Almost every novel on the Time list is dark in some way. Some more than others, of course, but they all have that element of darkness.
None of them, though, reach the level of The Painted Bird. This novel, y’all, it’s brutal.
Imagine a 6-year-old Jewish kid, abandoned by his parents, witnessing a gauntlet of tortuous events—a young teenager’s eyeballs gouged out, a man falling into a pit of ravenous rats, a woman brutally raped to the point she dies—and that’s just the beginning. Read more
Have you ever known where a novel’s plot was going before it got there?
Sadly, I had a pretty good feeling how Play It As It Lays was headed just a few dozen pages into the book. It’s not that Joan Didion’s novel was predictable—I actually didn’t call the ending exactly—but it’s hard to read the book without seeing all the plot signs pointing in one direction. Read more
I used to love On The Road. Loved it.
When I first read the novel in my early-to-mid 20s, it became a new personal favorite, along with Into the Wild.
This novel is made to be read in your 20s, when you’re single and untethered. Whether you act on it and follow Kerouac’s footsteps or simply dream about getting out on the road is up to you. But my guess is, at that stage of life, you’ll get the itch.
But as I revisit On The Road 15 years later, now with a full-time job, married, the proud father of two boys, I look at this novel and I think WTF? Why would anyone do this?
It’s not the traveling part that gets me. It’s the chaos. The drugs, casual sex, the driving all the way across the country just to “hang out with the boys.” Read more
Finally, I finished Midnight’s Children.
That’s not an indictment of the novel, although it isn’t necessarily a light-hearted, quick read by any means. At 500+ pages, Midnight’s Children isn’t the type of novel you’re going to plow through in a couple of days. That said, it shouldn’t take a couple of months, like it took me, either.
Midnight’s Children is an interesting novel. It’s part allegory, part historical fiction, part something called “magical realism.” It’s a well thought out, extremely detailed book. It’s the type of book that, as you’re reading, you have a feeling that you might be missing something. For most of the time, I was thinking…am I smart enough to read this novel? Read more
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.