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What I've Finished Reading

The Clan of the Cave Bear ends with a cliffhanger and a sample chapter from Jean M. Auel's latest, but I'm not biting. I don't regret the time I spend reading it, but I also don't know when I've been this disappointed in a novel for not being the long short story it was clearly meant to be. I definitely can't handle another 500 pages. There's a scene toward the end where Ayla and her guardian Creb drink a narcotic ritual beverage and share a vision of the far future - one in which Creb's people diminish and die and Ayla's overrun the world and make it strange. It's an ambitious piece of writing that ought to be a major turning point in the book, but isn't. Why isn't it? Because our disembodied National Geographic narrator has been following us around this whole time, reminding us every 50 pages that the Clan are doomed, using phrases like "evolutionary dead end" that are totally inappropriate to the setting and the mindset of the characters. By the time the news breaks into the story itself, it's been stale for days. It didn't do us any good to hear it all those other times, and now the big cool prehistoric sci-fi moment is spoiled. Oh, well.

What I Gave Up on Almost Immediately

The Raven Boys is pretty emphatically not my thing. I told myself I was going to give it a hundred pages before I took it back to the free book exchange, but I barely made it to 75. It has a good opening line ("It was freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrived.") but unfortunately there's a prologue in its way, and the rest of it was nothing but a chore. I hope whoever finds it in the free box next has better luck enjoying it.

What I'm Reading Now

The Maias by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz.

This is a large novel about Carlos da Maia, a wealthy young doctor who is doomed to sleep with his sister (I know this because the frontispiece told me right away, and now it's impossible not to see the pieces being put in place). But doom doesn't hang heavily on Carlos yet, unless it's the doom of never getting anything done - he's just come down from Coimbra to set up a consulting room and a laboratory, where he's going to dole out medical expertise while he works on a monumental history of the past and future of medicine - but his boudoir-like consulting room furniture doesn't excite respect, and the workmen are taking forever with the laboratory building, and his friends keep making fun of him and dragging him off to the Drones Club South to fling themselves on couches and wail about their mistresses. Meanwhile, his friend Ega (whom I'm pretty sure is a self-mocking self-insert of Eça de Queiroz, even though I don't know anything about Eça de Queiroz) is supposed to be turning his brilliant idea for a book into an actual book, and finding it considerably harder than either talking about the idea or buying and wearing eccentric clothes:

It was to be a prose epic, he declared, and would describe through a series of symbolic episodes the history of the great periods of the World and of Humanity. It was entitled Memoirs of an Atom, and was autobiographical in form. In the first chapter this atom (Ega's Atom, as it was called in all earnestness at Coimbra) was still roaming amid the cloudiness of the primitive nebulae [. . .] After that, as it voyaged through continual transformations of substance, Ega's atom entered the primitive structure of the orang-outang, the father of humanity, and later it lived on the lips of Plato. [. . .] Finding itself at last on the point of Ega's pen, and weary of its journey through Being, it rested as it wrote its Memoirs

It's pretty charming. I don't know what the eventual doomed incest is going to do to the charm, but I'm enjoying it so far.

Also Shirley by Charlotte Bronte - another sponsored post! That will go up at some point soon, if not this weekend, then shortly after.

What I Plan to Read Next

The Ladies of Missalonghi!


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2017 01:27 pm (UTC)
raven boys high five! i've survived through the first book only by the virtue of imagining a verrrrrrrrrrry angry review i will write for it (and i did, and it was way more satisfying).
May. 31st, 2017 01:42 pm (UTC)
Oh well, that's my problem right there - I knew it was popular so I kept looking for something to like, and even though I have some problems with "YA style" I knew I'd powered through The Hunger Games just fine (because I loved it) so I couldn't figure out why TRB was giving me so much trouble. I want to like things! But what can you do? One man's cake is another man's cake of soap. I didn't believe in Blue or the boys or their school, and it tired me right out. Maybe I'll go find your review and slake my soul.
May. 31st, 2017 02:19 pm (UTC)
enjoy! a lot of spite went into it, hah.

(some of it due to where i could clearly see where it is iddy - god knows i lot a lot of "trashy" books that align with my own id and feel no shame about them - but so perpendicular to me it was like being teased).
May. 31st, 2017 03:23 pm (UTC)
Beautiful! Thank you - you seem to have managed to tell the characters apart a little better than I could by page 75, so well done there. And ouch, those quoted passages. I don't think I was even able to appreciate how bad the prose was as I was reading; I was so irritated by my own apparently indestructible indifference. Reading it felt like having a head cold.

The lack of humor was something that didn't really register as I was reading (because so little did) but in retrospect, it's probably a big part of what went wrong between me and this book. If you can't laugh at tortured rich boys crying into their money pillows 24/7, what can you laugh at? And Blue's doomed love prophecy - I don't know how you can make something like that the center of a contemporary fantasy without treating it humorously - at least at first.
May. 31st, 2017 03:01 pm (UTC)
Clan of the Cave Bear: doomed to never have the sequel read!

A charming book with doomed incest? I hope the eventual shift in tone(?) doesn't grate.
May. 31st, 2017 03:26 pm (UTC)
I hope so, too! Right now I have a lot of confidence in Sr. Eça de Queiroz, but it's hard to see where it's going. . . we'll see!
Jun. 1st, 2017 12:41 am (UTC)
Ayla gets even more inventive in the second book, but I agree it's probably not worth the time, or even the effort in turning the pages.

I've read Shirley, but ages ago - your views are eagerly anticipated. :)
Jun. 2nd, 2017 02:40 pm (UTC)
A part of me really likes Ayla and her improbably single-handed inventiveness - but not enough, alas. I'm mortal and the world is full of better books.
Jun. 1st, 2017 11:24 am (UTC)
Clan of the Cave Bear sounds like a more pretentious version of a YA series (about 20 years old?) about prehistoric tribes running around and being doomed. Only the YA one had the grace not to use vocabulary/frames of reference the characters couldn't know.

I've never read Shirley because Jane Eyre was enough Charlotte Bronte for me (Anne is the Bronte of my heart), but I'm curious to read your review and might give it a try!
Jun. 2nd, 2017 02:26 pm (UTC)
Ooo! Please tell the the name of the YA series so I can check it out eventually! I am interested in stories about prehistoric tribes running around and being doomed, if they are told by a sensitive author who understands the value of editing.

I think Clan of the Cave Bear was surprisingly unpretentious most of the time. But the value of editing was definitely disregarded, along with the value of thinking about POV for more than sixty seconds before editing. :\

Shirley is very interesting so far! The post will be later than I was hoping, but not so late as to never happen.
Jun. 2nd, 2017 03:07 pm (UTC)
It's the Kin series by Peter Dickinson. I remember liking them back when they were first published, but haven't had the chance to re-read them so I'm not sure how they've held up over the years.
Jun. 2nd, 2017 03:44 pm (UTC)
Awesome, thank you!
Jun. 9th, 2017 06:14 am (UTC)
I remember Reading, and liking Dance of the Tiger by Björn Kurtén some time in my pre-teen. In it the Neanderthals are blond and blue-eyed and frequently breeds with Cro-magnion's, though the Children are sterile. There was probably som eplot too, but I don't remember that one, only my general feeling of liking it.
Jun. 8th, 2017 05:35 am (UTC)
I read The Clan of the Cave Bear when I was around eleven and loved it. Since then I have become an adult. And the science Auel used has grown very dated. I read the sequel and liked half of it- the bits which concerns Ayla surving on her own. She doesn't quite invent the Wheel, but almost! It's a kind of a Robinson Crusoe story, and I was Always very fond of the lone person surving against odds story. But the interesting bits about Ayla are mixed with a rather boring story about a Young man who travles around and has a lot of sex. I admit that when I was fourteen, the sex bits was a bit tingly. And then he finally meets Ayla with the predictable result.

I read the third book too and was heartuly bored, and then I read the fourth, but skipped all the Walking and having sex bits, which made me finish a 700-page book in about two hours... I Think there are even more books, but I have never botehred to look.
Jun. 8th, 2017 02:11 pm (UTC)
I don't mind the dated science a bit - but I do mind how it's presented, with the intrusive omniscient narrator. Keeping to a close Clan and Ayla POV would have given us plenty of plausible deniability for the science, and a better reading experience in any era! But maybe the real problem is just that I ought to have read it when I was eleven, and now I never can.

I have the impression that there are lots of books, but maybe there are only about four very large books. They used to come into our used bookstore a lot - The Valley of Horses was one title I remember. Very big hardcovers with nice cover paintings.
Jun. 9th, 2017 06:09 am (UTC)
I think the omviscient narrator would irk me now too. I re-read quite a few time in my teens, but not since then, and I don't Think I ever will. same as Valley of the Horses, as a shy teenager I found the sex rather blushworthy and hot. But when I read it as an adult I was only struck of of same-y it all was, and how much purple prose there was. :D
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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