So much has been said about this novel; my first impulse is to repeat those accolades. Yes, it is absolutely pitch-perfect. It is as timely now as it would have been in the 60s. This novel will change lives for the better. I am certain it already has. Indeed, it is the way in which our lives are changed that signifies this novel as extraordinary: Through the author's adept use of first person, we grow to love Skeeter, her family, The Help. We care about them. We are there with them as they grow in courage and purpose. We grow along with them. They become persons first and foremost, persons we know and love. I grew up in the South; I had a loving Maid when I was a child, a woman who was warm, yet remote in a way I accepted without curiosity. I was fortunate enough to have a loving Mother as well, one who stood bravely beside the "colored" children as they were escorted into our school for the first time. This too I accepted without much inner turbulence or appreciation. This novel brought back all those experiences, made them real with texture, color, sound and feeling - the novel allowed me to appreciate those experiences anew, from an adult perspective, which was fundamental to completing the metamorphosis inherent in those expereinces. I am deeply grateful to Kathryn Stockett.
I could not make it past the third chapter. The narrator drops his pitch at the end of every sentence giving his narration the quality of a bad news anchor. His narration was grating; impossible to bear. The artificiality of his inflection robbed every sentence of meaning. I'm giving this a 2, instead of 1, because the story and writing are good. But, I've moved on to the print version.
This story involves a search for the "Lost City of Gold" - it is situated in the desert areas of Utah. The writing evokes thrilling emotion, and stimulates the mind' eye with rich imagery. I've read several of the Preston Child novels; like the rest, this one is an action packed, fast-paced thriller. Unlike some of the rest, this one has a tight plot, that doesn't require overlooking little lapses of logic, or suspending disbelief in the face of wholly incredible plot elements. I started Thunderhead on a trip to Rochester MN, where I was scheduled to speak at a conference at the Mayo Clinic. This was a moment in my career, to be invited to speak at the Mayo. The best part: I was spared nervous anticipation - I could not tear myself away from the car, in fact. I had a presentation on Saturday, and one on Sunday; when I wasn't presenting, I was touring Rochester in my car, turning audible page after audible page. It struck me funny: you would think I would be back at the conference rubbing elbows; but no, I was right there with Nora in the deserts of Utah. (Okay, okay: this isn't War and Peace. Like I said, it's Brain Candy, the kind you can't stop popping, one after the other, into your head, until the box is empty. Then you upturn the box, shake it vigorously, and hope one more little treat rolls out, but alas, it's empty, over, finished. Bummer. There is cold-comfort in remembering that too much of this brain candy makes you intellectually fat. Still, a little of it after those protein-dense, peer-reviewed-journal-article-meals is good for what ails you. Click purchase, you won't be sorry.)
I was very much engaged through the opening chapters. The narrator is exceptionally good. However, when the story zoomed ahead 100 or so years, it became dull. And it remained dull. The first part of the book features the virus as a central character. This was interesting stuff, exciting, captivating, fast-moving, visually rich, and intriguingly provocative. The rest of the novel lacks the immediacy and suspense of the first part - there are thrilling sections - but they are few and far between. What's left is an opportunity for character development, and this is where Cronin goes under for good. His characters are unabashedly crafted for film adaptation. They are thin, unifaceted, caricatures of stock action characters: the manly woman, who is both alluring and vigorous; the techy-nerd whose virility is more than it initially appears to be; the good-guy gone surprisingly bad, etc. These characters are moving paper dolls with stiff joints. Lastly, I was bothered by the lack of contextual cohesion. Life in the colony is portrayed as pre-technology primitive - at times the dialogue is two shakes shy of grunting. Then, from out of nowhere, Cronin will portray the leading characters as utterly modern. Just didn't work for me. As primitives they were uninteresting; as moderns they were ineffectual. This novel is an obvious effort to create an Epic spectacle, and I'll tell you, it desperately needs special effects.
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