Although I wasn't a big fan of "Prep," author Curtis Sittenfeld does a great job with this fictionalized account of the Bush clan and Laura Bush. I found it surprisingly engrossing. I don't see at as fawning, as some reviewers have, but as a different perspective on the events of the last eight years - whether or not you are a fan of the Bushes. I also found her portrait of the Blackwell clan at Halcyon hysterical. You could actuially see these events happening. With the dead-on portraits Sittenfeld creates, it can be hard to remember that this is a work of fiction, after all. As with "Prep," I find a lot the prose in Sittenfeld's bedroom scenes to be somewhat jarring. It doesn't always seem necessary to go there. I did find the Alice character to be passive to the point of irritation but also finished the book wanting to know more about her model, the real Laura Bush.
The light tone that this book begins with gradually descends into darker material as we get deeper into the atrocities of WWII. However, the engaging heroine and other characters keep you wanting more, even as you know you are heading into a plot line with a sad ending. The author's epistolary style effectively conveys the warm comraderie of the island, contrasting it with a chilling portrait of the Ravensbruck concentration camp that I found haunting. I would also liked to have seen more of some of the peripheral characters. There is a lighter, if bittersweet, ending to the whole book that gives us hope.
As the child of a former OSS officer and CIA officer, I found this glimpse into British covert operations in the war-time US fascinating. There are so many threads to this story that it can be easy to lose track of who's who, however. I really enjoyed the portrait of Texas newspaper magnate, Charles Marsh, an intensely interesting character who should have his own biography. He plays a larger role in Dahl's life than many of the other names you will see in reviews (ex: Ian Fleming,Claire Booth Luce, etc.). The "what happened next" section is somewhat truncated, as it should be. I suspect that for Dahl and the others involved in the BSC, it was difficult to create a second act for their lives.
While this book does have some good points, I agree with the listeners who found it s-l-o-w. The plot twists are somewhat predictable - you will figure them out hours before the author finally reveals them. It is hard to develop much sympathy for a character whose primary dialogue consists of "Yes, Miss" and "No, Miss." I agree that the narrator's accent was distracting. There are some good character sketches, though.
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