Famous for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter it did not occur to me that she had written anything else. Until this popped up on my Instagram feed. Apparently it's her final novel. And what a novel it is!
Set in the American South, in a small town run by white people just around the time when segregation was being abolished. It concentrates on the lives of four men : J T Malone, a middle-aged pharmacist, John Clane an elderly judge whose mind is beginning to wander, Jester grandson of the judge and closet homosexual - all of whom are white - and Sherman a blue-eyed mix-raced black man around the same age as Jester (late teens early twenties). There are other themes running through the book which are not difficult to access but not all of them are obvious. All of their lives are intricately intermixed and they affect each other.
The prose is lyrical and sweet and a joy to read. The story is good, the characters believable, and the title is referred to in the book to explain it's meaning - and it's a profound meaning so I won't spoil it.
It's very well worth reading and not a long book, some 201 pages, but it does contain the N-word in several different forms. Although this was used in dialogue and showed how people, both black and white, spoke at the time it was not there to indicate an insult. It is there, though and I thought that I should mention it.
Rescued Thread When Bill has caught up with some things, please can we have the forum for this back, and then get it moved? Cheers!
Flingo 8th June 2006 11:06 PM
I thought in Bill's absense we could start a couple of threads about Holes here and have the discussion that so many people are keen to do before we forget what we want to say. It should be able to be moved once the new board is open, shouldn't it?
So what are people's first impressions? I know some people have finished it - but please remember anyone could call in here, so spoiler if necessary!
I really enjoyed Holes. My children's librarian mentor has been urging me to read this for ages but I had never got round to it, and am now really disappointed that I left it so long!
It's really clever, although it takes a bit to understand where all the threads of the story are going.
The writing is so easy to read, and you feel drawn in almost immediately. I could felt the heat of Camp Green Lake radiating out of the book - a huge acheivement!
megustaleer 8th June 2006 11:34 PM
I read it some years ago, and loved it. I really don't know why it has not been a bigger hit as a 'crossover' book. I thought that the way all those plot threads were neatly tied up was just so satisfying, and so clever!
Have just checked my reading list, and it is six years since I read it, and I can still remember quite a lot of it; it really made an impression!
katrina 9th June 2006 06:02 PM
Hey, this is my second read of this book in a year, as I had to read it at the start of my PGCE course, its a really popular keystage 3 yext. I prefered it this time around, the first time I was annoyed by it, but I can't remember why now.
Thought the writing was good, and the sense of the lake and the heat were well depicted.
Momo 9th June 2006 06:20 PM
I can well imagine that it's six years since Meg read it. My oldest son read it when he was a year younger than my youngest one is now and he is five years older. It had just come out otherwise he would have done it earlier as my younger one has.
Anyway, even though both my boys had read it, I never did so myself. Somehow it always seemed like a book for little boys. So, I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn't that at all. (We even have the DVD and I never watched that either!)
I will recommend this book to anyone. It's a quick read, yet very interesting and there is a lot in this. More than last month's read.
katrina 10th June 2006 08:30 AM
I was wondering if anybody had watched the film version of the book, if I have time this week I'm going to borrow it from school and take a peak at it, I've heard its quite a good adaptation
Flingo 10th June 2006 10:45 AM
I picked it up on Wednesday, and will be watching it tomorrow.
I think we ought to have a thread about the film in this section, so that we can discuss comparisons and similarities? Whoever watches it first can start that!
megustaleer 16th June 2006 08:56 AM
belweb says on another thread that she thought the plot was full of holes! I beg to differ! The thing that I like about this book is that there are no 'holes', everything is all neatly sewn up at the end!
Admittedly a lot of the connections are contrived, but I thought that was part of the humour of the book. My reactions were along the lines of 'Well I Never!! and 'Who'd've Thought It!' , and I thought it was all very cleverly brought to a satisfying (if not necessarily satisfactory) conclusion.
I wouldn't have accepted the neat conclusion in a serious adult novel, but 'Horses for Courses', eh? And there's plenty of food for thought in there, too.
The book probably suffered from being read in the middle of reading for an Eng. Lit. degree. I'm sure it wouldn't stand comparison to the other books occupying belwebb's thoughts.
Momo 16th June 2006 01:45 PM
I don't know either what kind of holes belwebb saw in this novel. As Meg already mentions, and we all should consider this, this is a children's book. We cannot expect deep meanings that you will only understand after studying English Lit.
belwebb 16th June 2006 05:28 PM
Yes, you've made some valid points. However, when you say 'contrived' I think that's the word I should have used - it was incredibly contrived, but then, like you say, I was in the middle of an English lit course!
elfstar 16th June 2006 06:38 PM
I enjoyed this book, it had a nice 'roundness' to it,there was no unhappy or unresolvesd ending for the protagonist, the characters were not as deep as they could have been but it is a childrens book and a such it was very acceptable
donnae 19th June 2006 11:17 PM
I really enjoyed this book. I loved how the story of the past was neatly interlinked with Stanley's story. Contrived maybe, but very enjoyable still. At least it ties up a lot more ends than last month's read!
As this was a children's story, I liked the manner in which the anti-racialism was dealt with, not too heavy-handed. There were some obvious morals going on in the book, but they didn't overshadow the story.
There is a sequel to Holes called Small Steps. This follows the lives of Armpit and Xray.
Holes is a book I will be encouraging my children to read - I think they will all enjoy it. One of my daughters has watched the film and enjoyed it. Flingo, have you watched it yet?
Adrian 20th June 2006 01:50 AM
I was thinking the same thing, donnae. It's pretty obvious when you read it.
megustaleer 20th June 2006 09:34 PM
Because it is a children's book, and apparantly a straightforward account of Stanley's misadventures, perhaps there is a tendency to whiz through it without picking up the clues?
Once you know how it all fits together, of course, a lot of it was clearly hinted at in advance.
Hindsight's a wonderful thing!
Adrian 20th June 2006 09:52 PM
I certainly did that, not giving the book its due respect and racing through it. I'll have to re-read it, or maybe listen to the audio version.
Flingo 23rd June 2006 08:47 PM
I did watch it - though it was really nicely done. Louis Sachar actually wrote the screenplay, which I think helped keeping it true to the book.
Recommend watching it if you enjoyed the book.
This is for people who have read just the first few chapters. If you haven't yet, reading the following will be a spoiler.
I watched the R&J review and have bought the book. So far I'm maybe a dozen pages into it.
I'm not loving the double first-person narrative. It reminds me of Kevin Sampson's Outlaws, where the same story is told from multiple viewpoints. I find it just detracts from the story, and makes the book feel a bit gimmicky. Maybe it'll grow on me as I read more, and it certainly won't stop me reading it.
Secondly, I'm not yet buying into this "Chrono-Displacement Disorder" plot device. It's too Sci-Fi for my liking, and just too "handy" for the author: "I need to have the guy time travel, so here's how I've made it happen." I'm hoping it's resolved later on. If it's a premise I have to swallow just so the book could be written I'll be disappointed.
As you might have guessed, I'm not wholly convinced just yet.
What's your first impressions of the book?
I'm about halfway through (he's spending Christmas with her family and has just found out her Mum's a manic depressive - and after reading this book, love, so am I), and unless I get I get some positive feedback here, I'm giving up.
I posted my first impressions earlier, and I'm afraid it's getting worse.
Firstly it didn't grab me from the start and I read other books inbetween - always a bad sign. Still, I vowed to stick with it, and once I got past the awkward narrative structure it improved. The enforced double-narrative seemed a little contrived, and I felt whenever the authour switched voices in mid-scene Niffenegger was really forcing the change of voice to make it obvious it was now the other person narrating. Seemed a bit like Kevin Samson writing in Outlaws, where each narrator gets his own unique voice.
Secondly, the basic premise of the novel, time travel, is mishandled and cack-handedly written. Two versions of himself in the same time frame? (Believe me ladies, if we could do that to ourselves the human race would be extinct). Some evolutionary mishap in the human genome being allowed to rewrite the laws of physics? Those I could live with, but TTW is just an affront to basic common sense. I keep asking myself questions instead of losing myself in the book. Why just appear now? Why just disappear now? More important is the where? How does he go to a particular place as well a particular time?
Also, the nastiness of the bloke: "I can't help myself so I can do whatever I like." Beat people up? Sure! Rob and steal? Why not! Buy stocks cheap? Who wouldn't! Run naked through the neighbourhood? Well, I tried this, and the police would just not believe my story!
Most importantly, I don't care about the love story. So he loves her and they love each other, and so forth. I find both of them so insufferable that I don't care about their relationship(s).
I'm half-heartedly interested in the secondary goings on. I like Kimy, and I like Clare's room-mate, but can't stand the room-mate's boyfriend.
My current thinking is, "This is not a book to tossed away lightly. It is to hurled with great force."
I'd like either an incentive to finish it (bearing in mind I have a long list of others waiting on my TBR pile) or, preferably, a precis of the ending. I'm guessing she dies of some disease he can't prevent, and he knows it (of course he knows it, he just can't get involved in any ethical situation that would ruin the house-of-cards plot), but doesn't tell her.
God, I hate them both. Hey Audrey, try going back in time before Stephen Fry wrote Making History.