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Customer Review

24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I think I've missed something here..., 18 April 2011
This review is from: Jamrach's Menagerie (Paperback)
This book was chosen for our bookclub after hearing the rave review on Open Book (Radio 4) and reading some of the reviews here. But we've all been a bit flumoxed by it.

As other reviewers have said, the writing is spectacular. Reading the beginning, I felt enveloped in poetry and pulled into a beautifully described world, but before long I found myself wondering what the book was about. It is split into three parts, but each one could have been a book in itself and so it feels like it just keeps going on and on without any purpose. There are some set pieces, such as the patting the tiger or catching the first whale, which are fantastically written, but the overall story, for me, just didn't hang together. Each turn felt forced - the characters (which I never really got) were just placed in different situations. In particular, the character of Tim, seemed very vague - petty and spiteful, then suddenly noble - and the relationship between him and Jaffy wasn't shown except for a few occasions when it was overemphasised. The main character of Jaffy, I found just dull and I didn't understand his relationship with Ishbel - again, the ending seemed forced.

A large part of the book was spent at sea, but for me it just wasn't interesting. The Life of Pi was a much more interesting take on being lost at sea. In this book, I just didn't care enough about the characters to care what was going to happen next.

The timing I also found odd, Jaffy was a child, then fast forward to an older child/young adult who went whaling, then forever on the ship/journey/dragon catching/shipwrecked, then fast forward to his return, then fast forward again to him being old. Too inconsistent, but by the end I just stopped caring.

If I hadn't felt compelled to finish it for bookclub, I would have given up long before I got halfway through. Life is too short.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 15 Apr 2012 08:16:54 BDT
bibs29 says:
How on earth can the reviewer give a book '1 star' they describe in parts as; spectacular, a beautifully described world and containing pieces which are fantastically written? Seems unduly harsh to be.

PS. Adored this book!

Posted on 8 Jul 2012 13:45:32 BDT
H. Ashford says:
The comparison with Life of Pi occurred to me too - and I think this book is infinitely better in many ways!

I don't agree with you about the character of Jaffy - to me he came across really well, as did his edgy friendship with Tim. And I thought the ending was lovely and not contrived at all - it didn't come easy (that WOULD have been contrived), but I was glad he got there in the end.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jul 2012 09:06:21 BDT
Cole Davis says:
Yes, a 1 star after that seems illogical to say the least.

Posted on 1 Oct 2012 18:21:48 BDT
jd says:
Nothing illogical about your review. Some of the prose is lyrical and you were very even handed to say so, but it just doesn't make you care so how can you give it more credit!
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