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review 2018-10-06 20:47
(Audiobook) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving

This is the fifth year I've listened to this, and the third year I've used it for Halloween Bingo.

 

I'm not going to review it here, but I will link to the review I posted five years ago.

 

I will also post this picture of Tom Mison again, because he's gorgeous.

 

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text 2018-10-06 20:41
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving

Tom Mison should totally narrate more audiobooks.

 

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text 2018-10-06 17:59
Reading progress update: I've read 1%.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving

Read to me, Tom Mison.

 

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text 2018-10-03 17:17
A Bulky Stack
Antarctic Navigation - Elizabeth Arthur
Carnival: A Novel - Rawi Hage
Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

Mostly, these days, I'm preoccupied by reading selections from the CanLit prizelists,

 

I've just finished Rawi Hage's Beirut Hellfire Society (longlisted for the Giller, shortlisted for the Writers' Trust and Governor General's): the story of Pavlov, who has inherited his father's responsibility for the dead.

 

The Hellfire Society attends to the bodies of those who have been abandoned, witnesses their burning and, on occasion, carrying out the wishes of those who have passed him instructions. Set in Beirut and in the surrounding mountains, this is a grim story but not a bleak one.

 

Hage's other novels, Carnival and DeNiro's Game and Cockroach, all consider lives on the margins, lives that might be overlooked, and he inhabits his characters with tremendous sensitivity and grace. These are not comfortable stories to read, but these are parts of the world in which life is not comfortable: essential, challenging stories.

 

Now I'm reading in a flurry: Paige Cooper's stories in Zolitude (longlisted for the Giller and shortlisted for the Goveror General's), Sheila Heti's Motherhood (shortlisted for the Giller), and Esi Edugyan's Washington Black (nominated for everything, or so it seems). 

 

Short stories, a strange hybrid of fiction/memoir, and a historical novel by the author of Half-Blood Blues: this is quite a demanding mix but an interesting one. 

 

Last, but not least, Elizabeth Arthur's Antarctic Navigation has been on my shelves, unread, since 1994, but it is just wonderful: slow and dense and snowy: I am lost in it, in the best way. 

 

With October in mind, I've also read the first few pages of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and Charles Palliser's The Quincunx, but these are getting the short end of the proverbial reading stick for now. 

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review 2018-09-27 00:41
Review: Washington Black
Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

Washington Black is an imaginative novel that crosses boundaries, boundaries that exist in the story and boundaries that tend to hem in literature. It is a novel that is not easily classifiable, because it is very literary, but it also shows traits of fantasy and adventure. It is historical in setting, but does not allow this to confine its reach. A story of self discovery, Washington Black explores the topics of suffering and rebirth. It sounds like a fantastic novel, and the opening chapters prove this. What a perfect beginning! At 35 pages in, I knew I'd found the best novel of the year, an easy five-star rating. So what happened?

The fact is, Washington Black does little to sustain the wonder created in the opening chapters. The first several chapters are perfect. They're brutal, intelligent, and imaginative. I truly couldn't ask for more. The story opens with an amazingly drawn cast of characters, slaves and plantation owners on an estate in Barbados. We see the plight of the other slaves, as well as the conflicting natures of the plantation owner with his abolitionist-minded brother, through the eyes of young Washington Black—called Wash. The brutality of this particular plantation and the wonders set in motion by the brother, Titch, a scientist, create such a wonderful contrast. It's easy to imagine where this story might be going when Titch takes Wash under his wing, but it's a place that you, as the reader, want the story to go. It's magical, heartwarming, and full of imagery so palpable you can't deny its existence: a Vernes-esque journey around the world with a kindhearted scientist and his assistant, a child freed from slavery.

Unfortunately, this novel just can't maintain the forward movement it needs to claim its potential. The characters, while starting off great, did little to keep me invested in their stories. Sure, their adventure is wonderful, but their actions are wooden and their decisions based on inexplicable coincidences. They failed to carry me along on their adventure. The longer the story went on, the less I believed the magic the story was built on, the less I cared about the narrative.

In the end, I was left with too many questions, but not enough desire to find answers. What was really going on here? In a novel largely based on realism, it is easy to pick out the fantastical elements and analyze them. What was with the allusions to the spiritual personas of our characters: others that roam free of their selves? The existence of these “others” makes me wonder. Who was Washington Black? Was he a spirit of the self that existed in the opening chapters, a spirit making his way back to Dahomey? Was he reborn in the child Titch finds in Morocco? At the conclusion of Washington Black, I don't have any answers, only speculations. These questions display the intelligence of this novel and its author, but highlight the problem that it doesn't go far enough to provide answers or the will to learn the truth.

Washington Black is a powerful and imaginative story with so many great pieces. The writing is exceptionally powerful at times. It just doesn't keep it going, however, and the result is a firework that fizzles out long before the end. I recommend this novel to others, but with the caveat not to build your expectations too high in the beginning. Perhaps if I'd not done so, I would've walked away with warmer feelings regarding this story.


Thanks to the publisher, Knopf Publishing Group, for providing me early access to this title through NetGalley.

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