Friday, June 11, 2010

BecauseI haven't posted any reviews of the books I've been reading, you might be tempted to think I haven't been reading. Sorry, but nothing keeps me from reading! The book that took me all of May to read was Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke and the first half of June was dedicated to The Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris.

I picked up Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell at Borders in early May. Let me warn you now, the print in the paperback is exceedingly small and even with my glasses on I had trouble at times. The book is 1006 pages long and there are a lot of words the publisher has tried to cram onto the pages to keep it to that length. If you can find it in hardcover, it might be an easier read on the eyes. In fact, the small print size is one of the reasons it took so long to finish. I kept putting it down because my eyes hurt after an hour or so.

The book reads like a non-fiction, telling the story of these two men from viewpoint of a never-named narrator. This device is furthered by the use of footnotes that, ostensibly, explain the references to other (fictional) works. While I found some of the footnotes entertaining in their own right (many read like little short stories), after a while, they became tiresome. Especially when they ran for several pages and I lost track of the story proper. Still, an interesting way to tell the little side-stories that often crop up when one is writing a novel of this length.

Overall I found the story mildly entertaining -- I did, after all, keep coming back after resting my eyes. But the non-fiction approach to the storytelling made it quite dry reading at times. For instance, it seemed that the beginning stretched forever before the story got out of the exposition and the main conflict was introduced. And if you're looking for a lot of action, this book is not it. If you like scholarly discussions of magic and power struggles between two opposing magicians, then this is definitely up your alley.

The second book, The Yellow Raft in Blue Water, has been taught in high schools for years so I figured it was high time I actually read it as well. I had no introduction to it, I just picked it up off the shelf and started. I didn't mind it too much, although, again, I found the storytelling a little to dry for my tastes. Raymona's story moved along and I found myself just sort of skimming along the story much as she skimmed through telling it.

But then the book shift's point of view and I found that unsettling, if not surprising. I figured it had to as Ray's story didn't have too many more places to go and there was a whole lot of book left. I found Christine's story even less compelling that Ray's and it sat on my desk gathering dust for several days before I was bored enough to pick it up again.

One of the English teachers told me she loved the book because it was like peeling an onion. That each person's story peeled away another layer until you got to the last point of view (I won't reveal the spoiler, although you'll probably figure it out halfway through the book). Only when you reached the core story did you find the truth. Of course, that assumes I'm still interested in finding out the truth when I finally get there. Overall, I'd give this one a bye unless you're a fan of the Contemporary American Novel. Which, apparently, I ain't.

So two more books to add to my list for this year's tally! Till later, Play safe,

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