helpless victim of a spider’s web

If you’ve already read these reviews on my Goodreads, I’m sorry, but I thought I should put them here as well.

I haven’t read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas in several years, since just after it was given to me when I first started grad school. I vaguely remember enjoying it. I listened to Black Swan Green on CD when teaching at a college an hour away, and I enjoyed it, although it was VERY different from CA.

Ghostwritten hooked me in the first story. While I liked the concept, each story sharing something with the preceding, I felt the waters got muddy around Clear Island, when I was hoping that the story would tie with all the previous but then instead it only seemed to tie with a few. The last two stories seemed far more preachy than the rest of the book, and I thought that some of the stories were much stronger than others, which can throw the pace off.

All in all, not a bad read, but probably not Mitchell’s best.

******

Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden was a book that left me conflicted. I didn’t like the beginning, but I read the whole thing.

The characters are more caricatures than full-fledged people, with the Dickens-onian evil landlady and the mute twin brother. Then, of course, the fairy tale that isn’t even a thinly veiled parallel to Nell’s sacrifice for her granddaughter. The clincher, for me, was Eliza’s stumbling into a rich family whose (tell me if this sounds familiar) rustic maid caretakes her when she’s not in the garden, and while she’s there she discovers there’s a sickly child whom no one can heal who never goes outside anymore. (Seriously, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s family should sue.) I think that the ending of this book made the whole thing more palatable, although I think she shied away from the relationship with the uncle more than she should have (none of that was satisfactorily explained) and I thought that the fairy-tales-that-tell-the-future was just corny. It was okay, but I’m not jumping to read another of hers.

I should give it props for readability, but perhaps Morton should attempt something with fewer characters next time, and see if she can imbue them with personality and believability.

(Also, worst quote ever: “Disappointment sat like a wedge of lemon in her throat.” Say what?)

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