A rant by me.
#1 in a series about my dissertation.
I’m researching the de Clare family in William Marshal’s time (1150 and onwards) and Tonbridge Castle belonged to Isabel de Clare (Wlliam’s wife)’s ancestors. It isn’t too far away from where I live and so my dad and I took a trip to check it out!
- Paperback (Canongate Books, 541 pages)
- First published 2011; this edition published 2012
- Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
- Buy the book here
“Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary. At least until her baby brother is abducted by a murder of crows. And then things get really weird.
You see, on every map of Portland, Oregon, there is a big splotch of green on the edge of the city labeled ‘I.W.’ This stands for ‘Impassable Wilderness.’ No one’s ever gone in—or at least returned to tell of it.
And this is where the crows take her brother.
So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend Curtis deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval, a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much bigger as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness.
A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.”
What a charming book.
I do love what seems to be titled ‘middle grade’ fantasy – or children’s fantasy. It’s often quirky, light-hearted, and filled with magic and wonder that may at times rival Harry Potter.
And this almost, almost hit that point. Wildwood is beautifully crafted, and kudos has to go to the world-building, which brings to mind a mix of Stardust and Narnia. It’s very easy to get sucked into the many marvels and eccentricities of the world that Meloy – and illustrator Carson Ellis – seek to display to the reader. And the illustrations are lovely in their childlike simplicity, which only adds to the charm of the novel.
However, as delightfully quirky as Wildwood is, it struggles plot-wise. It seems to lag at what should be pivotal points, and at 541 pages, I wonder if it’s not too long for a young children’s fantasy book. It certainly dragged for me, which is a shame, because I often loved parts of Wildwood. It also suffers from having too many characters who aren’t fleshed out or memorable enough, which made for much confusion as to who they were later on in the novel.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, hence the three stars – but it’s not the best children’s fantasy I’ve read, and certainly not the most cohesive. It could have been tightened up considerably, and I really wish it had been.
- Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
- Angels’ Blood – Nalini Singh
- The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
- Carol – Patricia Highsmith
- The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls – Anonymous
- A Court of Thorns & Roses – Sarah J. Maas
- Delta of Venus – Anaïs Nin
- Everything Leads To You – Nina LaCour
- The Habitation of The Blessed – Catherynne M. Valente
- The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
- Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
- Literature and Evil – Georges Bataille
- Lyra’s Oxford – Philip Pullman
- Medieval Women – Henrietta Leyser
- Moon Over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch
- Nightwalking – Matthew Beaumont
- Once Upon A Time In The North – Philip Pullman
- The Princess Bride – William Goldman
- Richard III – Charles Ross
- Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
- Seraphina – Rachel Hartman
- The Slow Regard of Silent Things – Patrick Rothfuss
- Sons & Lovers – D. H. Lawrence
- The Story of My Life – Giacomo Casanova
- The Struggle For Mastery – David Carpenter
- The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides
- The Wake – Paul Kingsnorth
- We Have Always Lived In The Castle – Shirley Jackson
- Women’s Lives In Medieval Europe – Emilie Amt
- Paperback (Fourth Estate, 243 pages)
- First published 1993; this edition published 2013
- Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
- Buy the book here
“The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.”
This is such a weird, weird novel. And why wouldn’t it be? The story of five sisters, each committing suicide one after the other, isn’t one that screams normal. It almost seems ethereal, and I’ve no doubt Eugenides intended it to appear in that way to his readers. This is my first Eugenides novel (and his debut) – and I’m left feeling somewhat bemused.
I feel like comparisons to Lana del Rey wouldn’t be inaccurate, despite the two things being different mediums. The Virgin Suicides and Lana’s music share a breathy, dramatic quality that at times can be very heady. Eugenides’ writing is incredibly lyrical and eloquent, but I never really felt like the book gained any traction. It didn’t seem to have a point – and I know literature doesn’t necessarily have to have a point, but I felt as though The Virgin Suicides was a novel that seemed a mess of beautiful prose that was only that and nothing more. The plot did not grab me, and the characters – with the exception of Lux – were cardboard cutouts of each other despite Eugenides’ narrator insisting otherwise (a narrator, by the way, whom we never really glimpse). The only thing I really liked about The Virgin Suicides – and hence the three-star rating – was the prose, the various passages that were beautifully, elegantly yet messily crafted. Perhaps they are all the more beautiful because of their untidiness.
As it is, The Virgin Suicides has an intriguing premise, and much promise – but for me, it never really delivered, and I was left with a sense of confusion.