Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book review roundup

1. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton: I'm awfully glad that I read this for my book club because it gets so painfully slow in the middle that I would have given up otherwise. But the first 100 pages and last 200 are really terrific. Here's the official description:

Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden takes root in your imagination and grows into something enchanting--from a little girl with no memories left alone on a ship to Australia, to a fog-soaked London river bend where orphans comfort themselves with stories of Jack the Ripper, to a Cornish sea heaving against wind-whipped cliffs, crowned by an airless manor house where an overgrown hedge maze ends in the walled garden of a cottage left to rot. This hidden bit of earth revives barren hearts, while the mysterious Authoress's fairy tales (every bit as magical and sinister as Grimm's) whisper truths and ignite the imaginary lives of children. As Morton draws you through a thicket of secrets that spans generations, her story could cross into fairy tale territory if her characters weren't clothed in such complex flesh, their judgment blurred by the heady stench of emotions (envy, lust, pride, love) that furtively flourished in the glasshouse of Edwardian society.
I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't recently read The Historian, which uses an extremely similar story structure. 44% off at B&N.

2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: I'm a little reluctant to review this one because when I first read American Gods I didn't like it very much, but the second time I read it, I loved it. That said, I wasn't really crazy about The Graveyard Book. It reads like a series of short stories forced into one narrative, and the main character is too much the blank slate for my taste. Terrible cover, too.

My favorite moment in the book is when Gaiman describes a Roman the main character meets (which serves as a reminder that the real world is as strange as any fairy tale (or George Martin novel)):
The old Roman's hair was pale in the moonlight, and he wore the toga in which he had been buried, with, beneath it, a thick woolen vest and leggings because this was a cold country at the edge of the world, and the only place colder was Caledonia to the North, where the men were more animal than human and covered in orange fur, and were too savage even to be conquered by the Romans, so would soon be walled off in their perpetual winter.
Available at B&N.

3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: A terrific, short murder mystery, with a memorable narrator. $2 used at B&N.