Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review of Three Junes

Three Junes has been on my “to read” bookshelf for at least four years. I bought it because I am a sucker for the gold or silver stickers denoting some major book award, and Julia Glass won the National Book Award for Three Junes in 2002. I started the book soon after I bought it, and could not get into it, so it rested on my bookshelf until early summer when I decided that I needed to space out my Twlight Saga obsession with some actual literature. I did in fact start Three Junes after Twilight, but was quick to put it down when the other three books of the saga came into my possession. Miraculously, I always picked Three Junes back up in between each book for a chapter or two, and then finally finished it about a month after I had first started it.

The book is actually three distinct stories, with no overlap in characters except for one or two degrees of separation between the protagonists in each story. The first follows Paul on a guided tour to Greece following the death of his wife. The second follows Fenno, Paul’s gay bookstore owning son in New York and Scotland (the provenance of Paul and Fenno), and the third follows Fern, a widow five months pregnant from her Greek boyfriend. Each story consists of several flashbacks to periods in the character’s lives, and the present day is different for each one. Glass does an impressive job of weaving back story and present day for each character to create in-depth portraits of individuals in various stages of their lives. For Paul, it’s his ‘sunset’ years, for Fenno, it’s his mid-life/early 40’s, and for Fern, it’s her ‘grown-up’ phase, following graduate school and starting her career (and family).

Although I was not blown away by the book while I was reading it, once I finished I was happy to have given it my time (a month, in this case). Glass is a skilled writer, and she was not afraid to delve deeply into her characters’ psyches (and psychoses). None of the characters was lovable, but they were all likeable in their own ways, mostly because anyone reading the book would be able to relate to at least some of the challenges one or all of the characters were confronting. Three Junes was woven together by the themes of transition, of letting go of control, and what it means to be born and to die, whether you’re ready for it or not.


Review of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn

Beemused was right. It was impossible to not read the Twlight Series back to back. Although I was successful in reading at least one book in between, that was the extent of my ability to pace myself. Unfortunately, the rest of the series continued to falter, and neither Eclipse nor Breaking Dawn were as good as Twilight. However, despite their faults, I was still unable to put them down.

I finished both books over a month ago, and I am finding it difficult to recall the major plots points, twists and turns of each of them, not to mention distinguishing between the two. I think the Twilight Series is less about the plot itself and more about the experience of reading them. There is nothing quite like it when you find a book that completely takes you in and builds a metaphoric wall that separates you from the outside world. That is what happens when you read this series. This is not to say that any of the books are quality literature - they are not. In fact, as the series progresses it gets quite trashy.

Warning: spoiler alert if you read on.

Eclipse and Breaking Dawn center around Bella's desire to 1) have sex with Edward and 2) become a vampire. With a few battles against evil vampires thrown in between, she succeeds in both. However, I actually laughed out loud when I read about the birth of Bella and Edward's vampire-human hybrid baby. What annoyed me most wasn't the fact that they conceived and had a child, but that the name chosen was a combination of Bella's mother's (Renee) and Edward's mother's (Esme) names - Reneesme. Yes, Reneesme is the name of their child. Need I say more?

I'll close by saying that despite the downturns in plot, I had fun reading the books, and am glad that I experienced this latest phenomenon of popular culture.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Review of New Moon

Well, I guess the honeymoon had to end sometime, and better sooner rather than later. This is not to say that I won't be reading the rest of the series - I will, but I am not expecting much in the way of plotlines. New Moon is the second book in the Twilight series. It picks up a few months after the end of Twilight, with Bella and Edward hopelessly in love, happy in their human-vampire relationship. The town of Forks is still completely oblivious to the vampires in their midst, and life is seemingly perfect for Bella. Until she gets a paper cut. That sets off a sequence of events that lead to Edward leaving, Bella going headlong into months of despair, and subjecting the reader to endless descriptions of crying into pillows, holes of pain in stomachs, and doldrums that seem to go on for hundreds of pages.

What is frustrating is that the book is still mind-numbingly addictive. The sexual tension that held up the first book isn't existent in New Moon, but I still found myself staying up way past my bedtime to read just one more chapter. The second book revolves around Bella's friendship with Jacob (who, by the way, turns out to be a werewolf), one of the Quileute Indians we were briefly introduced to in Twilight. Jacob distracts Bella from her longing for Edward, who has disappeared, along with the rest of his family in the hope that Bella will forget about him and move on with the rest of her life. Of course, she is too head over heels in love with him for this to happen, hence the misery I described earlier.

Even though I just finished this book a little over a week ago, I'm struggling to recollect the major plot points, because the story dragged on quite a bit. The first third consists of Bella's pain and longing for Edward, the second third is her friendship with Jacob, and the final third is her reunion with Edward and the introduction of the Volturi (the super ancient and powerful vampires who live in Italy). The scenes in Italy were definitely the best part of the book, with some great descriptions of vampire horror and carnage. But the rest of the book pretty much left me cold (I could make some vampire joke here since, according to the books, they're all cold as marble).

Anyway, I know that I will read the others, but I'm not holding my breath for the thrill that wove its way through Twilight.