Sunday, September 23, 2007
I tried to love A Thousand Splendid Suns. Everyone else out there seems to adore Khaled Hosseini's work; I'm in the quiet minority of those distracted by the fact that the writing is just not that spectacular. The second half of the book is much better than the first; throughout the first two sections, I kept complaining that the setting seemed secondary. So many people rave that they learned so much about Afghanistan, yet in the first half of the book, the setting is unimportant. With a few changes in details, these women's stories, sadly, could be happening in so many places. By the third and fourth parts, though, Afghanistan and its myriad problems are central to the novel, and the novel itself was much more appealing to me. I love this quote from the New York Times review of the book: "Gradually, however, Mr. Hosseini’s instinctive storytelling skills take over, mowing down the reader’s objections through sheer momentum and will." Storytelling is definitely the strength here, and it is a good story; literature it is not.
I chose What the Dead Know because I wanted an simple, plot-driven mystery as a sort of palate-cleanser. Laura Lippman's book is definitely plot driven but hardly simple. The character list itself is immense, and while most characters are clearly drawn, few are likable and their sheer numbers are challenging (not to mention the character with more than one identity and name). I enjoyed watching the mystery unravel, but I thought the climax was, in fact, anticlimactic.