Feeling humbled by the (to me) unpretentious quirk that is Aimee Bender. How glorious when reading feels a little bit like falling in love – something that you instinctively understand but could not possibly explain. I must admit that for this novel a lot of the charm lay in the reviews of others. Indignant school teachers offended by an inaccurate portrayal of teaching and children. Fussy readers who cannot cope when a story is not “just so” – as if being “realistic” and “structured” is the only way to be when it comes to putting yourself on paper. And yet here I sit, grateful for strange minds that take me to different worlds, and especially grateful that my own mind allows for me to be taken there.
I really loved this book, which is a little bit weird because I hated the main character. I think perhaps the feeling of “learning” as I read helped to negate the fact that I could not quite get behind this woman’s treatment of people. I don’t know why but that kind of self inflicted isolation always strikes me as weak. I imagine my annoyance at this exact brand of character possibly says a lot about me as a person, and most likely nothing good, but I just can’t help it. While I did feel a certain (limited!) empathy for Victoria, I could not help but be angered by the senselessness of her situation – but then again, without her toxic persona there would have been no story to tell, would there? There would only be an unhappy beginning with a perfectly acceptable resolution that spanned over a year instead of ten. Hardly bookworthy. I think perhaps I myself am addicted to others, despite my affection for frequent isolation. Love is one thing I have never shied away from, despite having had my heart broken on a number of occasions, not only by men, of course, but by people I have trusted as well. I think a capacity for heartbreak can overwhelm all of us, but I struggle to relate to the kind of brokenness that retaliates in the harm of others. I especially do not understand the compulsion to harm myself or others in the attempt to “protect myself”. It is such a strange thing to me. This means that I am most likely lucky, which is something I know and do not take for granted. While I believe that I am personally plagued and affected (often negatively) by my own past, just like many others are, for some reason it has never shut me off to love. Love I feel and embrace with my whole being. Always. Whether I find it in a book that I love, or art, or a partner, my child, my family, my friends. It is all consuming, and the exquisiteness of love has always, and I hope will always, trump its ability to bring with it the most excruciating of heartbreaks.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wish I could give it six…
I am in love with Sarah Addison Allen. I know it seems like such a trite thing to say but she really caused a breakthrough around my own writing. I will always love her for that. Aside from the latest Allen – which I haven’t been able to get my hands on because I live here – this was the only one I hadn’t read. It was kind of expensive (I don’t know why her books are so expensive here in SA) but my brother got it for my birthday anyway. It was a kind of silly and predictable read, but in a gloriously satisfying way. I kind of expected just about everything that happened to happen, but it was comforting, happy making. I think that’s pretty special. If you write things that make people happy, then you are kind of friggen fantastic.
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Like everyone, I suppose, I find myself on occasion wondering if there is something wrong with me. After reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I couldn’t help but find myself trying so very hard not to be devastated. Why is it, Nadine, that you can’t just have a read and smile and be happy just like everyone else? They’re having way more fun that you are…I promise…
The thing is though – as much I would like to blame hype for my disappointment – I can scarcely explain why I should love one book for the exact reason that I find myself mildly disgruntled with another. (more…)