Rich, dramatic, inspiring
I never have that much time, but I was anxious to get back to it
The characterization in this book is some of the strongest I've ever read (or listened to in this case, where I "read" the audible version). The three narrators' voices provide windows into their lives and thoughts while at the same time telling the story of powerful events taking place in the small backwoods North Carolina town. As we come to know the speakers, their insights into the main characters involved in the events bring those characters to life as well.
I would recommend this book in whatever format suits you, but if you are able to listen to the audible version, you will be rewarded by excellent readers.
Andre Dubus III is a violent man. I felt that after finishing his novel, HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG; having read his memoir, TOWNIE, I am certain of it as well as a bit more knowledgeable about the origin of the violence. Dubus III and his siblings were essentially abandoned by their father, short story writer Dubus II, when they were very young. Their mother then raised them (but mostly neglected them) in the slums, where they had to learn survival tactics. Dubus’ violent streak served to both protect him and impress his father.
TOWNIE is Dubus’ story of growing up poor with educated parents, using boxing and street fighting as survival strategies, and eventually learning to fight with his words rather than his fists. The book is filled with one exquisitely told brutal event after another. I listened to the book on Audible, narrated by the author, and the flat intonation with which he read his own writing is monotonous enough to counteract the ferocity of the prose . His dispassionate reading helped take some of the sting out of the brutality and probably fairly represented how inured to violence he became during his adolescence.
Violence was one theme of the book; the other major theme was Dubus’ striving to earn his father’s love. When his parents divorced, his father moved to the other side of town and lived a relatively elite college life while leaving his wife and children to live the deprived life his ex-wife could provide. Dubus and his siblings had dinner with their father occasionally, but otherwise saw little of him. It was only when Dubus began fighting that his father took notice. Dubus became a sort of alter-ego for his father, and he supported his father emotionally during his final years. As the book ends, Dubus seems proud of how far he’s come. However, he did not manage to make me like him or even feel that he was ultimately the “good” man he’d like to think he is.
It was hard for me to like TOWNIE given its heavy emphasis on violence and the fact that I really didn’t much like Andre Dubus III as he portrayed himself. The writing is very descriptive and evocative, however, so while he may not be a wonderful guy, he is a good writer.
Herbert Molin, a recluse living in the small town in the forest in Sweden, is gruesomely murdered. The police are in the early days of investigation when his neighbor is also murdered. Mollon had been tortured before death, while Anderson is shot execution-style. But two murders in such a remote location have to be related. A visiting policeman, Stefan, on sick leave as he tries to come to grips with his diagnosis of tongue cancer, helps local police and forms a friendship with the investigator in charge, Joseppi.
Stefan, not officially on duty, follows questionable practices such as breaking into people's houses, to find clues, which he then passes on to Joseppi. The two men brainstorm and talk through the investigation as it gets closer and closer to an underground Nazi organization. The book indicts Nazism in both its historical and present incarnations, as links between its practice and the deaths surface. Introspective Stephan also deals with how Nazism has played a role in his family and upbringing.
After an initially very tense scene, this book develops slowly. The reserved manner in which the characters interact with one another creates a space between the reader and the characters. Even scenes which have to do with passion are told rather dispassionately. For this reason, the book didn't draw me back as strongly as some. However, the very intricate plot is interesting, and I wanted to know how it ended and what the crucial connections were. Mankell did a good job of holding the last pieces of the puzzle until the end.
I actually listened to the Audible.com version of this book. That may have added to my rating since it was so well done.
I am not generally a lover of historical fiction, so I wouldn't have picked this up on my own. I am so happy that it was a book club choice, since that's what got me to read it. It starts and ends in the 60s, which is close enough to the present for me. But the bulk of the novel takes place in the late 30s. It's the story of Katie and Tinker, both from working class backgrounds, and the different ways that they joined the upper crust as well as how their social climbs affected them both. At one point, Katie uses honeymoon bridge as a metaphor for life. You draw a card and then must choose whether to keep it or discard it and draw another. And each card defines in some way how your life will proceed.
The book was beautifully written, the characters so real, and it felt as though I were right there in 1930s New York. I did some extra driving because I didn't want to leave it, and now I'm sad that it's over.
Folks who enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love
Disliked the character, who couldn't talk about anything other than herself.
Couldn't finish it.
MRS KIMBLE was well written, but I had little patience for the characters and this made it hard to continue.
The book opens with the death of Mr. Ken Kimble, and then we are taken back through his three marriages: first to a child-woman who is completely unable to take care of herself or her children when he leaves, then to a working woman who hadn't found time to get married until she met Ken, and finally to a woman who was once his children's babysitter. Each woman is flawed, which allows Kimble to exercise his power over each in turn.
There is very little to redeem Ken Kimble, and it is hard to be sympathetic toward the women who stayed with him. I would not have stuck with this book if it hadn't been a book discussion book.
Disgust at Mr. Kimble and all the Mrs. Kimbles
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