Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Fistful of Reads: March Edition

So, another month is through and I was able to tackle three novels that I responded to in very differing ways.  I have nothing but respect for all three novels, and yet I only truly love one of them and while one is an undisputed classic it remains a novel I’m not entirely sold on, at least not as a complete package.  You can get a glimpse at my reads for Jan. and Feb. by clicking on those links. 

For March, here is my ranking and thoughts on the three books I was able to read:

3) Everything is Illuminated/Foer
I want to start by saying that I really liked this overall.  There were segments and moments in particular that I felt it was strained, and I was surprised by the seeming lack of focus I found in some of Foer’s writing, but the overall effect presented and delivered by this tale is undeniable.  When it gets it right, it gets it very right.

My main issue is that this novel is really three interwoven stories that don’t always connect in the way that one would expect and or in the way necessary to really flesh out the story as a whole.  That is why I say that I liked it overall, but in parts I could merely appreciate the ambition and not necessarily enjoy the experience.  I was reminded of when I read ‘Galore’, a book that relies heavily on folklore to expound on more central themes.  In Foer’s depiction of pre-Nazi life in the shtetl, this same fantastical narrative is used to explore the life of Foer’s family tree and it is equal parts fascinating and frustrating, not wholly developed in a sense that really connects to the viewer, and at times it felt almost contradictory to the segments providing light on Foer’s present day journey of self-discovery.  The juggled narrators are interesting and add color to the proceedings (with Alex’s broken English being almost endearing) and there is no denying that Foer is a talented and artistic writer, but I just feel like his potential wasn’t fully honed here. 

2) Great Expectations/Dickens
‘Great Expectations’ is one of those stories that has stood the test of time and has become a book that many people point to as the definition of an ageless classic.  It is beloved and deemed important by many literary greats and should probably be on every book lover’s bookshelf. 

I’m kind of ashamed I only now got around to actually reading it.

All of that said, this is extremely ‘Dickens’ as many would call it, and with that label comes the obvious drawback; his writing style can be rather dense.  I remember when I first picked this up I was flooded with warnings from friends that it was not the easiest book on the shelf to actually get through, but I was bewildered by this statement because it opened so strong.  I was hooked, completely consumed with every page.  The passion in Dickens’ voice as he narrates (through Pip) the account of his downtrodden existence and his mysterious newfound prominence was so rich and so compelling.  And then it hit a dry patch that lasted a few (or a lot) of chapters.  Yes, ‘Great Expectations’ tells a great story, and it opens and closes VERY strong, but my issue with this book comes in the central passages that seem to almost stop dead and become ridiculously cluttered with people and places that just don’t matter and aren’t in the least bit interesting.  Thankfully, the book knows when to pick itself back up and the final third of this story is jaw dropping in its amazingness.

      1)      Jane Eyre/Bronte
I’m not really one for romance novels, at least not in the typical sense.  I often try and avoid them.  I also find period pieces, while beautiful on the big screen, somewhat daunting to actually read.  Still, there was something about the story of ‘Jane Eyre’ that I really connected to and longed to read.  I loved the 2011 film version and it was around that time that many of my friends were commenting on the novel and the fact that I had to read it.  So, I picked it up and started to dig in and I found that almost immediately I was infatuated with every word that Charlotte Bronte was penning.  I found in ‘Jane Eyre’ a magnificently complete love story that felt genuine, whole and uniformly perfect.

The secret exposed and the beautifully tragic resolve is handled marvelously by Bronte, who develops such truth in her depiction of love and adoration and respect and just an authenticated portrait of true love at its most engaged.  I just adore every aspect of this richly told story.  Some books are classics for a reason, and this one is certainly deserving of that title.
Easily, one of my favorite reads.

Until next month…


  1. Nicely done. My first goal: read The Great Gatsby this month :) I know it's short, which will help. I've also got The Catcher in the Rye and Ghost World on tap.

    1. Gatsby is fantastic! Catcher in the Rye was such a bloated mess, to me. Fantastic themes but overworked and hard to get through.