In light of Lauren’s recent post about our bookclub, we thought it might be fun to visit the ghosts of book clubs past. You’ll find that our opinions are strong. We’re a love it or hate it kind of crowd.
Despite winning the Booker Prize, Miriam still thought one novel was “a cynical smirk of a narrative. Its only saving grace, in my opinion, is the fact that, at under 200 pages, it’s only briefly painful. As I put this down with a sigh of relief for the last time, it occurred to me that the only thing worse than a bad book by a bad writer is a bad book by a good writer.”
Taking on another award winner that fell short of expectations, Miriam noted that “this could have been a great piece of fiction, but like endless foreplay that goes nowhere, it’s just a quiet disappointment.”
One blogger turned novelist received a ton of buzz for their debut, but Jim thought it was “Trash. This may not be the worst book I ever read, but it is the worst that I have ever finished.”
Michiko Kakutani loved it.
It was pitched as the modern Great Gatsby. Let’s just say that
For one book club, we read galleys for books publishers were really excited about that would be coming out the following season. Excitement, as Lauren points out, is not always contagious. “Accomplished? I suppose. Charming? At times. Tedious? Oh, yeah!”
We didn’t let up when we took on favorite books of our colleagues. One agent felt it was the best book of the past five years. Another thought the author was “given to overthinking his characters’ motivations and painting them into dramatic corners. The protagonist’s precociousness grows wearisome. He’s like the kid always with his hand up in the air in class – the one you want to smack and tell to shut up. The ending of the novel feels unsatisfying and overly arch and some of the big moments veer into melodrama.”
When she took the time to read a recent novel that garnered a lot of attention and a mid-six figure offer, Jane’s reaction was as balanced and thoughtful as we all try to be. “This definitely had aspirations of becoming the next The Da Vinci Code. It is original and very well researched. It is also incredibly confusing. An early review called the plot ‘sinuous,’ which it certainly is—and in my opinion, not in a good way. There were no characters here I really cared about—none I really got to know. Having said that, I am a sucker for this kind of thing—the juxtaposition of fact and fiction, very well done. Still, I didn’t personally love this. It just wasn’t as good as the hype made it out to be. In the end, idealist that I am, I do believe that if the book ‘isn’t there,’ especially for a first novel with these high expectations, it isn’t going to work.”
Sometimes we fall head over heels for something. Michael said, “It’s a rare novel that captures both the imagination and the heart, and The Line of Beauty is one of them. Written with a sly wit and a keen eye, this epic meditation on wealth, power, class, sexuality, politics and beauty is truly a masterpiece.”
With The Hours, Miriam found an award winner that she did admire. “Mr. Cunningham is a lovely writer who finds his way into his characters’ souls and makes the drama he finds within universal and poignantly human. Virginia Woolf would have applauded.”
Jim fell for Dennis Lehane’s first book during the mystery bookclub. “The protagonist’s brazenly un-P.C. views on ‘white rage’ and what causes it are at times a bit unnerving, but they never feel less than honest. Dark, moody, and aggressively paced, A Drink before the War is a detective novel rank with intelligence and soul.”
And sometimes we’re so effusive that it sounds like we’re trying to sell the things. “A novel of incredible scope, daring vision, and dazzling prose, Arthur Phillips’s