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The Chalk Artist Hardcover – 1 Jun 2017
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A thriller and a page-turner... Brilliant - Lionel Shriver, Guardian; Wonderfully written and as compulsive as Grisham... A riveting novel - The Times -- Praise for INTUITION Goodman is everything it says on her tin - a wonderful, lyrical writer - but she also has an astute eye for comedy and some bits of the book are truly hilarious. - Daily Mail; The Cookbook Collector is wise, moving, and every bit as impressive as Freedom - Independent on Sunday -- Praise for THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR Coming-of-age stories never get old, and here's an especially sweet one... an old-fashioned romance that's wise and tender * Daily Mail *
Allegra Goodman, lauded by Lionel Shriver, shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize, and a New York Times bestselling novelist, tackles love, obsession and alternate realities in this gritty and thought-provoking novel.See all Product description
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Collin, a recent drop out from college is tending bar in his hometown, Cambridge, Mass. He is attracted to a young woman, most probably a teacher, who comes in several times a week and grades papers. Nina, teaches poetry, Emerson and Shakespeare to high school students. They meet, she discovers the artistic side of Collin and he is offered a job with her father's firm developing new reality games. All good and fine, as we follow them, we meet Collin's mother, and the neighbors and friends who come to her parties. One such group, a mother and two children play an integral part in this novel. This is a novel of finding yourself and proving your worth. Developing your talents, particularly when someone provides some nurturing.
This is a novel of some simplicity, no overthinking required, but it has a thread that provides a base in reality. The reality games of today, so many young adults are caught up in these games and their days and nights are spent with reality figures. What does this do your persona? How do you connect with the real world?
Recommended. prisrob 06-01-17
It may not have been intended to be taken the way that I have but I see this as a great way to highlight how dangerous addiction can be and that it comes in many different forms. As video games or even as people. And how manipulating people can be. Fantastic read. Little hard to begin with when you don't really know where the story is going to go but you find yourself wanting to know what happens next.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The book is about a teacher (Nina), her boyfriend (Collin, the chalk artist in the title, who goes to work for the teacher's father's video game company), and the two teens who get caught up in the world of the virtual reality video games created by the teacher's father. Of course, all four characters wind up entwined as a result.
I'm NOT a gamer, but I have to admit I got caught up in Goodman's vivid descriptions of the different games (definitely some Ready Player One comparisons will be made, although the action in this book mostly takes place in "real life", if you will.) So that aspect of the book was really amazing. If the book were more about that and less about the way the games affected each of the characters (Collin helps create the games, the teenagers live as by-products of the games, and Nina sees the way the games influence the kids...)
The main problem I had with this book is that I didn't really connect with any of the characters- I felt like the book casts a wide net, and there is a fairly large group of supporting characters who really don't add anything to the story, and some of that page real estate could have gone to developing the main characters. It was as if the main characters were all sort of an afterthought to how the whole video game plot might be serviced. None of the characters resonated with me, and even when surprises were revealed about the characters, I didn't feel like I was familiar enough with them to have much of a reaction. To me, the game was the main character of this book.
Like I said, it's compulsively readable, and it sucks you in right away. But with the character issues, I can't count it as one of my favorite Allegra Goodman books. It's good, but I wish some of the vivid descriptions of the games had been lavished on the characters.
The second story concerns Aiden, an intelligent but apathetic student of a single mother who works nights, and while she is gone, he spends those sleepless hours on his obsession—the virtual reality game that was created by Nina’s father and uncle. His twin sister, Diana, is his best friend, and covers for him while he ignores his studies, even allowing him to plagiarize her paper.
The aspect that impressed me was Goodman’s ability to create a visually stunning world of Arkadia—EverWhen and an underworld of Elves, flamethrowers, fantastical horses, and a topography that really pops. I am not a gamer, and was wary of a novel that focused on this industry. But that was not my problem; in fact, delving into this netherworld was, in my opinion, the most engaging part of the novel. Goodman’s arresting Arkadia was appealing and not technical. It was presented mostly via the theme of obsession, and weighted more with the art and illustration side to it.
The love story between Collin and Nina, however, was lukewarm and derivative. Rich girl gets poor boy job at daddy’s company, which seeds obvious conflicts. Love affair proceeds predictably, including the stumbles along the way. The theme of permanence vs. impermanence did offer some nuggets of insight, and helped to soften the other more obvious clichés.
Even the intentional probity to Nina’s teaching skills and passion, and Collins challenges at Arkadia, seemed derivative. Goodman traded originality for platitudes, and organic moral complexity for sentimentality. I think the appropriate audience would be a YA crossover. If you have read a limited repertoire of love stories, this may appeal. Moreover, the virtual reality angle is a topical trend in some literature. Despite the flaws, I was periodically absorbed. It took about 90 pages to commit to the narrative, and accept the boilerplate romance.