story and 1960s
Andersen may have been a bit young during the 1960s (born in 1954) but he captures quite a bit of it in True Believers. Karen Hollander grows up enacting Bond plots with her male friends alluding to something beyond play acting for a good part of the book as she reflects back on her life from the comfort of a law school deanship in 2013. We only learn what that event is near the end providing a bit of mystery. In spite of her youthful exuberance she has gone on to a distinguished legal career. She was even nominated to be on the Supreme Court. Fear of exposure haunts her decision. There are plenty of ‘60s flashbacks many of them spiced with reflections on music of the era. This is a book that puts those of us who lived through the ‘60s back in them and will provide some flavor of what it was like for younger readers. The story is well told and holds interest from beginning to end.
If time is a river Ursula can swim to the bank and reenter at different points. The result is a different, though not necessarily better outcome in Atkinson’s book. When things aren’t going well, usually resulting in death, she can go back to the beginning or even some crucial crossroads and have another go at it. There is a subconscious learning experience that seems to gradually produce a vestigial memory along with more satisfactory results. There is a bit of Groundhog Day (the movie) in this but the writing is first rate which makes the different iterations easy and interesting to follow. As the do overs mount up Ursula has a déjà vu inkling that she’s been there (here) and done that before. The psychiatrist fond of Eastern religions that she sees in some of her lives mentions reincarnation. That’s not quite what she is experiencing but there is the aspect of getting it right before moving on to some other plane of existence or nonexistence. A good story of a large family in pre-WWI England through post WWII provides the backdrop for the timeless pursuit of better outcomes. The notion of reliving life is not so farfetched since most of us do it regularly in our daydreams. Atkinson supplies substance to such daydreams through Ursula and does a fine job of it.
The opening scene of the book doesn’t seem connected to the rest of the book other than the locale until close to the conclusion. Ben has burned through his parental endowment money, got himself into trouble, and managed to be a major contributor to new game software because of his gift for creating puzzles. His life puzzle is to solve the mystery of his cousin’s death in the frozen Michigan peninsula several winters ago. On the way to stumbling onto the solution to that puzzle he pursues an old high school friend who had a crush on him. She’s got her own puzzling background complete with off kilter ex-husband on the prowl. Somerville provide some good character building background and got me invested in each of the people involved, even Will (the ex-husband) as he descends into madness. The story is intricate but easy enough to follow. The puzzle’s solution is complex and satisfying. Just when you think the book is wrapping up another layer is revealed.
Years ago I read Helprin’s A Soldier in the Great War and found it to be an impressive description of the stupidity of war. In Sunlight and in Shadow he jumps back to WWII from a somber post WWII present. The portions of the book that cover the war are first rate. Unfortunately his descriptions of Harry’s romance with a young singer in NYC is too sophomoric and so overwhelmingly romanticized they are difficult to listen to. The words cloy. Perhaps this is due to the bated breath or the reader; as if this love affair between a thirty something vet and Katherine (no virgin) were something on the pedestal of adolescence. There is a bit of F. Scott Fitzgerald to the scenes in the Hamptons among the well-heeled set. This is juxtaposed to the gritty business of protection rackets in NYC. The book is also interminably long due to rambling descriptions and a fondness for employing an excess of adjectives. If you can get past the saccharine romance and the ponderous verbiage there is a good story with a bit of depressing and maybe inevitable ending.
Wolfe skewers ethnic groups and the wealthy in this satirical send up of life in modern multiethnic Miami. His repartees embellish a boy meets girl tale (or girl meets boy) with insights and characterizations that are amusing though occasionally over the top. There is a bit of Bonfire of the Vanities in here. It’s an amusing story which he might not have quite figured out how to end properly.
The authors provide an Interesting insight into exclusionary versus inclusionary societies. Plenty of historical and current examples provide support for their thesis that the most successful and sustainable societies are those that include more of their populations in decision making as well as a greater share of the economic pie. It???s an interesting view in light of a presidential election year casting a more inclusionary vision with an exclusionary one (albeit masked in propaganda of offering ???freedom??? in exchange for less government). With the US having become less and less a country of class/economic mobility, an educated electorate would do well to catch up on what???s happened historically as well as currently when a small percentage capture more and more of a country???s wealth and income.
Where???s a good editor when you need her? This book is 20th century gothic with a bow to Wuthering Heights, etc. Dickens would understand the economics since his serialized novels were lengthy out of financial necessity. The very complicated plot moves along at a snail???s pace but it managed to come to a complete conclusion tying up all loose ends. There are many dark corners in the story. It???s well written and the narrator captures all the mainly female characters quite well. Still, this cannot make up for the absent editor. If you are patient and like a very slow listen, this will be a rewarding book.
The book often devolves into a right wing vehicle used to rant about the greater fanatical Islamic conspiracy. The heroic cartoon characters are courageous and extremely well proportioned. Somehow Hawke, our thirty-eight year old hero has been everywhere and done everything even though some of those things are only possible with time travel given his youth. Think James Bond, the author did but Hawke falls short just as the prose would embarrass Ian Fleming. Stoke, a secondary character, was a medic in Vietnam and still in the prime of life circa 2009. In sum, if you can suspend disbelief, get past stock characters, sex scenes that border on comedic bodice rippers and right wing ranting, this book is for you.
Since there are no zero star ratings Brown's miserable clone of a gets one star. The formula is beyond threadbare; the emaciated skeleton of a plot has simply changed a few names from prior books, a couple of symbols are tacked together (they $ sign is significant for the author though goes unmentioned) and the "suspense" begins. Good and evil are so boringly caricatured that when evil meets his fate (I wouldn't want to give away that contrived end for those who manage to get that far) I had thought the book was over. Not so. There was more than an hour to go. When the bible took center stage I left Dan to wrap this up without me. Only if you can suspend disbelief for this many hours and turn off your brain to avoid knowing what happens next should you waste your time with this bottom feeder.
This is a terrific non-fiction book from start to finish. Written from the perspective of a writer about to retrace the 1925 lost expedition of Percy Fawcett, it incorporates Fawcett's obsession with finding a lost city in the Amazon that he has no information about other than having convinced himself it exists. The author smoothly transitions from Fawcett's time to the present and back including historical perspectives of the late 19th, early 20th century. If you've listened to or read 1492, you're familiar with how the New World Indians were considerably more numerous and their culture more advanced until the Europeans arrived with new diseases that decimated their populations. That's wrapped into the interesting conclusion. It's an adventure, an education and provides great insight into the Green Hell of the Amazon.
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