Review: Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy

Read: 34
To Go: 66

Book List:
31. The Dressmaker — Kate Alcott
32. Spin — Catherine McKenzie
33. The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Muriel Barbery
34. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 12/38

Screen shot 2013-06-22 at 1.04.32 PM

Romantic quote: “He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”

Finished reading: June 21, 2013

It took me five months to read (granted, I put it down for long periods of time in those five months, and really only read it when I was taking the train home to Barrie), but in mid-June I finally finished the tomb that is Anna Karenina. Never was there a person more proud than I was at that moment. But, I have to admit, other than making me proud to have completed it, Anna Karenina didn’t do much for me. Though I’m sure it’s sacrilegious to say, it was just okay. Solidly middle-of-the-pack, but no better than that.

In Anna Karenina, the unhappily married titular character embarks on a doomed affair with Count Alexei Vronsky, which leads to her alienation from Russian society and overwhelming unhappiness. In a parallel story, Konstantin Levin, a friend of Anna’s brother, returns to Russian society, convinced that he must ask his longtime friend, Kitty Scherbatsky, for her hand in marriage. When she says no, anticipating that she’ll be receiving another proposal that night—from none other than Count Vronsky—both Kitty and Levin experience all-consuming despair.

Anna Karenina is a story told in eight parts and roughly 800 pages, depending on the edition you pick up. I don’t know why it’s that long. A month after reading it, I still can’t comprehend why it took Tolstoy 800 pages and eight parts to tell a rather commonplace tale of an affair to remember. Especially when, for several parts at a time, the novel seemed to be in relative stasis. For at least three parts, Anna and Vronsky were pretending to be happy while snipping at each other in their private moments, and Anna was an indecisive jealous mess. But any reader with a pulse can comprehend the state of the union in just one part, so why waste time on the other two when nothing of note had changed?

Levin and Kitty’s parallel story, surprisingly, was the one I was more invested in, because it actually had momentum. Each part brought Levin and Kitty to a new place, both plot-wise and as characters, and then finally reconnected them. Unlike Anna and Vronsky, who were practically spinning their wheels in a mud-filled ditch, Levin and Kitty kept moving forward. Not to mention they were infinitely more likeable characters (even if Levin was a bit of a stick in the mud sometimes).

Anna Karenina (or, as I like to call it, Six Crazy Russians) was, to be quite frank, nothing special. It was long and tiresome with occasional moments of beautiful writing (like the romantic quote from the Stylist list). The plot was, to use a cliche, as slow as molasses to advance, and had far too many diversions into the minutiae of Russian life (including a particularly perplexing and not at all relevant election scene). But at least Kitty and Levin were there to make it bearable.

Next book: A Necessary End — Peter Robinson

– Kelsey

P.S.: I watched the movie adaptation of this—the newest one—and it was fantastic. Treating it like a stage performance was a little unusual, but it worked. Plus, the performances were brilliant, a lot of the time-wasting scenes were cut out, and the movie itself was visually stunning. Worth a watch!


The State of the Union


As you may have noticed I haven’t posted a book review or general update of any kind since early June, so I wanted to write up a quick post to let everyone know what’s going on.

First, the good news! After reading it piecemeal since the beginning of February, I finally finished Anna Karenina yesterday on the train ride home (hence the picture). It’s the first “romantic lines in lit” book of 2013, and 12th overall out of the 38.

On the delayed book reviews: I’ve now read 34 books this year, and only reviewed  23. So I’ll be trying to catch up on those over the next few days. In case you’re curious, I’ll be writing about: The Black Ice by Michael Connelly; The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly; The Retreat by David Bergen; Stranglehold by Robert Rotenberg; The Black Box by Michael Connelly; Easy Money by Jens Lapidus; A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire; The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott; Spin by Catherine McKenzie; The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery; and of course Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Some of the reviews might be a little fuzzy, since I read some of the books over a month ago.

Have a great weekend!

– Kelsey

The 2012 Year in Review

Happy New Year, everyone! I can’t believe it’s actually 2013, and I’ve finally put my challenge to bed for the second year in a row. To celebrate, I’ve compiled my Year in Review! You can look forward to lists upon lists upon lists (the best and worst 10 of 2012, and some genre-specific lists). I almost had an infographic but it didn’t want to work for me, so everyone will just have to be happy with lists.

I’ve also included the full 100 books at the end of the post, as well as the list of the books I managed to read from the Stylist challenge list this year. (In case you were wondering what was happening with that, I’ll be continuing the mini challenge into 2013.)

A disclaimer: as with last year, all of these rankings are purely my own personal opinion. Don’t be surprised if they clash with the real critics’ reviews (and, believe me, some will). Oh, and they’re counted down backwards from 10 (or 5, on the smaller lists).

Best 10 of 2012:
10. A TWO-WAY TIE: Nine Dragons — Michael Connelly AND Tigers in Red Weather — Liza Klaussman
9. The Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
8. Into the Darkest Corner — Elizabeth Haynes
7. Before I Go To Sleep — S.J. Watson
6. The Emperor of Paris — C.S. Richardson
5. Old City Hall — Robert Rotenberg
4. The Far Side of the Sky — Daniel Kalla
3. The Russian Concubine — Kate Furnivall
2. The Marriage Artist — Andrew Winer
1. When She Woke — Hillary Jordan

Worst 10 of 2012:
10. Seriously…I’m Kidding — Ellen DeGeneres
9. From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover — Athan G. Theoharis*
8. Casino Royale — Ian Fleming
7. Love in the Time of Cholera — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
6. A Home at the End of the World — Michael Cunningham
5. Chasing the Dime — Michael Connelly
4. The English Patient — Michael Ondaatje
3. If You Were Here — Jen Lancaster
2. Atonement — Ian McEwan
1. Sense and Sensibility — Jane Austen
*Fabulous as a history-essay resource, less fabulous for casual reading.

Ten Best “Humanity”:
A self-created category for the novels that were all people-centric stories that didn’t fit neatly into identifiable genres. Naturally, these were some of the books I loved the most.
10. The Professor of Desire — Philip Roth
9. Everyman — Philip Roth
8. Little Bee — Chris Cleave
7. Beauty Plus Pity — Kevin Chong
6. Tigers in Red Weather — Liza Klaussman
5. Maine — J. Courtney Sullivan
4. The Uncoupling — Meg Wolitzer
3. Why Men Lie — Linden MacIntyre
2. The Emperor of Paris — C.S. Richardson
1. Daughters-in-Law — Joanna Trollope

Ten Best Romance:
10. The Last Boyfriend — Nora Roberts
9. The MacGregor Brides: Julia — Nora Roberts
8. The Very Thought of You — Rosie Alison
7. The Perfect Hope — Nora Roberts
6. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You — Louisa Young
5. The MacGregor Grooms: Ian — Nora Roberts
4. Jane Eyre — Charlotte Bronte
3. The Marriage Artist — Andrew Winer
2. Arranged — Catherine McKenzie
1. The Russian Concubine — Kate Furnivall

Five Best Chick-Lit:
5. Waking Up Married — Mira Lyn Kelly
4. Sweet Talk — Julie Garwood
3. The Singles — Meredith Goldstein
2. One Fifth Avenue — Candace Bushnell
1. Behaving Badly — Isabel Wolff
*Yes there is a difference between romance and chick-lit. Chick-lit is usually a lighter, funnier story. (Not that Nora Roberts isn’t light reading, but she qualifies as romance because the sole purpose of her novels are getting together two characters.)
**I recognize that chick-lit can be used as a derogatory term to devalue writing which is targeted specifically for women. I mean it in only the best of ways, as a self-proclaimed chick-lit lover.

Ten Best Crime/Mystery:
10. Echo Park — Michael Connelly
9. The Narrows — Michael Connelly
8. A Darkness More Than Night — Michael Connelly
7. The Closers — Michael Connelly
6. The Drop — Michael Connelly
5. Lethal — Sandra Brown
4. Angels Flight — Michael Connelly
3. Nine Dragons — Michael Connelly
2. Low Pressure — Sandra Brown
1. Old City Hall — Robert Rotenberg

Five Best Horror/Thriller:
5. Tigers in Red Weather — Liza Klaussman
4. The Creeper — Tania Carver
3. The Surrogate — Tania Carver
2. Into the Darkest Corner — Elizabeth Haynes
1. Before I Go To Sleep — S.J. Watson
*I almost had to scrap this category because it only really had 4 books that qualified, but I slipped Tigers in Red Weather into the line-up because it has a really creepy sub-plot.

Five Best Fantasy/Science Fiction:
5. The Bane of the Black Sword — Michael Moorcock
4. The Sailor of the Seas of Fate — Michael Moorcock
3. The Weird of the White Wolf — Michael Moorcock
2. The Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
1. When She Woke — Hillary Jordan
*Thanks to my step father, I actually read enough fantasy/sci-fi books to justify a best-of list for the genre.

Five Best Historical Fiction:
5. The Very Thought of You — Rosie Alison
4. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You — Louisa Young
3. The Winter Palace — Eva Stachniak
2. The Russian Concubine — Kate Furnivall
1. The Far Side of the Sky — Daniel Kalla

Five Best Biography/Memoir:
5. Bossypants — Tina Fey
4. A Thousand Farewells — Nahlah Ayed
3. The End of Your Life Book Club — Will Schwalbe
2. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair — Nina Sankovitch
1. Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes — Kamal Al-Solaylee

Ten Best Canadian Novels:
I read so much amazing Canadian literature this year that it needed its own list.
10. A Thousand Farewells — Nahlah Ayed
9. The Sentimentalists — Joanna Skidsrub
8. The Winter Palace — Eva Stachniak
7. Beauty Plus Pity — Kevin Chong
6. Arranged — Catherine McKenzie
5. Old City Hall — Robert Rotenberg
4. Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes — Kamal Al-Solaylee
3. Why Men Lie — Liden MacIntyre
2. The Emperor of Paris — C.S. Richardson
1. The Far Side of the Sky — Daniel Kalla

For anyone who’s interested in the full 100 books, and the status of the Stylist
list, you can head under the jump and see the final tally for the year.

Continue reading

Review: Brokeback Mountain — Annie Proulx

Read: 65
To Go: 35

Book List:
61. The Very Thought of You — Rosie Alison
62. Possession — A.S. Byatt
63. Maine — J. Courtney Sullivan
64. Winnie the Pooh — A.A. Milne
65. Brokeback Mountain — Annie Proulx

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 11/38

Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they’re working as sheepherder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer.

Both men work hard, marry, and have kids because that’s what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it.

Romantic quote: “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

After a little searching, I found Brokeback Mountain online. Gotta love the internet!

Just like with Winnie the Pooh, I don’t plan to actually review Brokeback Mountain because it was so short — blessedly short, in comparison to the longer novels I’ve been reading lately. Anyway, I will say that I really admired how closely the movie adaptation stuck to the original work. (Except Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were much more attractive than the descriptions of Ennis and Jack were.) While I was reading the story I could actually picture the movie in my head.

Aside from that: like with the movie, I felt really moved by the story, but at the same time I found myself laughing often, even during the emotional scenes. Mostly because of the dialogue — I could just picture these twangy accents of clearly uneducated men, and it was funnier than it should’ve been. For example, my favourite quote from the whole story:

“You know, friend, this is a goddamn bitch of a unsatisfactory situation. You used a come away easy. It’s like seein the pope now” (Proulx).

Not Annie Proulx’s fault. I blame Wyoming.

Next book: Currently undecided. I’m getting to the point where I start looking at the page count before I commit to a book, just because I want to finish it ASAP. I’m going to desperate measures to get this challenge done in two months.

– Kelsey

Review: Winnie the Pooh — A.A. Milne

Read: 64
To Go: 36

Book List:
61. The Very Thought of You — Rosie Alison
62. Possession — A.S. Byatt
63. Maine — J. Courtney Sullivan
64. Winnie the Pooh — A.A. Milne

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 10/38

Weirdly enough, there was no blurb description that I could find. Whatever, I’m over it; we all know what this book is.

Romantic Quote: If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.”

Either the Stylist list is just outright lying at this point, or I somehow read the wrong Winnie the Pooh book. (I really don’t think it’s the latter.) This quote wasn’t in the book!

Anyway, I’m not reviewing this for obvious reasons, though I did appreciate that it was so short.

Next book: Brokeback Mountain — Annie Proulx (if I can find it online!)

– Kelsey

Review: Possession — A.S. Byatt

Read: 62
To Go: 38

Book List:
61. The Very Thought of You — Rosie Alison
62. Possession — A.S. Byatt

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 9/38

Possession is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire — from spiritualist seances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany — what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.

Romantic Quote: “I cannot let you burn me up[…] No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.” (Byatt 213)

Interesting point: the Stylist list that I’ve been reading from actually mistook this quote from the quote in the movie, and transcribed it wrong. Technically, the two sentences are separated by several paragraphs (which is why I put in the ellipses), and a part of the quote they wrote down (“nor can I resist you,” which follows “I cannot let you burn me up”) exists only in the movie version. Moving forward!

So, it took me two weeks to read Possession. I did start it shortly after I finished Rosie Alison’s The Very Thought of Youbut it’s been slow going; even though I had reading week last week, and my intent was to read 5 books during, it ended up more of a “running around like a chicken with my head cut off while extremely sick” week. So that didn’t work out. And this week was equally busy. The point being: the length of time it took me to read Possession was not a reflection on my interest in the book. I really enjoyed it, even though the Stylist list has, for the most part, not been treating me well.

I’ll confess, though, I was much more invested in the love stories than the scholarly aspects of the text. On the surface, Possession seems like the perfect novel for an English minor/nerd like myself, but there was a lot of textual analysis (especially focusing on poetry) within the text, which totally went over my head. However, I will say that it was embedded really nicely, and played a huge part into the way Roland and Maud discovered the love affair between R.H. Ash and Christabel LaMotte.

Other than that, I loved the intricacies of the all the players within the text — no one was entirely, purely likeable, and they all shared a bizarre, inexplicable obsession with either R.H. Ash or Christabel LaMotte, to the point that they all feel personally connected to the poets in some way — though I suppose that’s what comes of studying one topic, or one person’s work, for too long. (There’s a great passage in the book that says as much, where Roland confesses to writing a poem or a story, realizing it was eerily similar to something Ash had written, and wondering whether he’d even come up with the thought himself, or if his subconscious knowledge of Ash’s work had placed the thought in his head. I wish I could find the section, but I couldn’t seem to place it.)

I’d definitely suggest reading Possession, if you can find the time. It’s a great story, but requires a huge time commitment.

Next book: hopefully something short!

– Kelsey

Review: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin — Louis de Bernieres

Read: 54
To Go: 46

Book List:
51. The Overlook — Michael Connelly
52. Chasing The Dime — Michael Connelly
53. Sweet Talk — Julie Garwood
54. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin — Louis de Bernieres

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 8/38

It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracized by the locals, but as a conscientious but far from fanatical soldier, whose main aim is to have a peaceful war, he proves in time to be civilised, humorous — and a consummate musician.

When the local doctor’s daughter’s letters to her fiance — a member of the underground — go unanswered, the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?

Romantic Quote: “When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are to become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day. It is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. No … don’t blush. I am telling you some truths. For that is just being in love; which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love has burned away. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? But it is!” (de Bernieres 344-45)

It is late and I am tired, so this is going to be short and sweet (as these reviews often are). Though Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was excessively long (I really think some characters and chapters could have been easily eliminated, as they were mostly unnecessary), I really did love it. If you’re keeping track, this is only the second book on the Stylist list that I’ve actually enjoyed. Progress?

Anyway, I’m sure you all know by this point that I’m a bit of a sucker for a historical-romance (or just a historical novel, or just a romance), so Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was right up my alley. Not only that, but it was funny — like, laugh-out-loud funny! I wish I’d thought to make note of some of the quotes that made me laugh (though, if I did, the book would have been littered with sticky notes). Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was a novel that had me giggling one moment, and feeling all emotional the next.

Aside from that, I’m always captivated by books that are set in WWII — especially ones that focus on a country that isn’t normally talked about in terms of the second world war. Louis de Berniere’s rendering of Greece under Italian — and then Nazi — occupation was just as phenomenal as Daniel Kalla’s picture of Shanghai during WWII.

On a more administrative note, I think it’s becoming quite clear that I won’t be finishing the Stylist reading list this year. (I’m only 8 books in, 30 books to go, and it’s mid-August. Yeah, this isn’t happening.) I think I’ll carry the challenge over into next year, and hopefully finish it then.

Next book: Angels Flight — Michael Connelly

– Kelsey

Review: The Notebook — Nicholas Sparks

Read: 34
To Go: 66

Book List:
31. Solaris — Stanislaw Lem
32. The Waste Land, Prufrock, and Other Poems — T.S. Eliot
33. The Singles — Meredith Goldstein
34. The Notebook — Nicholas Sparks

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 7/38


At 31, Noah Calhoun, back in coastal North Carolina after World War II, is haunted by images of the girl he lost more than a decade earlier. At 29, socialite Allie Nelson is about to marry a wealthy lawyer, but she cannot stop thinking about the boy who long ago stole her heart. Thus begins the story of a love so enduring and deep it can turn tragedy into triumph, and may even have the power to create a miracle.

Romantic quote: “I am a common man with common thoughts, and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough.” (Sparks 2)

I’m off to work in about 20 minutes, so I’m going to make this review short and sweet. (Like me!)

The Notebook is practically legend among women — and even some men. The movie is one of those things that everyone has seen and cried at, and the book has a similarly high regard. So you could understand why I, the utmost romantic, went into this thinking that it would be pretty fabulous (especially since the movie included two sexy Canadians, and was a pretty lovely affair).

I was a little disappointed. On the romantic scale, this was kind of average, leaning toward bland. I noticed some changes between the book and the movie (including more drama), and I think they were made for the better because this was just kind of…commonplace, with a side helping of cheesy.

Although I’m not too proud to admit that I got a little emotional at Allie’s final love letter. It was the only one that wasn’t too hard to stomach, and actually contained what felt like genuine emotion.

I’m really not having much luck with this Stylist reading list. Regardless, big thanks to Abigale for lending this book to me! :]

Next book: Not sure yet! When I decide, you’ll all be the first to know.

– Kelsey

Review: Love in the Time of Cholera — Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Read: 26
To Go: 74

Book List:
21. Why Men Lie — Linden MacIntyre
22. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You — Louisa Young
23. Phaedrus — Plato
24. The First Wife — Emily Barr
25. The Last Boyfriend — Nora Roberts
26. Love in the Time of Cholera — Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 6/38

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs — yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty-one years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do it again.

Romantic quote: “I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.”

I’m running late, plus I have very little patience left for this novel, so I’m going to make this super quick. Here’s the nitty gritty on Love in the Time of Cholera.

Firstly, it’s not that the writing was bad. The writing was lovely. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a great writer. But this book was way, way, way too long. At only 348 pages, it felt longer than reading 11/22/63 (which, if I may remind you, was well over 800 pages). There was so much unnecessary stuff that could have been cut.

Also, the chapter lengths were ridiculous! They were at least 50 pages each which, by the way, made me feel like I was fighting a war I was never going to win because it would never end! (Not to mention that it makes it very hard to find a good place to leave off if you can’t get to the end of a chapter.)

Finally, this book really should have been called She’s Just Not That Into You. I was misled by the quote, and the book, to believe that Fermina and Florentino had some kind of tragic love affair that didn’t work out because of class-related issues, which was unfortunately not what actually happened. This was just a classic case of someone investing way too much time and energy into someone who doesn’t love him back. Like, this is the world’s worst unrequited love story! Florentino was in desperate need of a patented Greg Behrendt “[s]he’s just not that into you” pep-talk.

Oh, and the funny story: I found this book at BMV, mislabeled for $2.99 even though all the rest in the stack were $6.99. So I paid less than $5 for this book! Yay! (I’m really glad I didn’t pay that much for it, since I didn’t enjoy it.) BMV might be my new best friend.

Next book: Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes — Kamal Al-Solaylee (One of my favourite professors, by the way.)

– Kelsey

Review: Atonement — Ian McEwan

Read: 13
To Go: 87

Book List:
11. Behaving Badly — Isabel Wolff
12. The English Patient — Michael Ondaatje
13. Atonement — Ian McEwan

“Top 50 38 Romantic Lines” read: 5/38

On a summer day in 1935, young Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s misunderstanding of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the 20th century.

Romantic quote: “I’ve never had a moment’s doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one. My reason for life.” (I can’t find the page this quote came from.)

So I’ll be honest with you guys, while it’s lovely to be finally returning to the blog with a new book to talk about, I’ve got the mack-daddy of headaches and I just can barely even see straight right now. So this is going to be quick and risks being nonsensical. I’m sure everyone’s looking forward to that.

I knew the plot of Atonement before I read the book, so maybe the fact that nothing came as a surprise to me influenced my thoughts on it, but it took me so long to read and I just felt like the entire novel was an utter waste. As a friend said: “I read all this way, and for what?” If I’m going to read a book that’s almost 500 pages in length, I’d bloody well like the ending to not completely let me down.

Anyway, one of the reasons it took me so long to read (I spent over a week working through this, which is so out of the norm for me) is because every time I so much as cracked the spine it made me ridiculously, stupidly, and incoherently angry. Briony Tallis at age 13 is the world’s worst and most infuriating character. I know I was supposed to be wooed by her childish curiosity and forgive her for her idiocy because she was young, but I just can’t. While she may have made errors in judgment because of her age, by the end of the book’s first part (it was divided into four), she was just being utterly malicious and self-righteous for no apparent reason. Briony at 18 and 77 didn’t fare any better in my books. She knew she was guilty but the only reason she did anything about it was for herself; she was such a cowardly, spineless little shit. I just couldn’t deal with it.

As for the book itself, I think the story could have been told more succinctly in less pages. I frequently found myself asking, “And how is this scene relevant to your story?” or “why does this need so much description?” It got to the point where the excess writing did more harm than good; instead of visualizing the scene, or getting invested in the story at all, I skim-read right over it.

I’m really not having a great track-record with these “romantic lines in literature” books. Except for Jane Eyre, of course.

Next book: either One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell, or Daughters-in-law by Joanna Trollope.

– Kelsey