#141 – The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan
- Read: 12/11/16 – 12/18/16
- Provenance: Owned (paperback)
- Challenge: #readthemargin
- Rating: 3/5 stars
Overall, actually, I didn’t like the book much–the three-star rating is an average, because I loved half the book and hated the other half.
Problem was, the two halves depended on each other, that was the point. Olivia’s internal narrative, which I hated, alternated with Kwan’s storytelling about her past life, which I loved.
Olivia came across to me as an intensely unlikable character, whose inability to form any kind of meaningful relationships with her family was entirely her own fault. She constantly pushed away any forms of affection shown to her, then whined that she was lonely. Granted, her husband was kind of an ass sometimes on his own merit, but Kwan? Kwan never did anything but try to love her, only the two of them were too different and Olivia couldn’t accept that form of love.
So I should have been impressed at the end when Olivia finally “understands,” right? Wrong. It’s a total about-face that wasn’t believable at all. Neither was her sudden reconciliation with her husband, complete with bonus miracle baby. Bleh.
#142 – Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
- Read: 12/18/16 – 12/22/16
- Provenance: Owned (hardcover)
- Challenge: #readthemargin
- Rating: 2/5 stars
I’ve never annotated a book before, but by the end of the first chapter, I was seized with the urge. I grabbed a green pen and set to work.
I underlined sentences I liked, drew hearts beside character descriptions I enjoyed, and scribbled notes in the margins about meaningful passages.
Halfway through, I noticed I was hardly picking up the pen. I made myself look for things to comment on, but I wasn’t finding them nearly as frequently.
I wondered if I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and I finished the book hardly making a mark in it.
By the time I got to the end, I realized the forest was boring.
The characters were superficial at best–all the weight of the narrative seemed thrown behind symbolism instead. The many and varied fairy-tale references peppered throughout began to wear thin as they had less and less to do with what was actually happening on the page.
And that “twist” in the final act made for an incredibly unsatisfying ending, with nothing resolved and a HUGE unexplored section of narrative to resolve. Ironically (for me) I had picked up on Boy referring to her sole parent only as “the rat catcher” and never as her father, but I thought it was because she was distancing herself from a childhood filled with abuse by denying the relationship. The real reason for that detail was not at all what I expected, but also basically . . . unnecessary? I don’t see what it served, in the end.
So this is where I realize, half a year later, that my weeks got misnumbered–I apparently skipped 25 as I was making these posts, because 52 should be next week! But it’s far, far too late to go back and fix them (oh god I don’t even want to think about editing that many post titles) and next week I’ll be doing a Best Books of the Year retrospective anyway. I haven’t decided if I should change the title to include the year and start over at #1, or just keep going next year with #53. Any thoughts?