07 December 2011

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Flap Copy from ARC: "... Close follows Isabella, Mary and Lauren as they struggle through those dizzying years of early adulthood. While everyone around them seems to be planning a wedding or basking in professional success, our protagonists are grappling with blind dates ("What about me says 'Set me up with an obese person?'"), chasing away ghosts from the past ("Bridget Carlson was the kind of friend you couldn't get rid of"), and learning that sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder ("Our friend Ellen dates ugly boys"). Through boozy family holidays, on-the-job flirtations, disastrous ski vacations, and hungover bridal showers, "Girls in White Dresses" pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life."

I don't have much positive to say about this novel ... in fact my experience of the book was so different from that of so many other reviewers that I almost wonder if we didn't read the same book?! These girls, immersed as they are in the murky and bizarre period of life known as one's twenties, should have been funny, interesting and at the very least memorable. As it was, the individual characters were so bland that at times I had a hard time remembering which was which or whose story was whose. They had such low self-esteem and such stereotypical and offensive prejudices against friends and strangers alike that I just felt sorry for them, and for myself for bothering to continue to read. Where are the intelligent stories about strong, funny, realistic women? Why does so much 'chick-lit' have to be stupid? Argh. Don't waste your time on this one - I give it 1 star.

06 December 2011

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Flap Copy: "Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon's two families: the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters - a relationship destined to explode. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters, she reveals the joy, and the destruction, they brought to one another's lives. And at the heart of it all are the two girls whose lives are at stake - portrayed with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women."

This book was not exactly what I was expecting when I first picked it up. The writing is excellent, though the story is heartbreaking. Jones divided the novel into two halfs: the first is Dana's story, in her own words, of life as a secret daughter in a secret family; the second is Chaurisse's much more mundane tale of life in what she sees as a normal family. Dana's experiences are awful, as are (in my opinion) the adults in her life who enable and create her negative environment. Though Chaurisse is not directly to blame for the way that Dana is treated, her very existence as the public daughter nearly destroys her hidden sister's dreams.

Jones tells an engaging story, one that made me want to keep reading. I was truly disappointed by the Epilogue however, which left me with a bad taste in my mouth and less respect for the characters than I had previously held. I give 'Silver Sparrow' 3.5 stars - I'd recommend it, but be prepared for a little disappointment in your fellow man.