I was attracted to this book because one of my favorite all time books is by Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres: A Novel. I was sure this also would be a great pick. The way Jane brings you into her character's hidden traits and dirty lives is a reflection of her mastery as an author. She can shock you as her story turns.
I didn't find this story was as compelling as A Thousand Acres, after all this is a story about Joe the conservative realtor who wouldn't mind becoming a billionaire, unlike the characters of A Thousand Acres who are busy trying to murder each other. The story is richly woven with a multitude of other characters and delightful sub plots. This is a story about Joe, Joe's close friends, Betty and Gordon, Felicity (Betty and Gordon's daughter), and so many characters I can't list them and begin to make this a sensible review! The outsider sharks, Marcus and Jane (Marcus' sister, or so they say), bring a new kind of BIG thinking into the little town.
I found the beginning of the book a sleeper, as I'm not interested in real estate deals. This was followed by a sense of embarrassment over the shocking affair between John and Felicity (that was just wrong). I then went into the stage of seeing through the self serving, guiltless, sociopathic, shady Bernie Madolf type behavior displayed by Marcus and Jane. This was so close to my own father's business deals, I found this uncomfortable and wanted to throw the book away. I found Marcus rotten to the core, though Jane Smiley never convicted him, and left it up to the reader to judge Marcus. Perhaps by judging Marcus all of us would be judged, as greed is only a matter of degree.
All in all, this was well written, though to me it read more like a soap opera than a novel. There are many satisfied Amazon readers, but this wasn't a book for me. However, it was compelling enough that I finished it and still wanted more. Go figure....
I am glad Katherine blogged about the Jane Smiley book. Don't we find ourselves in a quandry when we hate some of a novel's characters, but still find things compelling in the writing? I must say that I've read quite a number of Smiley's works. "Ordinary Love" and "Good Will" were two short novellas - they did not send much in the way of good messges to me. "Ten Days in the Hills" was simply terrible; I didn't want to be privvy to lives of those basking in stardom. Of course, "Moo" and "Ten Thousand Acres" were books I found outstanding.ReplyDelete
By the way, still figuring out the ins and outs of posting here. I may come across as anonymous, but I'm friend yamajane - KL's cousin.