Flash Reviews (13th November 2013)

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides ****

‘The Marriage Plot’

I really enjoyed The Virgin Suicides on both occasions which I’ve read it, and I also liked Middlesex.  It was quite obvious, then, that I would be reading The Marriage Plot as soon as I could get my hands upon a copy.  The novel is composed of all the elements which I enjoy in fiction, and intelligence, wit and philosophy abound throughout.  The entirety is well crafted in terms of both its writing and structure.  The settings were described marvellously and the characters all felt realistic.  Whilst I didn’t like many of them – well, in truth, I did not like any of them aside from Mitchell, one of its protagonists – they both interested and intrigued me.  My only qualm with The Marriage Plot was the wholly predictable ending.  Aside from that, I found the novel difficult to put down.

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli ****
I find novels about the Holocaust and World War Two which are told from the perspective of children so very powerful.  When I found out that Spinelli had written one, it made its way onto my to-read list immediately.  I am pleased to say that it was both compelling and harrowing.  Spinelli crafted each of his characters well, and I was particularly fond of Misha and Janina.  I loved Misha’s naivety throughout, and his yearning for self-sufficiency within the Warsaw Ghetto.  He was a very endearing protagonist, and I admire Spinelli greatly for creating him.

Like April, who also read Milkweed at around the same time that I did, I would have given this novel five stars were it not for the rather paltry ending, which I half expected to happen.  I wanted to be completely blown away by it, and think I would have been if the entirety of the book had been left upon a cliffhanger.  The power which this would have created would have been utterly marvellous.  Milkweed made my heart ache with sadness at times, but I did not find it as gutwrenching as it could have been.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome ****
Swallows and Amazons is one of very few books which my sister has actually read and enjoyed, so I felt I just had to borrow it.  I found it marvellously old-fashioned.  The very notion that four young children – the youngest only five years old – would be allowed to camp on a deserted island, sailing and cooking by themselves, seems rather alien to a child of the late twentieth century.  I felt that this was exemplified fourfold when their mother handed them half a dozen packages of matches and left them to it.  This unusual element of the story made it so readable, and I really struggled to put it down.  I loved how adventurous the children were, and it felt rather Blyton-esque to me, as I had both hoped and expected it would.

I found the pace a little plodding at times, and felt that it varied greatly from one chapter to the next.  Several of the passages or even whole sections in a couple of cases were rather superfluous.  Just as I was beginning to think at around the halfway point that the book was becoming a little overdone and rather overworked, elements of greatness crept in once more, and I was hooked.  I very much like the way in which Ransome writes and crafts his tales and characters, and his marvellous building of the atmosphere within the novel.  I wish I had come across Swallows and Amazons when I was younger, and will certainly be reading the rest of the series at some point.


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