- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 745 KB
- Print Length: 285 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: November Hill Press; first edition (21 Aug. 2010)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004CFASCY
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,524,763 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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claire-obscure (The Claire Quartet) Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
I don't even know how to categorise this book; it's like nothing else I've ever read. It has a classic "chick lit" romance premise (one girl, two boys, a difficulty in choosing) but has nothing else in common with that genre. This may be the darkest book I've ever read, yet there's not a single scene that feels like it's been added gratuitously for 'shock' value. It feels sort of like a thriller - but although there is a dead body in suspicious circumstances, the suspense really comes from somewhere else. Whatever anyone else may do to Claire, it's arguable that what she does to herself is the most terrifying. In a way, it's a story of mental illness, though never quite named as such.
What I can say is that I read this in two sittings, staying up well after midnight because I couldn't put it down. The whole thing was just thoroughly compelling. The writing flows smoothly, in gripping present-tense narrative, and the story progresses quickly. It's not a "light" read, though - I stormed through it quickly, but it continues to challenge me after I've put the book down.
It took me a little while to get round to reading this novel and my enjoyment of it was interrupted by the need to put it down and do some work. For someone like me who enjoys playing with words and word meanings, this was a book of great opportunities to discover hidden depths even beneath the depths the story already shows.
Primarily, for me this was a novel of dramatic contrasts, of almost Yin-Yang proportions and also of reversals, and of exploring light and dark in a remarkably elegant manner. The title itself is a give-away: Claire, meaning light or clear and Obscure, meaning dark or hidden. No one thing or character is so clear cut as to fall fully into either category. The main character Claire Caviness is enamoured of both words and contrasts, seeking to both hide and reveal herself using them. She writes letters to Virginia Woolf, that most impenetrable of early twentieth century novelists wherein she seems to be both supplicant to her writer-deity and also a challenge to her.
Claire becomes involved with two separate men, whose lives are again a mix of the secret and the daylight-plain. Finn, a trainee doctor, has a professional life that is totally open, yet his private life and his thoughts remain alarmingly hidden; in direct contrast is the second man, Raoul. His professional life as a special ops soldier is shrouded not just in secrets but in red tape: he simply is not allowed to share what he does. Yet his emotional life is laid bare, frequently, by either his own words or that of his best friend.
Each chapter starts with a header of an unusual word, that Claire has copied out along with its definition, showing both her love of words and a subtle clue to the content of the chapter. It's a clever and rather wonderful device that adds to the suspense, because for all its literary chops, this is a suspense novel. Claire's friend Lucy dies in mysterious circumstances, and Finn, with whom Claire is deeply involved by now in a strange dance that seems at times to be love and at others, something rather more sinister.
As a suspense novel, the layers of both plot and of Claire's hidden life, and her history, are peeled back in tantalising shreds that often conceal more than they reveal, leaving the reader with the unease characteristic of a suspense story and the enjoyment of the process of revelation, much like an artistic strip tease. Imagine a Dance of the Seven veils, but with words rather than veils. The effect is disconcerting, a literary trompe l'oeil that makes you question constantly what you are actually seeing and experiencing.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The writing is well crafted, I just didn't appreciate the skill as I couldn't connect at all with the story or the characters. The story was too choppy, as if we were being treated to a stop motion flip book into sections of her life: but it also didn't work for me as a memoir. I can't define where it fell apart for me, but perhaps it was that it felt like that book that you are assigned to read because "you should".
It certainly wasn't the book for me, I've tried twice to pick it up again and give it another read without success.
I am a reader, always have been, always will be. I made a comment on Arlene E.'s review to say I agreed 100% with what she had to say and I do.
Here's what I look for in a good read. I don't want to encounter generic characters who remind me of other characters in other novels. I don't want to know what's going to happen next (until it happens) and how the story will end. I don't want everyone to live happily ever after b/c that's not how life is. Claire-obscure is without a doubt a good read. Actually it's more than that. It's stimulating, it's enlightening, it's thought-provoking.
Claire, Raoul, and Finn are people I hadn't met before but I know them intimately now. I can relate to them easily on some levels but uneasily on others. They are conflicted people interacting in a complicated world, trying to find their way. To quote Claire: "What I know: every relationship is its own place, a country you live in for awhile and then you leave." I rejoiced and suffered with Claire in her travels. She'll be in my life for a long time.
Billie Hinton is a wonderfully skilled writer who brings characters, situations, and settings to life.
I don't know if such an extraordinary work should or can be rated. This book does not belong in and defies that system, but as it's all we have, I give it five bursting at the seams stars.
I will return to try to write a review of my experience. I can't even say a review of this book. I have never read anything like Billie Hinton's writing before, period.
This is a quartet of books. Part of me wants to download the next quarter of the quartet so I can read it immediately. Another part of me says, "Rest. Let everything seep in and find it's place inside you before you make any choices. I can't imagine starting a new book today or tomorrow. So I will sit with what I've experienced, learned, and taken in, for as long as I need. I will however download the next quarter in the quartet right now. I want to know that I have it with me.
You want to read this book. I know you can't know why this book is so incredible if you haven't read it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started reading. I'm so grateful to the author, Billie Hinton, for writing "claire-obscure.' If she were here right now I would be at a loss for words save, "thank you."
Updates below are from date I began reading and date I finished.
05/31 So good. Utterly transported & all my senses are alive to bursting. I'm savoring every word. I'm mesmerized but I'm rationing how much I read at a given time because I never want what I'm thinking and feeling to end. I also want to eat up every word as quickly as possible and devour the entire book in one sitting. I've never read anything like 'claire-obscure' - oh, it's so...read it, read it, read it."
What an incredible work. I don't know how I could ever explain it to anyone or do it justice in a review. I've never read anything like 'claire-obscure' - The synopses on goodreads and elsewhere do not describe the 'claire-obscure' I'm reading. I think whoever wrote them either didn't understand 'claire' or were uncomfortable. afraid, or unable to describe the truth of it. I think the descriptions are somewhat misleading and they definitely barely scratch the surface of what this work is."
06/01 - Potential readers who choose to read 'claire' will read a book that is so far removed from what the blurbs say about it. The book they describe is so different from what my experience & understanding of what I'm feeling and thinking as I read. On the other hand, readers will be in for an incredible and glorious surprise as they as they take in each word and continue rounding each corner of every page they turn. What an experience! What an experience! I see myself at certain points in the character, Claire. I see parts of myself at different points in my life. I wonder how many women would feel the same way? I say, "many", but I wonder whether they or I could share that whole truth with others?"
06/01 "How will I find the words to share without laying myself totally open and bare? This is extraordinary. Extraordinary. Wow, Billie Hinton! Wow!"
I'm a readin' fool who's lovin' life. Oh yeah, baby! Thank you, 'claire-obscure', and many thanks to your author, Billie Hinton.
06/02 "omg - I knew this was only a matter of time, something would happen in some way, but I'm crushed and crying and had to stop reading. That's how well developed and attached I've become to these characters. That's how incredible the writing of dialogue, voice, and plot are - unbelievable. Crying. I haven't had a book touch me and throw me around with so many thoughts and feelings like this in I don't know how long."
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