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Customer Review

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Read, 23 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Second Glance (Paperback)
Sometimes when I have read a novel and turn to reviewing it I find comments difficult to come by. Sometimes my head is so full of thoughts that it is difficult to know where to start. This book comes into the latter category.

It is a very strange, almost surreal work of fiction based on fact. Ultimately a ghost story surrounding a master race style selection process undertaken in Vermont in the 1930s, it is a complex and at times difficult to understand novel.

To start with the book is divided into three sections - the first and third take place in 2001 but the middle section, which goes a long way to explaining what is happening in the other two, is set in 1931. This does lead to some confusion. At times it's difficult to realise just how much information the author has allowed you to have earlier.

My main gripe with the novel is the ridiculous language it at times lapses into. Whilst the middle section of the book is powerful and well written, the first and third can be rather corny and I felt ultimately the book rather fizzled out. There were no massive surprises and the last pages turn more into an adventure tale than a ghostly mystery.

Getting back to the language. Picoult has a nasty habit of using "big words" in her text. At one point one of the characters actually picks up on this as part of a joke. But who really understands the words nictitating, ratiocinatively, catena, self-immolation of tropolgically - and these are just a few of those used.

Then there are sentences such as "Here I am confabulating about myself."

Even worse are passages that are just cringeworthy. Take these as examples:

"She smoothed down her napkin and looked down at her chipolata sausage, nestled in a bed of polenta." or

"She decided to put a tourniquet on the past for once and for all until it just dessicated and disappeared" or

"He tasted doubt on her tongue and pain on the roof of her mouth. He swallowed these and drank again. Consumed she had no choice but to see how empty he was inside and how sip by sip she filled him"

That doesn't mean that the novel isn't without merit. It is a good read, it touches on a number of important subjects and lets us into a world that isn't that far from the Salem Witch trials in content or style. I would recommend this book, but you have to stay with it as in the first section numerous characters are introduced at almost break-neck speed and it is quite difficult to keep a tab on just who is who.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Nov 2011 13:46:27 GMT
I have always stayed clear of this author but was prepared to give her a go as I saw my sister reading the book and the subject intrigued me. However, my sister also mentioned the confusion and how hard it was for her to get to grips with the plot. So "Thank you" for the review, it saved me money I can now spend on authors I really like.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2011 17:33:09 GMT
Many thanks for the comments
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Location: Norwich, England

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