Hi, Hey, Hello!
I’ve finally reached reached the point where I went ‘right on track’ for my reading challenge for the first time all year because those two weeks out of my regularly scheduled programming took me slightly off course. However, I feel kind of confident that I’ve got a good enough plan in place right now that I can still get this done…
Anyway, the next book in question is:
I tried reading this book earlier this year but it was just too much for me and so I think I switched to something kind of light and fluffier. But of all the books that I had left this was the one that spoke to me loudest and I went in with a slight worry that this would just send me straight into a reading slump which is what happened the first time.
Luckily it didn’t. In fact it had me hooked right away this time. And held onto me until it came to an end.
The story itself is split into 5 parts as it were. All in 3rd person, although two parts are a slightly skewed 3rd person and those are the parts that intrigued me the most. The autobiographies of Patty. One because they were told in the 3rd person and that threw me slightly because I kept forgetting that it was her version of events. In fact it took me until I was nearly finished the first section of her autobiography that I remembered that she was writing about herself. It was a really interesting take on the genre as a whole. And it was the point where I really got invested with this book.
The whole notion of this book is basically, funnily enough, about freedom and what it means to have it. The way that it affects all the characters is interesting. For most of them it ends kind of badly. And then there’s Joey. Who somehow manages to land flat on his feet despite getting involved in quite the shit storm.
I liked how realistic these relationships felt between all the characters. The familial stains and the way that they ebbed and flowed felt kinda true to life. The relationship between Patty and Walter felt kind of heartbreakingly real. The idea that Patty choose him and married him just because it was the convenient option and I guess the safest one. The insight that Patty’s autobiography gave regarding their relationship provided a level of interest that I don’t think you would get from something that was solely 3rd person narrative. But then when it did shift to 3rd person and you saw Walter’s side but at the point where the damage had kind of already done and he was falling in love with someone else.
Seeing Richard through his own eyes as it were painted all the things that were talked about by Patty in a new light. You at times sympathised with him and at times you kind of hated him because for some reason he did not seem to at any point to have grown and changed from who he was. But then also, he did change. It was in some ways kind of subtle but then when it happened it was clear. He had moved forward in ways that Patty hadn’t. And then Patty kind of caught up.
It moved in cycles like that and in some ways that felt like a reflection of life.
The sisters of Patty that had everything growing up and all the support but somehow never found their way. The daughter that was stuck between two parents. The son who thought he had it all figured out but still almost lost everything and sort of fell into a marriage that eventually benefited him in some way. The father who finally thought he had a new lease on life and had reached contentment only to have it snatched away from him and end up in a war against cats. The mother who found and lost herself repeatedly but eventually seemed to get back on track and stay there.
The characters were so well thought out and so complex. There was never a moment when you really thought any of them were either good or bad people. Even when Walter was banging on about overpopulation and how it was ruining the planet and killing birds it was easy to see where he was coming from.
All the storylines wove together and gave you a sense in some ways of what it means to be free. There were no huge reveals of any huge plot twists or anything, don’t get me wrong, there was a twist. But it wasn’t a huge turning point or anything, it was more just like a footnote reminding you that the universe is cruel and just when you think things might be going your way it throws a curveball at you.
This book is unexpectedly deep, it really makes you think about things in a way that is almost quiet. It just happens in the background while you’re moving through and then suddenly it’s over and you kind of wonder what happened to the last 600 pages (yeah, it’s a long’un). This book was a Secret Santa gift last year and came into my life from someone who put Franzen up there as their favourite author, and I can see why.
The writing style is great and evocative and no word feels out of place. It takes you with it through this slight exploration of the human race on a relatitvely small scale and even when you think a character might be slightly pointless you’re proved wrong because they prove their place and how they fit in with the puzzle piece almost instantly.
The ending was good. I felt satisfied and maybe a little bit sad by the time I reached the final page and the sentence. It felt like a version of a full circle was achieved, but somehow also like it could lend itself to the same events that had just unfolded over the last 600 pages.
I would recommend.
Parentheses count: 1. See you tomorrow!
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