November ELLE Reader's Prize

I participated in the ELLE Reader's Prize again this month, and when the magazine came out, they didn't put anyone's blurbs in! But they did post parts of my blurbs, along with a few others, on their website. This was a fun month, because I would have never read the book I ended up picking as #1 had I read a summary of it before I dug in. I had these over the summer, and I dragged Her Fearful Symmetry around Oregon with me and spent many hours on the beach with it. It was the perfect vacation read: escapist, kind of ridiculous, but emotionally intense and satisfying.

Here are the full blurbs I turned in, along with my rankings, for your enjoyment:

1.) Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I didn't actually know when starting this novel that it was going to be a ghost story -- not my favorite. But by the time a ghost appears, I was so hooked by the characters and their particular dilemmas, and the situation that the ghost is in is so charming, that it barely bothered me. The central characters in Her Fearful Symmetry are two sets of twins, the older set the mother and aunt to the younger set. It's rare for a genre piece to be this literary, with depth of characterization, complex storylines, and only slightly confusing resolutions, that I can forgive the spectral aspects of it and start looking forward to the inevitable film adaptation. I'm especially excited for the eye-popping airport scene, just a few seconds of two waifs in innocent/edgy outfits and luggage that matches their personalities to a T. Mary Kate and Ashley, get ready for your closeups.

2.) A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
An enjoyable enough tale about young marriage and adventure in 1970's Kenya. Margaret and Patrick are an American couple working and living overseas because of Patrick's work in medical research. They are caught up in a tragedy that has significant personal implications for the couple. Growing bored with dilletantism, Margaret restarts her career as a photographer and grows deeply involved in the people and culture of Kenya. If anything, the sections of the novel which deal with Margaret's career are much more intense, dynamic and satisfying than the arc of the story the author seems to want you to follow, which is the events around the tragedy and Margaret's recovery from it.

3.) Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
[note: the galley I received was missing many pages, so this review is based more on my impression of the style]

Half Broke Horses is a "true-life novel" based on the life of the author's grandmother. Apparently she has had some success in the past writing about her mother's life, but this book is not successful to me. The myopic narration is too much like a family story -- an unreliable narrator giving short snapshots of events in her life, replacing reflection with platitudes and introspection with, well, more platitudes. I suppose it would be fun to read if I hadn't already read many dozens of frontier novels as a kid growing up in the Midwest, and those who know this author or the area might find it interesting -- maybe it's even an accurate historical record of the time. But to call something a novel implies you've added a story arc or a set of themes that your work illustrates rather than describes.

1 comment:

  1. Fearful Symmetry sounds like a good read, I will have to look for it.

    Good reviews Angie!