First and foremost, I have to get the negatives out of the way. Two unappealing things stood out. The first concerned the portrayal of Liz/Elizabeth in the first section of the book. The robotic B.S. and the effects of Mommie Dearest on Elizabeth was overwrought and both highly unnecessary and highly ridiculous. I had one of those mothers, and before I actually did rebel, I had thought long and hard about the "what ifs" of taking a step out of line. Once I wandered, well... there was no turning back.. but that's another book. At any rate, Elizabeth was a very unlikable character in the beginning. Her mother was too overdrawn and ridiculuous and the author spent the rest of the book using the mother's bad ways to demonstrate how far Eliz/Liz/Abigail had come to get out from under her. The second ugly thing was the rendering of Elizabeth to be a counterpart to Lisbeth Salander from the Dragon Tattoo Series. It was so close, so mimetic, that I came close several times to not resuming. Even I could not figure out why I stuck with it when I was really angry with Nora Roberts for appearing to "steal" from the very popular book and its very quirky character.
Neither Liz/Elizabeth nor Abigail could hold a candle to Lisbeth. Lisbeth was so real, so alive, so believable, that The Witness became only the eye of a camera by comparison.
Enter Brooks Gleason. I did not like the use of man/romance as a manipulative device to get Abigail to loosen up. I think it's an easy-peasy method of bringing the female character to her senses -- that is to trust/love/have sex again. But I loked the character of Brooks and really liked his family.
So what is this book about? It is NOT about straying from mommy's intended discipline and getting people killed, it is not about the consequences and punishments of a child's bad behavior. It is not (entirely) about love and romance or about revenge and one-upsmanship.
In the Dragon Tattoo series, Lisbeth was dedicated to her work, and nothing, even her somewhat-one sided romance with Mikail, derailed her from her intention. She would reap havoc on her abuser(s), rob them and enjoy their money. We never for a moment forgot who Lisbeth was, what she came through and why she did the things she did. We never questioned what she would be doing after the capers (Russians btw) -- she would continue being Lisbeth.
In The Witness, Elizabeth/Liz were personas meant to be exterminated. There was never a question in the book that she would die or be tortured or identified by the Russians. We knew that good ol' Brooks would keep her safe.
But what Nora Roberts book IS about is the social outsider, the excluder, the invisible among us. Where Lisbeth was an outsider, she was so by choice. Elizabeth Fitch was an outsider by orders of her robotic mother, Dr. Susan Fitch. The writer of this book would have us believe that Elizabeth was so programmed that even in the few allotted hours of TV, Elizabeth did not ever imagine herself doing anything but that which her mother had programmed for her.
Yet, when left alone for a short time, and with the benefit of some thought, but not much, she transformed herself from goody-goody to worldly and sexy and bad things came as a result.
In the course of the book, during the romance with Brooks, during the parallel stories of blackmail and spousal abuses in Bickford, Abigail (alias for Elizabeth) comes to see the value of love, friendship and FAMILY.
The author gives Abigail stupid lines of dialogue to show us how wide-eyed she was about, for instance, how to properly attend a family picnic, but that was unnecessary and NOT cute.
The wrap up, the way ABigail was able to put Liz/Elizabeth to rest forever, was trite and without complications. I seldom say this; in fact I am usually complaining that a long book is too full of filler; but this book needed another hundred pages or so to play out the bringdown of the Russian mob -- (could have been Italians, Latinos, African-Americans, Middle Easterners, or Asians).
There was a lot of repetition of Abigail's travails. There were too many insertions of Abigail's unpolished demeanor (she's 28 and she's a computer genius and able to see the world from a distance. She would not have been that socially inept -- ever) -- all this leads me to think that the author wanted to infantilize Abigail, keep her at the age of 16 when her world went whacko.
Unforgivable: The absence of closure with the mother, Dr. Susan Fitch. Not that there should have been a reunion with violins and roses. In fact, Abigail replaced Susan with Sunny -- and that was appropraite -- but there should have been some final checkin that ABigail might have made to report the status of Susan, even with her donor father. Those things could have been nicely tied together into a package of parallel longings, forgetting and forgiveness. I think the exclusion of that closure with her biological family was a mistake.
So, really, this is about an outsider who finally wants in. She no longer is happy in her computer safe room. She is in love with a fine, sexy, powerful man (what other kind is there?) and she gets the nerve to open the door, so to speak.
I love the outsider theme, but I hate that the outsider makes peace ONLY after she is rescued by sex and love.
What about the dog? Bert is a highly trained security animal, and yet, she brings him to family parties, she takes him to a stranger's home. My very limited knowledge of security animals tells me that a working dog is at work at all times. I could be wrong, maybe the working dog is also tender and loving, (just like Brooks Gleason). Something about that rang "off" with me, but I won't press that point.
If you have not read the Stieg Larrson trilogy -- the book is likeable. There is no pulsing tension; this is no page turner, but it is a decent read out on a hammock or on the beach, even if it doesn't "feel" real.
This is the first Nora Roberts book for me. I will have a hard time trying another because I fear she writes those romance type books which depend on the love and attention of a handsome man to bring a heroine to wholeness. That is somewhat anachronistic in these times -- especially when the heroine is a crack computer hacker/geek/nerd whose worldliness would exceed the good ol' boy she craves.
Typical for the series except this one uses Abe Glitsky more actively. There were moments in the book that I felt Abe was made to look doddering, and deserving of his forced retirement. He made a bunch of rookie mistakes and I sort of winced at his foolishness. And even in the big solve, where Abe stands front and center, I didn't feel it was genuine.
Hardy was barely in the book, which this time was fine; but I wouldn't call it a Dismas Hardy book by any stretch.
Now about the story. The story was silly. A woman is murdered. Her husband is accused. There are all sorts of infidelities going on in marriages and in various departments of criminal justice. The resolve was a little implausible. You have to wonder if some of the bad behavior will continue by those in the story identified as truly guilty. You have to wonder if the fall guy (the final victim) was a convenience for the rest of the criminals in that circle. It seemed rather convenient to have the killer of the primary dead woman connected to all the deaths. About six murders occur in this book and by the end, there may be six previous to blame on this killer. Yet, it has no tension, no OMGs, no being caught off guard and no big surprise from the big reveal.
The ending was too clean. Too much information just showed up in the newspaper to justify the killer's motives, etc. I just kind of shrugged at the end. Abe's part in the finale was significant, and yet he seemed like an accidental hero. No final scenes with his wife. Mention of a potential reprimand, but nothing active or tense. The final scenes bring Hardy back into the picture, lecturing Abe, and, having taken little or no part in the story, Hardy morphed into a minor, all but forgotten character.
The series is usually better than this, but **The Keeper** wasn't the worst of them.
Very good EXCEPT that whole piece of Las Vegas and Boris was a bit tedious. Glad when he fell out of the story, though I suspected he would return later. Why are modern writers so taken with Russians? I am too, I admit, but every "good" book seems to use them for stereotypical thug characters.
A problem with first person "coming of age" tales is that the narrator/character is always innocent, caught in a bad spot and forced to do things they know are wrong, but at a loss to control, having excuses for committing sins and crimes, and being a general "shithead." I admire Tartt's making Theo somewhat less than sympathetic. I shake my head in annoyance at him, but at heart, he still meets the old criteria of "basically good." It may be too convenient. In some ways, "Goldfinch" is like Saul Bellow's "The Adventures of Augie March," yet "Goldfinch" far surpasses "Augie" in its engaging, realistic and interesting episodes. Bellow did the same thing with Augie. Made him an innocent caught in multiple acts inspired by circumstances he just "fell into." Bellow also had implausible, long-winded passages that even in retrospect could have been cut at no loss to the story.
I have a theory about motherless boys -- both fictional and as writers. Boys who grow up without a mother of any kind are a different, needier breed, as children and adults; literature makes great use of this disadvantage. Tartt put two motherless boys together, both with lousy fathers and both with issues around women, romance and sex. In this case, we are not seeing a split personality divided into two characters. These are two complete studies. Theo and Boris are NOT cut from the same cloth. They are thrown together because Boris pursued Theo's innocence and "outsider" status in Las Vegas. Wherever Theo landed, he absorbed the culture around him. He acted as he was expected to in each situation.
But, no matter what travails and adventures Theo, the hero(?) endures, I (the reader) continue to keep my eye on the picture that kicks off the early scenes. The story is about Theo and Boris and art and love and growing up. But The Goldfinch of the title is the thread. And, except for some of Theo's minor thoughts about it, that thread disappears from the plot for hundreds of pages. I, for one, never stopped thinking about it, never stopped wondering why Theo was such a wuss about it, why he never gave the beloved Bird its freedom.
After the big chase scenes that signal the end, with all the misunderstandings, and red herrings, what the story comes down to is that this book is a conglomeration of several religions, philosophies and themes in popular literature and the importance of art. Theo's final soliloquy is boring and self-indulgent. More Hobie, less Theo, I say.
Problems/Questions remain (for me)
1. Why is Theo so stupid? How can he not trust Hobie (a true father/mother figure) and instead put his life so often in Boris' slimy hands?
2. Theo's "romances," such as they were, were empty and expressed no passion, not even toward the beloved unattainable ONE. He simply observes and does not ACT. He is dragged along in an aimless, spineless march to the altar.
3. Did Tartt need to beat us over the head with the allusion to "The Idiot" in order to understand her desire to make a Myshkin out of Theo or maybe it's Boris -- not sure? Once was enough. The near ending backflash of a very early scene with Boris' reading "The Idiot" is downright insulting.
4. The mirroring of the the boy and their fathers is too symmetrical.
5. The big surprise about the contents of the storage shed was good, though not surprising enough. Didn't we all know already its fate was not secure? Why did the explanation of what happened require pages of cat-and-mouse play between Boris and Theo?
6. The rescue and return were implausibly committed. Theo, who had done NOTHING for the entire book, suddenly is alive and self-preserving. Still, he is conforming to the company he keeps. He acted as they would have acted, not as Theo. The real Theo would have died in that scene.
7. I am still not clear where ALL that end of story money came from. It was very convenient to aid in Theo's claim of legitimacy, but it was strange and convoluted. It required way too much explanation. The ending explains why Theo is where he is when the story opens, but the connection is not strong enough. It carries the same maudlin tone as the opening, as if Theo has been left to wander the earth to buy back his soul. Somehow, I just don't find any joy in Theo's redemptive acts. It was too easy.
8. I liked the final conversation Boris had with Theo as the resolution became clear, the honesty from such a liar and poor friend was refreshing, unexpected and it "felt" real, though with Boris, who can be sure?
9. What are we to feel at the end? Does Theo ride off into the sunset of every country he visits making restitution? Does he return and resume his life? Does he win the princess? Do we really care? I felt a bit cheated at the end.
Despite how the above may sound, I did like the book. I started out LOVING the book, and now I just like it. It is worth the investment of time and it is well written, though in places too tediously detailed. There were chapters which held me back from doing anything else. And then there were days I did not return to it for the mind-boggling litanies of who did what, when, how, and the drug-induced monologues that went nowhere.
This is not one I will listen to again, but I do recommend it. As has been said, it compares to "The Corrections" in breadth. It does not measure up to Franzen's "Corrections," despite the thread that keeps it all together. But "Goldfinch" lacked the nuance, the unspoken as well as the end-of-story revelations which made "Corrections" knock you out at the end. "Goldfinch" left me without a strong ending and proper resolution.
But I liked it! Contradictory, I know.
Not one complaint except an unanswered question... Who was Burt and what was the secret that Sylvester had promised to never reveal? Or did I miss it?
Beyond that, it was a very, satisfying, educational and rich in character and setting. Very well worth reading.
I read this for a class in Brit Lit. Simply because it's Henry James, it's not the worst of the bunch. It is rather long winded for the outcome. The psychological portraits seem apt. The legal stuff a tad unbelievable, but probably true. To me it all rests in one idea. Mrs. Gareth's son does not have the kind of adoration a son should have for his mother, so she is being ousted by the despicable woman he wants to marry. The woman Mrs.Gareth wants him to marry is too morally sound to do what must be done to displace the fiance, so much chaos ensues.
The ending is troubling for an absence of explanation. I like a cliffhanger, but I feel there was not enough information in the characters to give me even a guess at the perpetrator of the final act. It's almost as if James threw up his hands in disgust at his characters and took action with his pen to free them from a final decision.
Anyway, it's worth the credit; though it lacks humor, sustained tension and, except for a final action by Owen and a last page event, it also lacks surprise.
So this kid from the hinterlands decides to become a doctor. He goes through the trials and tribs of youth, early love, rejection. He hitches his academic wagon to the wrong stars on occasion. He finds the right woman who supports him and his quest for a medical degree and a position to work in science. He fails miserably more than once. He capitulates to corporate greed, the woman's parents, the expectations of society all before he wakes up --too late-- and has to start all over again.
If this was a jab at the education of a medical professional, it seems weak today. The writing was strong, the characters well defined, their foibles and power well explored and delineated. Poor Martin Arrowsmith, however, was drawn without much spine, and less imagination than his costars.
Not sure why this is a "classic" except for its year, and the fact that Sinclair Lewis also wrote Elmer Gantry, but it is an adequate portrait of early 20th century, pre-WWII America. There are some attacks at militarism, at corporate medical practices, at academia, etc., but it's not a diatribe and it is also not a deep read.
I am taking on Elmer Gantry later, but I feel I've already seen into that book through Lewis' sweep of American immorality in this book. Elmer Gantry SHOULD be preachy; Arrowsmith was as well.
I think it is about average for the series. There is much repetition, seemingly filler. There is no real "suspense" to speak of, no twists or turns. These books are getting too soft, too nicey-nicey and not enough bad behavior. Mikey Haller is despicable, he lies, cheats and pretty much bends the law to his needs, which is not only not appealing, but a little ridiculous. Connelley gives the judges much better standards of behavior, *always* belittles the prosecutors and generally makes the women characters very likeable. I think he is being a little too PC, it feels contrived. His client is claiming innocence of the murder, which is Mickey's case in this book, but the client is not someone I would root for--not because he is into bad stuff but because he's a wuss and I couldn't have cared less if he died in jail. Of all the characters, I think I liked Sly Sr. the most. He was the most authentic, but even he caved to Mickey's brilliant wheeling and dealing.
The plot to this one took some brain mapping. I don't know why, but I had a difficult time believing the tie-in between the (at least) three separate crimes.
Like I said, no surprises, no tears of sadness or joy, no real threats to anyone -- twice Mickey ignores the judge's admonition to quit running her courtroom and doesn't get in trouble. Mickey spends a good deal of time pinpointing his main juror, but it didn't matter anyway... why plant that seed? Bad use of red herring.
Anyway, I'm a fan of the series and of Connelley's past performances, so I am an eternal optimist. Maybe in the next installment he should kill off Mickey, so we don't expect more of a good thing that apparently is not forthcoming?
I have run into this syndrome in the past, favored authors' series and characters growing stale. It could be a matter of boredom by the author who may have publishing contracts to fulfill. Lee Child may be approaching this milestone, Jonathan Kellerman has gotten close too. Even Preston & Child's Pendergast series is getting a little predictable -- except that they have strong stories and AXP Pendergast is generally very much alive on the page and remains as likeable as a rock star.
It's kind of like knowing when to leave the party. I think it's time for Mickey Haller to pack up his boring self, his bad fathering, his womanizing, his self-pity and his tricky courtroom hijinks and drink himself to death.
The worst narrator in the world. Voice was bad, and there was an audible "click" like to a tape machine every several minutes... I am downloading another version, because I know the book is great... This should be removed from the list.
Wonderful book, good story, some predictable elements, but the "twist" was unexpected. I expected a whole different reason for the "big decision." This was better. Warm, authentic and suitable for all ages, cultures and interests. Narrator very good. Recommended -- in fact, should be required reading for students of the human community. Tolerance, humor, survival, family, fathers and sons.... just great.
Loved it on every level. Liked that there were no "hidden" messages, but outright connections and links to events and personal psychology of the hostages. Loved that so many characters could be so individually present and unique. Loved the "love" relationship of the two couples, adored the Russian's profession of adoration based on a (long) short story of the man's early years. Yes, these are archetypal characters.. we've seen them all before in one scenario or another, but the twists are subtle and sufficient enough to make it a page turner, though the pages turned gently, for it was a sweet book, a book of hope.
Throughout the story, the narrator tells us things like "later he would think..." so that we knew certainly the future of that particular character. The suspense was in my own longing that the couples could be coupled after the takeover. Yet the tragedy and the glory of the situation grow from the impossibility of the situation.
If the set was too comfortable, too well fed, housed in a mansion and not in a thatched roof hut in a forest, who cares? The story was about captivity, language, voice, independence and dependence. The Opera motif fit perfectly the drama of the setting, the largeness of the characters, and voice, voice was key here.
A translator is not allowed to interpret or choose what is meant to be said, eventually the Traductor stepped out of his role. A terrorist is not supposed to waver; the generals eventually tired. Child terrorists should be obedient or they would be punished, this scruffy lot was hungry for the outside world and confined to the VP's mansion were things they would never have seen, heard or felt. It was about acceptance and letting go.
Someone mentioned that the language came right of an MFA platter of perfect English. I agree, and that's what made it so readable. The sentences were almost invisible, unless you don't like your English well done. The language carried the story without intrusion and that is a trait of greatness.
I have one complaint, and that complaint cost this the 4th star. The ending, a bit abrupt, was "unfair," regarding the terrorists, and it seemed rushed. But beyond that, what we learn in the Epilogue about the survivors broke the spell for me. I did not care at all for the way Roxanne and Gen ended up. It is too flimsy to say that because each lost the love of their individual lives (as formed in captivity), that they should assume the roles of the lost ones. Mr. Hosokawa and Carmen go down together by a single bullet.. ghastly and too melodramatic. Gen and Roxanne’s final pairing made no sense, and while I was ready to "sell" the book to anyone who would listen to me, it ruined the spell for me. Of course, Edith and Simon Thibault made sense together… Simon’s adoration of his wife was never questioned.
Narrator Anna Fields was splendid...
Limited in scope, a "feel-good" story written in simple prose, with nothing of substance to support it. Rather stock characters, though some more interesting than others. Religious "lessons" in the actions/punishments of wayward people. Basically a Christian look at a hard life, about forgiveness, tolerance, and learning to be satisfied with what one has.
If this was meant to contain any "feminist" threads, they were slim. Strong female protag who is successful in most of her endeavors, but waits till forever to marry. A few conflicts which could have proved interesting but didn't
Narrator fine; story -- good for 10-12 year olds; older kids would find it dull and unrealistic.
Lots of scenery, love of the land, etc. etc.
Read The Yearling if you like books about making it in the rough, about rising to overcome adversity and about growing up to be a "good" human being.
2.5 - 3*, because it is the first of a fairly good trilogy. My Antonia (the 3rd) is far better than this one; with more grit and real emotion, perhaps because by then Cather had matured as a writer.
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