No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

I’m not sure if “Loved It” is strong enough to convey how I felt about this book.  WOW!!  Booklove turned me on to McCarthy’s The Road some time ago, and I really enjoyed that book, but this, THIS, is the kind of book that I love to read. As with all of McCarthy’s novels, it is dark and violent, but it is not gratuitous violence, every event has meaning and leads to the next incident. McCarthy constructs a tale of a drug run gone bad and the ramifications of one decision made by one individual to take the money and run. The language is simple and precise and McCarthy wastes not a word, reminding me in some sections of Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” delivering dialogue so meticulous you always know the speaker and their intent. The last quarter of the book took me completely by surprise, both in plot development and technique, but it did not disappoint. Knowing that the film version of this novel rests in the competent hands of Joel and Ethan Coen, I can’t wait to see the movie. The voices of McCarthy’s characters will resonate in your head long after you finish No Country for Old Men.

My Rating:  

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What I Was by Meg Rosoff

This coming of age story is a quick read, and in fact Meg Rosoff  has previously published in the young adult category.  This one straddles the line between young adult and adult fiction.  Nearing 100 years old, Hilary looks back upon his life and the time he spent in the 1960’s  at St. Oswald’s, a private school for boys with a “long history and low standards.”  Having managed to get himself expelled from several other schools, his parents half-heartedly hope that this time Hilary will make something of himself.

Gloomy Victorian buildings, vile food (pink sausages, green liver, brown stew, cabbage boiled to stinking transparency), and an undistinguished faculty do not bode well for Hilary’s success in turning his life around.  Then one day, while engaging in a fitness run along the beach with his classmates, Hilary falls behind and comes upon a cottage on the beach inhabited by a boy named Finn.  What follows is something of a love story, though not so much physical love as romantic.  Hilary becomes infatuated with Finn, devising ways to slip away from school and spend time with him, desperately trying to gain the affection of the elusive Finn, who lives a solitary Robinson Crusoe style life alone on the nearly inaccessible beach.  A touching story of first love with a surprising twist at the end. 

My rating: 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner definitely clarifies the dividing line between Booklove’s classifications of “Liked It” and “It Was OK”.  I will not waste much time with the plot, because if you haven’t heard or seen the movie by now, you’re probably living under a rock.  Briefly, though, for those rock dwellers such as me, the plot concerns two friends, Amir and Hassan, and their lives from the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy to the present.  Amir is the son of a wealthy and prominent man, and Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant, Ali. 

Amir lives in the shadow of his handsome, noble Baba, ever unable to live up to his father’s expectations while Hassan is made to suffer the brunt of his community’s ethnic hate toward Hazaras. Two major problems I have with this novel are Amir’s constant whining, which continues well into adulthood, and Mr. Hosseini’s need to bludgeon the reader with his characters’ every thought and motivation.  Subtlety is not in Mr. Hosseini’s repertoire of writing skills.

However, while it is extremely easy to nit-pick a novel to shreds, the more difficult assessment involves finding what is right with a novel.  So in all fairness to Mr. Hosseini, here is what I found entertaining about The Kite Runner:  The story of Amir and his Baba’s time in America was handled very well, especially the scenes of the Afghan flea market and Amir’s courtship of Soraya, which were the least contrived portions of the book.  Here the tale seemed to flow seamlessly while giving the reader a delightful insight into Afghan culture, which I found fascinating.  No matter how dire life’s circumstances, Baba, a proud and once wealthy man, adjusts himself to life’s circumstances with strength and humility, and I felt more for the character of Baba than Amir.  It is only when Mr. Hosseini returns the story to Afghanistan that the plot once more becomes contrived with the evil, Hitler-loving Assef (motto: “Afghanistan for Pashtuns”) taking the stage once more.  Does Amir defeat the evil Assef and achieve the redemption he seeks?  Well, I’m not telling, because I can assure you that Mr. Hosseini will drive the point home relentlessly so that there will be no . . . doubt . . . in . . . your . . . mind.

My Rating: 
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