Oakland, CA | Member Since 2012
Other than being way too long, this was a pretty good book! I really like the ending and felt a great affection for the characters by then. The writing was terrific. Chabon's is great at characterization. His use of imagery is fantastic, as evidenced by this passage about Rosa's letters to Joe after he left her.
"(Joe)... took out the thick sheaf of letters that he had received from Rosa after his enlistment at the end of 1941. The letters had followed him, irregularly but steadily, from basic training at Newport, Rhode Island, to the navy's polar training station at Thule, Greenland, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he had spent the fall of 1943 as the Kelvinator mission was assembled. After that, as no reply from their addressee was ever forthcoming, there had been no more letters. Her correspondence had been like the pumping of a heart into a severed artery, wild and incessant at first, then slowing with a kind of muscular reluctance to a stream that became a trickle and finally ceased; the heart had stopped."
The history of comic books in America was interesting, and I liked the way he connected a variety of themes to that history. Mostly, these themes centered on the idea of ESCAPE. For example, Chabon showed Sammy and Joe working tirelessly for the Jews' escape from Hitler's bondage in their "The Escapist" comic books, Sammy finding himself and beginning to escape the bonds of America's prejudices toward gays, and Joe escaping from his "survivor guilt" after his immigration to America as well as working for his little brother's escape from Prague, and also Joe's escape from Rosa after what happens to Tommy.
Chabon showed a caustic sense of humor, too. For example when the name of the bedroom assigned to the gay lovers is revealed as "Ramcock." There were lots more examples, and I chuckled out loud quite a few times.
I felt so touched by the close bonds between the main characters at the end and they way they dealt with the way their lives had unfolded. I just wish Chabon had left out the whole episode of Joe enlisting in the Navy and traveling to Antarctica. That was over the top and way too drawn out. Other episodes could have been edited out or cut down as well, and then the book would have made a bigger impact. (You're probably thinking the same thing about this review, if you got this far :)
As with the first 6 books in the Harry Bosch series, this one was very compelling and thoroughly enjoyable. It held up well in comparison – definitely as good as the others. Michael Connelly does not disappoint.
The only problem I had with this book is the ending. In fact, in almost every Harry Bosch book there seems to be some type of twist RIGHT at the very end. I think that in most cases, these twists would be better left out. At least for the twists I remember, they seem to be added on at the end as if the author thinks the book hasn’t had enough excitement and he needs to keep things happening until the last second. I don’t agree with this technique. If the author wrapped the story up well, then why unravel it again at the end with some unrealistic twist or detail? That’s the way it seems to me, anyway.
As an example of these unnecessary twists (spoiler alert here) in this book, it seemed ridiculous to me that McCaleb would come to Bosch at the end, after all the details of all the crimes were wrapped up, and accuse Bosch of setting up Rudy Tafero the way he did and say he didn’t want to be his friend anymore. I can see the point he’s making about the possible problem with Bosch’s actions regarding Rudy Tafero, however, it just seemed really unrealistic in the face of all they had been through and all the evil that Rudy Tafero had perpetrated. I thought McCaleb was being way too black and white about it all. Also, it sounded like an elementary school student saying, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” Really?
With this book, it’s all about the ending. It was truly magical – the ending, that is. However, that was only the last 30 minutes of so of reading or listening. Getting to this place was overly tedious. The writing was wonderful, and that, along with the ending, pulled the book up from the tedium. The sections with Kahlo, Rivera, and Trotsky were fascinating as character studies of these people, but … the plot! The plot seemed to be missing or at best rambling throughout this overly long book.
I felt like much of the book was meant to be a history lesson, with Kingsolver’s political slant to it. Much of that was interesting, but it didn’t help the plot much! I learned a lot… about the Bonus Army, Mexico, Trotsky, the McCarthy era, etc.
The ending, though. I can’t stop thinking about the ending! I liked that Violet Brown was the 1st person narrator of the final section. Because it is Violet speaking, we can’t know the complete truth about Harrison at the end. This perspective added to the magical quality of what happens, so it was a great decision on Kingsolver’s to use Violet to narrate here. When Violet gets the note from Frieda Kahlo, the mystery is solved to a certain point, and it is heart-warming. The reader is left yearning to know more about the note and all it implies, so the book goes out on a high note of interest and mystery.
I got this book on sale on Audible.com over 2 years ago and hadn’t read it yet. I decided to give it a try, and it was much better than I expected! This Goodreads review by Gretchen Friese says pretty much what I was thinking:
“I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I read this. Not because it wasn't good, but because I have this thing about posting relationship-y self-help books on here. I don't want people to know that I spend time thinking about my relationship status. I want to seem cooler than that.”
Ha ha… well put. As for the book itself, I thought the information about attachment styles was really interesting and eye-opening. I wish I’d known about it as I was growing up and entering into various relationships! The only part that fell short for me was the application of the attachment theory into real life, and the advice the authors gave to people to use in their relationships. That part was over simplified, I thought. The guidelines and general concepts, however, are great and informative. Readers need to come up with their own strategies and permutations, however.
I have to admire the detailed research that went in to writing Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Katherine Boo shadowed so many people in the Annawadi slum of Mumbai for THREE YEARS. She does an amazing job of portraying their lives in all of their complexity. Her research didn’t end there, either. She evidently did much more intense document research as well. Her whole career has been spent examining disadvantaged communities in America and now India. She really opens up the eyes of the reader to what daily life is like and what the major issues are in Annawadi. Her website give a great overall look at how the book was written; I wish I had checked out the site before reading the book, actually. I think it deepened my appreciation for the task she undertook.
What I came away with is the sense that in the Annawadi slums, as in all or most of India it seems, corruption is practically bred into people’s lives. For the poorest people who live in these slums, a corrupt life is the only way most of them can eek out a means of survival. The majority of these people don’t even feel bothered by their own total lack of ethics and morals; they are too poor and too overwhelmed with trying to simply survive. The widespread corruption gives the people a sense that they have lost control over their lives. The ground is always shifting under them due to the forces of corruption everywhere.
The problem with the book for me is that it seems caught between two genres, creative non-fiction and the novel. I thought it would have been more interesting if Boo had just simply written a novel about the main characters in the book. Plenty of the factual info about their lives could have come across this way. As it was, the non-fiction tone and structure of the book got in the way of any enjoyment for me in the reading of it. It read like a catalogue of horrors and stories of corruption without enough glue to hold them together. Just when I finally learned the names of those that would become the main characters, the author would go off on a tangent to describe other characters and issues. The names became too many and after a while I didn’t really care. Luckily, the main characters finally came back into focus and the story carried on for a while, only to be derailed with more tangents which could illustrate more of the horrible issues going on in the Annawadi slums.
So, my review is based on my enjoyment of the book, which was almost non-existent at most points. If I were to rate it based on value and importance of the message, then I’d give it a top rating.
The opening of the book was lush and held out much promise for an engrossing southern novel. However, the characters and the story didn’t live up to this beginning. I did enjoy the descriptions of a “living” plantation, Belle Vie, in this day and age. That part was fascinating. The main character, Caren, however, seemed unlikeable and I just didn’t care much about her. She makes some really stupid decisions. The relationship she has with her ex –husband just doesn’t ring true to me. In fact, all her relationships seem washed out or bland.
In the end, the solution to the mystery just seems to pop up out of nowhere. Or did I miss something?
Overall, I was underwhelmed.
This book had all the right elements for a great read: it was a good story that had many levels, the writing was good, there were lessons about history, as well as philosophical or ethical questions to ponder.
I loved the way there were 3 different stories going on at once. First there is the story of Sage and her struggle with how to interact with Joseph Weber and her meeting Leo. Then there is Minka’s story of the Upior, based on an old Polish fairy tale. This was interesting as a parallel and a metaphor for many of the actions and horrors that occurred in the book. The third and, to me, the most dramatic story was that of Minka herself and her path into and finally out of two different German concentration camps. The author very skillfully weaves these 3 story lines together in such a way that each story line adds to and helps to develop the other.
Spoiler alert here: I had trouble putting the book down! If I have any criticism, it’s with the ending. I’m not sure that the big switch in the character of Joseph Weber at the end was necessary or very well explained. Also, the idea that Sage pulls off her final act but seems to have no intention of sharing it or talking about it with Leo seems unrealistic. OR perhaps I’m unconvinced that she really could or would pull off this final decision. I feel like this final section was, perhaps, rushed or underdeveloped in relation to all that had come before. However, this didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book overall.
I highly recommend it.
This book didn’t live up to all of its 4 and 5 star reviews. Although the story of the orphan trains itself is interesting, I found the book to be stereotyped and shallow.
One example is the foster mother of Molly. The author threw in so many stereotypes which she obviously found to be “evil” but which don’t necessarily ring true to me as definitive markers of an evil person: she listens to conservative talk radio, she is NOT a vegetarian, she has an anti-abortion bumper sticker, etc etc. SO, the author is definitely prejudiced against conservatives, BUT I think there could have been a more skillful way to portray a person who is supposed to be as judgmental and uncaring as the foster mom. This author took a short cut, but it didn’t work.
The book seemed like it should be categorized as a young adult novel. It was too oversimplified and moralistic for me. The ending packs a big emotional wallop, and did make me cry. I believe that is why it ended up getting such good reviews. As a whole, it is really not worth it.
I thoroughly enjoyed Trunk Music and would have given it my highest rating EXCEPT that the ending seemed so contrived and phony that I had to knock it down just a little. It seemed just wrong to have Victoria Aliso blurt out as she died to, “… save my daughter.” What daughter? That’s the first we hear of it. And really? Her daughter turns out to be Layla, the Las Vegas dancer that Victoria’s HUSBAND is having an affair with? As if that weren’t enough, THEN Bosch and Eleanor run across Layla when they leave L.A. and Vegas and begin their honeymoon in Hawaii on the very last page. That coincidence seems just way too contrived. If there had been a plot of some dimension about Victoria, Layla, and their histories, then fine. However, to just throw these two facts in at the very end does NOT work to make the book and the plot seem believable.
Other than that, I found the book very readable and compelling, as with most of the Harry Bosch books. I’ll keep on reading about Harry Bosch. I wondered about the title "Trunk Music," and found what it means: ”...a wise guy saying outta Chicago.. when they whack some poor slob they say, “Oh, Tony Don't worry about Tony. He’s trunk music now. You won’t see him no more. “
A very engrossing book! It’s a really good story, but the build up is a bit too long. I like the way the reader has a lot of sympathy for Werner. He is basically trapped his whole life, but he undergoes a transformation that is extremely heartwarming at the end, and the build up here makes the extra length of the book worthwhile.
It seemed like the author is trying to show the reader how it feels to be blind, like the main character, young Marie Laure. This is admirable, however, I found all the minute descriptions from the mind of the blind girl to be too detailed. It was hard for me to appreciate them. Just like I didn’t enjoy reading a book where the narrator supposedly had Asperger syndrome, I didn’t really like seeing the world through the eyes of Marie Laure.
Also, the chapters skip around chronologically, which I found somewhat disorienting, since I was listening to the book. This technique is a good one, but at some points it seemed to be over-used.
I was fascinated by this book. Setting is big; it swept me away to another world, the world of New Guinea in the 1930’s. It wasn’t until after I finished reading Euphoria that I found out it was based on the life of Margaret Mead. (Ok, DUH :) As I was reading, I kept thinking that there had to be a real person like this. Sometimes an author’s research just comes through or seems obvious, and then the reader can tell that there WAS someone who did it like this. The same thing happened in “The Invention of Wings.” As I read along and saw so many specifics about various characters, I figured that it must be about someone REAL. (That was another DUH, since it’s on the back of the book! Hey, I listened to both of them :)
Now that I read that Euphoria is based on Margaret Mead and a particular time in her life, I want to know more. There really was a love triangle (according to a review I read – see below) ! How juicy and exciting, AND it was exciting in the book, too. The author did such a good job of building up all the tension and revealing the facts of the situation slowly and in a somewhat mysterious way. I loved that about the book. The last 1/3 or so of it was the most exciting as all the pieces fell in to place. The ending obviously veers off from the life of Margaret Mead; I’d like to find out in what other areas the fictional character is different.
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