Tuesday, May 17, 2016

97. "Loving Day" by Mat Johnson

Johnson, Mat. Loving Day. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.
287 pages.
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

DISCLAIMER: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPOSIS: Warren's father has just died and he has inherited an old, historical house in Germantown, Philadelphia. The house is in horrible disrepair and Warren is broke having just gone through a nasty divorce. When he meets his daughter for the first time, life starts to get even more complicated.

WHAT I LOVED: Johnson does an amazing job of exploring mixed race identity. His writing is eloquent and purposeful. He depicts the inner conflict of his characters as a result of their outward appearance and the impact of cultural marginalization on self concept and worldview. There is an honesty in his story telling that is cutting and blunt.

There is also some dark humor that tickled me to no end. From ghostly crackheads to clumsy use of a taser, the humor made me laugh out loud and it caused ILS--inappropriate laughing syndrome (not an actual diagnosis). You know when you're in public and then you reflect on something funny in your head and laugh and people look at you like you're crazy? Yeah, this book caused this to happen in my life.

WHAT I LIKED: I liked the way the story explored alternative lifestyles and non-normative relationships in a way that neither demonized nor exoticized them. I liked that even though the story is framed from a male perspective, the depiction of women was not misogynistic.

I also appreciated the historical references. Not only was this a wonderful work of fiction but the elements of nonfiction presented learning opportunities.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Everyone. This is the first work of fiction I've read that explores mixed race identity so clearly, artistically, and sensitively.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: I can't really think of anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.

5 darts out of 5

Monday, May 2, 2016

96. "The Thornbirds" by Colleen McCullough

McCullough, Colleen. The Thornbirds. New York: Avon, 1977.
692 pages
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

The Thornbirds follows the family lineage of the Clearys--an Irish family transplanted first to New Zealand and then to the Australian outback. The novel begins in the year 1915 and ends in 1969 and follows three generations of Clearys as they engage in scandalous affairs, fight in wars, and survive terrible tragedies.

Justine. I absolutely loved Justine, ferocious, gusty, flippant, and sorrowful Justine. Justine is someone I would want in my life as she would offer endless entertainment and unwavering loyalty and friendship once you cracked her outer shell.

McCullough writes delicious prose with some of her phrasing and words causing me to pause and re-read and drink in the artistry. I enjoyed seeing history played out in the story of a single family. The book includes depictions of WWII and the tumultuous sixties--two historical eras that intrigue me.

There got to be a point in the novel where I skimmed over descriptions of the Australian environment. Descriptions of the land are frequent and detailed. This is wonderful up to a point but I feel a lot of this "scene setting" could have been cut out.

I also could not stomach the relationship between Meggie and Ralph. In no way could I feel anything but revolted by that story line.

Readers who enjoy historical fiction and time-spanning narratives (like Don Quixote or anything by James Mischner).

Readers who want something fast paced, or action packed. You must be a patient and involved reader to enjoy this one.

3 darts out of 5