Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Sweetheart Season

Karen Joy Fowler

It's taken me a couple of days to write anything about this book, because I'm not sure exactly what to say about it. I liked it very much as I read it – it seems to be a slow-paced meditation on small town life, and what it is like to be a woman after World War II, and it was written in a lovely way and was interesting and seemed to go on forever, but that was okay, because it was nice. And I loved the idea of a narrator telling the story of another person's life, the imaginative I voice, which is something I did in my own book but not entirely successfully so it is exciting to see it work

But then I got to the ending, very last paragraph, the whiplash, the lightning rod, the beautiful black and vicious humor of it, the supernatural strangeness and brilliance of it, and I became sorely, deeply disappointed. The book should have been half as long; the book should have had twice as much of that feeling and emotion behind it as the ending. I had the feeling it was meant to be, behind the surface, delivering as powerful a message as the final paragraph does, but if it did – I missed it somewhere in the slow and steady pace of the plot.

Maybe I would have hated a book with a message. But I think Fowler could have done it without making it a clonking mess. I would have liked a book with more passion and fire, for sure – half the time, the main character, Irini, she did not seem accessible at all. She was distant and hard to know, which is ironic, given that she was the viewpoint character the narrator, her daughter, chooses to use.

I still think I am become a fan of Fowler and her sharpness and imagination and her ability to evoke an era and the loveliness of her language.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard Karen read aloud? Her work -- and this novel in particular -- really opened up for me once I could give it the necessary inflections in my head. Anyway, I think she's an underpraised genius and this book kicks League of Their Own's buttox. (They came out around the same time, so it kind of got lumped into that. But KJF knows her baseball and loves it and so that's a shame.)

6:26 PM  
Blogger jen fu said...

No, I haven't heard her read! I would love to, though. Maybe we will meet at WisCon someday.

And yeah, I was thinking about A League of Their Own while I was reading this, but the book is so much more sophisticated and intelligent.

6:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home