Let’s start with a spoiler-free version of my review of Go Set A Watchman.
This is a well-written novel that certainly reflects the style of Harper Lee. So many of the seeds that bloomed into To Kill A Mockingbird are evident throughout the novel. However, the story itself is lacking—cliched, uninspired and, leaving behind what you already know about Atticus Finch and the main characters, predictable.
It’s a good “first go” at a novel—one that was astutely nurtured by Lee’s editor into what eventually became TKAM. But, honestly, we should never have seen this book. As excited as I was when Watchman was first announced, I’ve slowly become a bit sad about the whole ordeal.
Watchman is an academic curiosity, certainly not a sequel to one of the most endearing novels ever written. The novel has its bright spots, but it too often falls into predictable patterns with melodramatic plot twists worthy of a profound piano crescendo. Dun, Dun, Duhhhhh.
I typically don’t have a numbered rating with my reviews. But, just for kicks, I’ll give Go Set A Watchman a 5 out of 10.
NOW ON TO THE SPOILER ZONE…
I’m a sucker for satire.
Any novel that has well-written characters with a witty sense of humor draws me in almost immediately. White Teeth was one of those novels.
The novel opens with a bang, a failed suicide attempt, seemingly a dark way to start a story. But Zadie Smith navigates that beautifully, writing with dark humor while illustrating one of the main character’s incredible lack of confidence. Read more
Generally speaking, western civilization is fascinated with wealthy people—especially dysfunctional wealthy people.
That’s why reality stars like the Kardashians are so popular. That’s why television series like Downton Abbey have such a large following. And that’s why Brideshead Revisited is such a popular and intriguing novel.
What is it about rich people that we’re so fascinated about? Well, I guess it’s their money.
Have you ever been to a restaurant that gives you a palate cleanser?
It’s usually a sorbet, or maybe it’s a drink, like warm tea, to cleanse your palate and prepare it for the next course.
After Naked Lunch, I needed a clean, straight-forward novel. I needed a novel without violent, graphic sex, pedophilia, and heroine use. I needed a light, short story with decent, somewhat coherent characters.
For me, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was a perfect palate cleanser, and it came at the perfect time. Because of that, I might have enjoyed the novel a little more than I normally would have. Read more
I need a vacation.
Naked Lunch is, without a doubt, the most tortured reading experience I’ve ever had. After about 110 pages, I finally just started skimming the novel for the final 100 pages or so.
That sounds like hyperbole. But, no, it’s truly a brutal novel to read. I could barely stomach it.
I’ve already shared a passage from Naked Lunch with you—you know, the one I called the most vile passage I’ve ever read. I won’t re-post it here, in an effort to make sure my blog doesn’t show up on some kind of watch list.
William Burroughs openly admits to not remembering having written Naked Lunch. He wrote it over the course of several years, while binging on heroin. I’ve never taken heroin (true story), so I can’t attest to how one might write while on heroin, but I would imagine Naked Lunch represents the heroin-addicted mind quite well.
Story? Nope. Plot? Nope. Themes? Not much. Characters? Not really.
In Naked Lunch, Burroughs pretty much explains how the novel was written through one of his characters: Read more
I want to say awesome things about Housekeeping.
I want to tell you how much I loved the novel, how much the characters moved me, and how engaged I was by Marilynne Robinson’s story.
But I can’t.
If I had to describe Housekeeping in one word, it’s this: Dull.
Sorry to those of you who love this novel, but I could simply never engage with this story. I’m not saying Housekeeping didn’t have its high points, many of which I’ve shared with you in other blog posts.
For example, I still love this passage. Read more
Finally, it’s done.
I don’t recall taking this long to read a novel in quite some time. I previewed A House for Mr. Biswas on December 9 and I’m reviewing it today. That’s nearly two months.
This is a dense novel. It’s a very good, well-written novel, but it’s a dense novel. I’d compare it to drinking a stout. You don’t sit down and chug a stout, or you’re going to have serious problems, like bloating–and maybe vomiting. You have to drink it in small doses. Read more