Top critical review
I can't say I enjoyed reading it
on 2 October 2015
I have to preface this review by noting that I read this book for my book club and it is not a book I would have picked up on my own. As a result, I can't say I enjoyed reading it. I felt satisfied by the ending (thank goodness) but I basically had to force myself to read it. This, however, is more a symptom of not being a preferred story type for me than actual quality of the book or writing.
Having said all that, there were a few things that I think, even outside my general dislike of depressing fiction, are worth mention and critique. First, while I understand Josephine is/was an artist and sees/saw things through an artists eye, the overly descriptive writing got on my nerves. Even in people's hand written letters to one another, they were describing refracted light and how the moon shimmered, etc. It was just too much for me.
Secondly, the interminable lists, there are soooo many lists of things in the book, some of them very long. Yes, some of this served a purpose, but god, so boring to read. Third, there are a number of unbelievable coincidences that occur. Yes, some of them could be that information wasn't hidden so much as no one had thought to look for it, but still Lina's investigation was too easy.
Fourth, why did Lina have to romantically consider almost every man she encountered? You don't see this with male characters. Fifth, the resolution of the mother...just no; that's all I'll say on that.
I did very much appreciate that there was no apology for, dressing up or hiding the horrors of slavery. Nor was it ever gratuitously shown. We didn't need to see a man whipped to death or a woman raped to know those things were happening. The inhumanity of the establishment came through quite clearly, as did some people's blindness to it and other's struggles with living with it but feeling helpless to change it, even when they wanted to.
My final assessment is that this is what it is, a thought provoking, 'book club' sort of book. Does anyone read these just for enjoyment? No one I know.