Time for some more mini-reviews! Sadly I’m unable to write full reviews of everything I’ve read (got a toddler that keeps me busy), so this is the perfect way to sneak in some thoughts on my past readings.
These are all books I’ve read over the past month. This monthly feature is hosted by Modern Mrs. Darcy.
Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders
I know I’m going to be in the minority here, but I wasn’t impressed with Lincoln in the Bardo. At all. Just because an author plays with style doesn’t make something a masterpiece. And this book was definitely style over substance.
The book centers (supposedly) around President Lincoln and his 11 year old son Willie, who passed away during the Civil War. Lincoln goes to the graveyard where Willie’s body is being held, not realizing that the cemetery is filled with ghosts of people who don’t know they’ve died, including Willie.
There are two different styles in Lincoln, first in the in-between chapters that give context by relaying the historical events happening outside the cemetery. The chapters are just two-three pages of quotes from ‘books’ that usually focus on one subject. I found this very odd, not just because only half of the quotes are real, but I felt so distant from Lincoln and the tragedy of losing his son, like a book report.
The chapters in the cemetery were written like a play (without the stage directions) and at first I didn’t mind, but I quickly realized that they were switching around, from their own dialogue to describing what was going on. And THEN they would say each other’s dialogue.
I did NOT like this at all, I found it not only confusing but it needlessly slowed down the pace, so I ended up ignoring who was ‘speaking’ and just read their dialogue like regular text until someone said ‘I’, and then I looked to see who was speaking.
The style alone didn’t bother me, I also was expecting this is be an emotional story about Lincoln and his son, and I felt they took a backseat to all the ghost’s stories. There was only a couple of moments that really moved me throughout the whole book, and that’s when a ghost would ‘enter’ Lincoln’s body and the reader would get a glimpse of what Lincoln was thinking and feeling.
In the end, I wish Lincoln in the Bardo was more about Lincoln.
The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgahov
Well, that was a crazy ride.
The Devil (and friends) decide to visit 1930’s Moscow and turn the city upside down. Heaven help anyone who crosses their paths, which includes writers, star-crossed lovers, a theater staff, and the poor tenants of the flats on Sadovaya Street.
This was my first taste of Russian literature and I’m very interested in exploring more. I was genuinely surprised by The Master and Margarita, especially since the impression I’ve gotten from others is that Russian literature is typically gloomy.
I wouldn’t call the novel positive, but the zany antics of the ‘Devil Crew’, as I’ve fondly nicknamed them, gave the story levity. Bulgahov meant this to be a satire of the Soviet Union, and while I gleaned some of the undertones, sadly I think a lot of nuance was lost on me.
If you’re interested in checking out Russian literature, this seems like a good starting point. Check it out, if only for a talking cat, Behemoth and his fanged friend Azzure, and… Pontius Pilate? Sure, why not.
Sweet Tooth (Vols 1-6)
Jeff Lamire’s limited graphic novel series takes place ten years after a plague has wiped out most of humanity. The plague wasn’t the only change, as all children born since the start of the epidemic are now animal hybrids.
The series follows Gus (a deer hybrid), who has lived secluded in the woods with his father his whole life. After tragedy hits, Gus has to leave the woods, trusting a stranger, Jepperd, with his safety. As Gus follows Jepperd, he has to come face-to-face with the bleak world outside of the woods, and the secrets of the plague and the hybrids.
I had put off reading Sweet Tooth because I had my fill of post-apocalyptic media, and honestly the stress of the current political climate of America didn’t help either. I saw the whole series at the library and decided it was time to see what the fuss was all about.
I was truly surprised by how much I cared about the characters and how invested I was in their stories. If you’ve read post-apocalyptic literature, the beats and themes will be familiar, but the hybrids plotline gives the genre a new punch.
Warning: Some of the images are really graphic, and lots of people die (plaque plus ‘end of the world’), so not for the faint of heart.
Score for Whole Series: 10/10
March (Books 1-3)
This was a perfect time to read March. This beautiful black and white graphic novel series highlights the struggles and hardships the Civil Rights’ movement endured through the eyes of Rep. John Lewis.
As Lewis witnesses the first black president take office, he reflects on the brutal history that made this movement a reality. The three volumes focus on the long road that lead Lewis to the Salem Marches, the cost on the road to voting rights.
While Sweet Tooth will probably only appeal to certain tastes, I feel March is a series everyone should give a try. Rep. John Lewis is a modern day hero, along with others who fought for equal rights, and this is a story everyone should know.
The only complaint is that sometimes the information given was just too much. I understand that Lewis wanted this to be comprehensive and not leave anyone out, but I was confusing all the names together, especially if they only pop up every now and then.
Other than that, I found this series uplifting in a time when I’ll take whatever hope I can get. History is painful and slow, but we are moving forward, even if it’s just by inches.
Score for Whole Series: 9/10