Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well, Julie sent me this book and followed it up with the full page rave review from the NYTRB, so I read it. Hmmmmm. Here I wish Goodreads had another response format than "like", because that chatty verb doesn't quite cover this novel. It is dark, despairing, depressing, and, in many ways, the hopeless story of a hopeless life. It's full of mucus, excrement, urine, rain, snow, cold, blood. Lots of blood.
So, my thoughts were, "Why would anyone want to read this book?" coupled with "why would anyone want to write this book?" and seasoned with ""How could people survive living like this?" and "What incredible details and impact! I am living this life!"
There is no humor in the book. There is little love or redemption (when you see it, you pretty much know the end is near for somebody), and there are very few likable characters at all, including Agnes, who is mysterious, troubled, and downright weird in places.
I do think Kent's craft is remarkable. I also feel the book appeals to the side of us that rubbernecks at a car accident. I did not like it, I don't know why anyone should read it, but it is impressively researched, well-written, and powerful. That said, I'm off for something cheery.
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Again, "liked it" doesn't really fill the bill. Woodrell is an amazing writer, and his first few pages knocked my socks off: his voice, his descriptions, his ability to put the reader completely into the head of a backwoods survivor like Ree in about a page--WOW. But the story of these people's lives is tough, tough, tough. There is humor, there is love, there is some hope, but overall the story is dark, sad, haunting, and gorgeously written. Ree as a character is both like and unlike the people she lives around and with, and she's a remarkable creation. I'd choose this novel as a less devastating read that Burial Rites, though it's surely damning in its depiction of the lives people still struggle to lead in the US today.
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