Archive for : February, 2016

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – A Review

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This story of an elderly woman and her of-age daughter who find it necessary to run a sort of rooming house in order to pay their bills in the early 1900’s in London, shares the ins and outs of their daily lives and then suddenly tosses you and the main characters into the middle of a thriller where a crime results in major upheaval for everyone involved.

Described as different than American “full of holes” crime drama, this book shares a wealth of knowledge on the time period and really delves deep into the personas of the characters, allowing readers to become fully invested in what happens to the people and how the story will end. The novel may not suit everyone since it is set in such a different time period. However, for others that is exactly what appeals to them – the ability to follow the lives of these people, set so long ago, and really experience (through reading) the way things were in London at that time.

Waters tends to write works that focus on other time periods, some post-World War II and others in key historic times from our past. Her ability to research the time and work that research into a seemingly vivid and in-depth story of the times is what has gained her a significant fan base. This novel is focused in post-World War I, which is a slight detour from her regular writing. However, it still provides the same quality and endearing characters to grab the reader’s attention and hold it until the end. It does help the story starts out deceptively slow, then becomes a page-turner in the middle to get you to the last pages of the book to see how it all works out.

Readers are a bit at odds over the romance of the book, some finding it far too sexual and off-point from the time period in which it is set. Also, readers found it to be repetitive and the narration to drag in some parts, making it hard to keep turning pages until it got interesting again. Therefore, the mixed reviews leave it as a story that will depend entirely on your own perspective whether it is worth the time to read or not. Many readers were doing so as a selection for a book club. They admitted they would not have completed the task otherwise. Therefore, for general reading pleasure, this book leaves something to be desired for most readers.

One big fault with this book is its lack of efficient closure. The loose ends of the book were not adequately addressed in the ending. This frustrated some readers who otherwise might have found the book an entertaining read. Therefore, for those who prefer everything to tie together smoothly at the end, this book is not for you. For those who can be satisfied even if they are left with questions, this may be a book worth picking up.

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On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee – A Review

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Set in the future where America has long been on the downhill slide and continues its decline, the main character is a female fish tank diver who is looking for the man she loves. He has disappeared, and Fan has to leave the comfort of the settlement she is familiar with and go into uncharted areas to look for him.

Like in some other futuristic works, Fan’s trip becomes a legend to others even as she is still undertaking it. The fact she goes into areas where crime is high and leaves the area where she is comfortable and safe is enough to base a legend on for people in this America, where the only way to stay alive is to do your part in the care of fish and cultivation of crops, which are important to the survival of everyone.

Pollution, disease and the current issues facing our society are blown into drastic proportions with this story – leaving little hope for our future from the author’s perspective. Furthermore, class is key in this future, with those who have the most securely at the top and the benefits trickling down very minutely to those who have less and have to work hard for that amount.

The narrator is one frustrating aspect of this work. Readers feel the narrator detracts from the potential of the overall story. The narrator comes from the same class as Fan and the man she loves. However, since the narrator is a third party, these two are never allowed to share their own insights and feelings regarding the events that take place. That removes a key part of the story from the various scenarios that Fan deals with while looking for her love. Having a perspective that includes Fan’s own speech or thoughts would have increased the reader’s connection with the story and the investment to see the resolution of Fan’s journey.

Lee’s writing style for this work is dystopian. It provides the reader with a look at the various areas of the country which were ruined, with some areas filled with criminals and barely habitable shanty towns, while other areas retained wealth despite the fall of the country and are still living comfortably. The story discusses family and social interactions as well as the economic situation and gives the reader insight into how things might be in the future, if our world goes in a certain direction.

The book is a little over 400 pages, which was a bit too long for some readers. They felt it was too drawn out and unnecessarily verbose when it came to the search for Fan’s love and the various locations she explored during that search. Still, readers found the work to be comparable to Lee’s other works and were appreciative of its intent. It is not recommended as a first work to read by Lee, but it is worthwhile for most of those who have picked it up. Readers advise making the effort to commit to finishing the work, as it does make sense and become a worthwhile read by the end.