances then to the pull of the conspiracy theory. The way he tells the tale has the ring of truth. Most of it is conversational and there are no “as you know, Bob’s” at least none so glaring that I noticed. Luckily I knew enough about the French Revolution and Restoration to understand what was not explicitly explained. This time period really came alive for me in the broad strokes and in the details. The journal reports were especially squirm-inducing.
Why does the Aristocracy persist? Why do people who largely have been abused by it, seek to restore it? Why do most attempts to replace it fail? Why are humans so damned competitive and suspicious? Why do so few of us have deep compassion? Where does Vidocq get his wonderful toys? These are just some of the questions to turn over while you read about the missing would-be King of France.
It’s been a while since the last time I read anything by Boyle. There was a period when I read a lot of him, but then I got caught up with new authors and well, you know how it goes. San Miguel had been on my wishlist for while so I just went for it and despite the mixed reviews it’s received, I enjoyed my time with it. I think I’ve said this before of Boyle, that he works better when he doesn’t have to drive a plot. When he can just tell a tale of what happens next with some really interesting characters, living in interesting places, doing interesting things. Even routine things he can make interesting and that’s what he does here. It reminded me strongly of Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose because of the setting and spirits of the women he wrote about. Some wanted to be where they were and pursuing their hard-scrabble lives on San Miguel. One didn’t and it was the combination of those separate personalities that reminded me of Susan Ward and her duality.
Some reviews comment that the stories are too loosely connected, but I found it wasn’t necessary for me to enjoy them and especially liked when Jimmy started up a story about Edith and her time on the island. It didn’t feel forced since you had to take the Jimmy in Elise’s story as the same one in Edith and Marantha’s. Plus it finished her tale, which had ended so abruptly. A few other characters pop up as well, to thread the stories, but each one focuses on the inhabitants and even more closely on the women. Yes, Captain Waters is a force on the island, and Herbie just skewers you from an emotional perspective, but really these are stories of women and their respective states of convalescence, confinement and contentment. Well done and well told.
When I first read the synopsis for this novel, I mistakenly thought it would focus on Frank and his absence. As in where he went and what he was doing. I should have known better. For the most part, Lippman’s stories revolve around women and how their lives are affected by their pasts and some of those pasts have problems or incidents that stem from the men in their lives. But those incidents are just causes for how the women have to live their lives around them. They’re not the focus.
That’s what we have here. Bambi (oy that name drove me bananas) and her daughters are going forward through life as best they can without knowing much about Frank’s disappearance. The money Frank was to have left them never got to them and they think that his mistress took it. How else could she have afforded to become a respected business owner if not for stealing what was theirs, something she had a talent for? When she’s found dead, they still have no answers. Or money. Then Sandy Sanchez, retired police detective, decides to take on the mystery of mistresses’ death; a very cold case. He finds inconsistencies and facts that were previously overlooked. Soon the family is in uproar again.
Sandy’s narrative basically drives the novel and keeps a common thread, but the story belongs to the women. Their relationships are complex and brushed with a veneer of distrust. At least that’s what I felt from them. That they don’t quite believe any of them is telling her whole story. And that’s what helps keep us distracted until the end when the solution is revealed. Nice misdirection, Ms. Lippman.
Once you read one Goddard, you start to hunger for more. This is my 4th. Or maybe my 5th. If you don’t like long, involved and convoluted plots with lots of characters (many not what they seem), shenanigans and the unexpected, don’t read him. If you do like all those things along with a dash of the historical, I’m sure you’ll become an addict like me once you read one.
As usual, one of the main characters is drawn into the plot indirectly and it is quite a while before we know precisely why. Ostensibly it’s for one reason, but Goddard is never so straightforward and I was just waiting for the truth. He’s taken for one hell of a ride. Mostly, he’s a pawn and is used and abused pretty much the whole time.
Then there’s James Norton and his bid to get back into his family’s good graces and claim his inheritance. I knew better than to become emotionally connected to him or his cause. His family didn’t help me though; what a bunch of spiteful, entitled jerks. Only Constance got any sympathy from me, but I had a feeling she was going to suffer in the end, too. I can’t give anything more away, but if you like sordid family dramas, check this out. It's not quite as tight and addictive as some of his other books; it meanders quite a bit and lacks some of the physical danger and relentless pacing, but it is good and rewards the effort.
This series has always been a comfort read for me. Alex is a grown-up Nancy Drew and because they're so formulaic, I always know what to expect and Alex has a charmed life (well aside from the occasional murdered friend) that is fun to peek in on. One aspect I do like is the NYC history info that is peppered throughout. This time though, it was info-dump overload! Restaurant regulation info. The Paris Catacombs. French drug-running. African art. Wine buying. 21's secret rooms. Wine storage. Ugh! It was too much. Way too much. And please find Alex's spine, Ms. Fairstein. I think she lost it. Maybe it's at the Vineyard or maybe in France or maybe even in the drawer of pantyhose and deodorant in her office, but wherever it is, please give it back to her. If she wasn't a stunned puppy she was blubbering or being confused and snippy. She was hysterical most of the time. Or horny. Or both. Oy. Way too much scenery, backstory and info and way too little crime and investigation.
I appreciated the rape case angle and usually those are secondary plot lines, but this time that case was way more interesting than what was going on with Luc. Who is a jerk, btw. He hasn't had as much screen time prior to this novel so both we readers and Alex got to know his less romantic side and it ain't pretty. I didn't like him much before and now it's even less. There is only one book left in the series unread for me and if it isn't an improvement, I'm afraid it will be my last.
A funny aside...I use a wine storage facility in CT with an eeriliy similar name to the one in the book. Unless a reader is a customer, they wouldn't catch it, but I did. Interesting name change and a bit too close for comfort I think.
Alas, I should have checked the publisher before downloading this from audible. If I’d seen the Harlequin name there I would have saved myself some trouble. This is not my thing. Too much romance and breathy innuendo and too little mystery. Too many modern ideas. Really, Lady Julia, enough with your cross-class do-gooder motif. I know there had to be some women who thought a bit like she did, but it didn’t ring true and that axe just kept getting ground. I don’t think there’s any left. I figured who had to have done it pretty early and so the culprit wasn’t a surprise. Overall disappointing. Lady Julia’s bosom will just have to go on heaving without me. And the fangirls will downvote because they're so mature.
The Parkinson's angle isn't as pronounced in Lost because Joe isn't the central figure. Instead he's now Ruiz's friend and becomes his sounding-board. Ruiz counts on Joe's near prescient insight into human behavior, habitat and habits. Like in Suspect, Ruiz isn't guilty of what people suspect him. He truly can't remember why he was on the boat, what happened to everyone on it and where the missing diamonds are. After his one ally is taken out in the line of duty, he has no one and the equivalent of Internal Affairs is gunning for him. Through breaks in his memory and deduction he knits up the unraveled past and finds the real truth to the 3-year-old murder and the events on the boat.
I particularly liked how well Robotham conveyed Ruiz's frustration to the reader. I wanted to know what happened as badly as Ruiz did, but like him, I couldn't find out. Not right away. And the way sections of his memory returned and how they helped him connect up the facts was well done, too. It kept things off-balance yet moving forward at the same time. Little things would come to him after a big chunk of the missing time returned and he'd be able to get a little further. In hindsight, the solution to the kidnapping and the murder should have been less of a surprise to me. I had a bit of a "doh" moment there at the end. What I wish we had a bit more of was what happened with Ruiz at the end. Did he get back on the force or not? Maybe in the next book we'll find out.
The first part was hard to get into. The scribblings of an adolescent boy are pretty trying, but in a sense they were successful because of that. I applaud Boyd for being able to show character and more importantly, growth and change through the journal entries of LMS. The voice, perspective and level of maturity definitely change with each phase of his life and that's hard to pull off. So while I wasn't sure I'd like this LMS character, in the end I came to love him and each up and down in his life had me emotionally hooked. So much so that it's hard to think of this as a work of fiction, LMS's character is that real.
Partly it's because so many real-life people pepper his life including Hemingway, Picasso, Evelyn Waugh, Ian Flemming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. While not many of them penetrate to the core of LMS's life, they all affect the course of it. The reality they add to the narrative definitely contributes to the overall feeling of biography here, or I should say, autobiography. Although the beginning of LMS's life is basically smooth and tranquil, the middle and end have many surprises and strange scenes.
One reviewer I saw characterizes LMS's whole life as dismal and LMS himself as hapless. I wonder if we read the same book. While there are some moments that are out of his control and he is clearly an alcoholic, none of it is so desperately dire that we see him as a tragic figure. Instead I found LMS to be remarkably adaptable; resourceful and able to land on his feet. Yes, he's a randy bugger his whole life, but he knows true love and treasures it when he finds it. Yes, there is a lot of coincidence and LMS is connected to a lot of important people, but he has a very small circle of real friends who sustain him like the air he breathes.
And it's that interconnectedness and coincidence that frame one of the novel's strongest aspects; an overview of the ways and moves of the 20th century. From war to terrorism, art and attitudes, LMS's life encompasses a great deal of the change and upheaval that shaped the century from almost every outpost on the globe. If you are a student of history you'll love the little vignettes in Spain, Nigeria, Bahamas, England and France. All those changes and events shape LMS and his outlook and attitude although at heart he never really does change and he's not sorry or apologetic about anything in his life, even the dog food years.
If you've never read a William Boyd novel, this is a good one to start with. It's my 3rd and there will be more. Oh and a note about the narration (like the others, my experience of this Boyd novel was as an audio) - Simon Vance did a great job. LMS's voice does change character as he ages and Vance reflected that in each section of journal, capturing the enthusiasm, peril, resignation and joy of each phase of LMS's rich and varied life. Bravo!
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