The lovely bones (Alice Sebold, 2006)
This book is definitely an important one, given its topic and the raw depiction it has of rape, murder, and the way it can go unnoticed and/or unsolved. That on its own makes this book an important novel. I also understand its cathartic nature, given that the author wrote it based on personal experience.
As a novel, though, it has a lot of aspects that I don’t quite enjoy, and the more I think about it, the less I find I like this book, which is a shame.
The things that rub me the wrong way start with the the mom’s affair with the policeman. Not necessarily the way it happened, mind you, because I know that people deal with grief differently and cope with loss in different ways (though, let me interject that the affair did feel forced, and that both her and the policeman behaved like absolute terrible people given the situation, but I guess that’s the point). No, the thing that bothered me about the affair was the way the mom just abandoned the family for a decade or whatever and then she came back and met relatively little resistance from the dad and the sister (the little boy’s reaction was the most realistic one I think). Like, the dad is accepting her back just like that? Because of what, some warped concept of love in which it forgives even the unforgivable abandonment of her family in an incredibly painful situation? No, screw you, you made choices that made your family’s difficult situation even harder and a saintly dad character who forgives anything is not only unrealistic, but lazy for the sake of a pseudo-happy ending.
Then there is the idealization by a lot of the males in the book for the “exotic, mysterious, sexy-but-distant foreign woman”, who makes them fall in love with her just by looking at her. Don’t feel great about this sexist/racist trope either. It also never goes anywhere; the author kinda toys with the idea of the dad having an affair of his own, but no, he is too pure for that.
Then there’s the fact that the main character comes back from the dead only to fulfill a sex fantasy and does not in any way give her grieving family any closure or respite. What.
And the rapist/murderer is never caught, and dies a “karmic death” under a pile of snow, which fair enough, is somewhat satisfying, but nowhere near as good as him facing the music and paying for his crimes.
“Oh”, I hear you say, “but him not getting caught makes it more realistic”.
Yeah, sure, but my suspension of disbelief was already through the roof after the dead-girl-possession-sex-fantasy-fulfillment described above.
So yeah. This book is mostly well written, and touches on very important subjects that must have been REALLY hard to write about, and I commend the fact that they’re being talked about. But as a novel it’s so-so at best.
The shape of water (Andrea Camilleri, 1994)
I had never heard of this series until my book club received a copy from BlindDateWithABook.com.
I don’t think this book was for me. The case itself was somewhat interesting, but the way the book was written failed to engage me. The dialogue seemed like it was written for a very cheesy soap opera, and there was a very surprising amount of sexism and racism that felt like offhand comments unnecessary to the story itself.
Then, all the characters seemed to have a very similar deductive ability to that of the main character, so all the answers sort of landed on his lap? That takes away from the fun of a whodunnit, in my opinion, but then again I haven’t really read many in the genre. Oh, and the fact that the ending had no real resolution, with no one facing justice or being confronted about the murder(s) really felt like the book was incomplete.