Friday, 29 July 2011

Book Review(s): Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Enclave, and The Good Earth

So unfortunately I have been so busy with work and spending time with friends this past week that I have fallen slightly behind in the writing of my book reviews! During that period of time I have started and finished reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Enclave, and The Good Earth. In order to catch myself up, therefore, I am going to cheat a little bit this one time, and combine these three books into one posting. For each book I will briefly state my thoughts and provide a rating, although I won't go into as much detail as I normally do. Hopefully I won't turn this into a habit of mine!

John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has been heralded as a "lyrical work of nonfiction," and the book's extremely graceful prose depictions of some of Savannah, Georgia's most colorful eccentrics--remarkable characters who could have once prospered in a William Faulkner novel or Eudora Welty short story--were certainly a critical factor in its tremendous success. (One resident into whose orbit Berendt fell, the Lady Chablis, went on to become a minor celebrity in her own right.) But equally important was Berendt's depiction of Savannah socialite Jim Williams as he stands trial for the murder of Danny Hansford, a moody, violence-prone hustler--and sometime companion to Williams--characterized by locals as a "walking streak of sex." So feel free to call it a "true crime classic" without a trace of shame.

John Berendt's book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a work of non-fiction which will suck you in as greatly as any great fiction would do! Berendt's prose was like music to my ears, and seemlessly develops a strong connection between the readers and the slew of characters which he presents (although characters isn't really the best word to use considering they are real people).  Indeed the characters in Berendt's book were probably one of my favourite things about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. From the stardom of Chablis  (a cross dressing diva), to the scamming genious of Joe Odem, and Minerva the witch doctor, I often found it difficult to believe that any of these personalities were actually real people! Despite my love of Berendt's writing style, I did however find some parts of the book to be slightly slow and on the less exciting side, but nevertheless it is an interesting read, especially for those who are interested in crime or mystery novels!

Rating: 3.5 Stars

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. 

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning. 

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth...

I am a huge fan of dystopian novels, so when I first heard about Enclave I was eager to give it a try. While it started out fairly slow, I eventually became engrossed in the plot the further that I read on. Deuce's cluelessness and naivity was annoying at times, but then again the heroines of most YA novels are. Neverthless I will most likely be reading the books to come in this series as the author did such a good job of setting up the background plot, and I am interested to see where the plotline will go next.  Once you get past the first few chapters and Deuce's narration this novel is actually pretty likeable! 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Wang Lung, rising from humble Chinese farmer to wealthy landowner, gloried in the soil he worked. He held it above his family, even above his gods. But soon, between Wang Lung and the kindly soil that sustained him, came flood and drought, pestilence and revolution....

Through this one Chinese peasant and his children, Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life, its terrors, its passion, its persistent ambitions and its rewards. Her brilliant novel— beloved by millions of readers throughout the world— is a universal tale of the destiny of men.

I remember watching the film version of The Good Earth back when I was about 14 or 15, and when I came across a copy of the novel at a used bookstore last September, I couldn't help but pick up a copy. After sitting on my bookshelf for almost a year, I finally decided to pick it up and give this Pullitzer prize winner a try! The Good Earth is beautifully written, but super depressing! Nevertheless, the story of this family's rise to riches kept me reading despite its deep sadness and power hungry characters. Although this book ultimately made me angry and frustrated there is no denying its greatness as a story. My overwhelming emotions surrounding Wang Lung's decisions prove how deeply committed I became to the characters. While the ending left me emotionally drained, The Good Earth is a powerful novel which is definitely worth a read! 

Rating: 4 Stars


Shoshanah said...

I was assigned The Good Earth back in middle school, but I wound up loving it so much I went on to read the sequal. I believe it's called Sons, but either way it fallows the lives of his sons. I did start the third book in the trilogy, which is about his grandchildren, but never actually got through it. Reading your review is definitely making me want to go back and reread the whole trilogy.

kaye (paper reader) said...

I was discussing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with a friend today and she was really enjoying it, too. I think once I catch up with some books I'll have to find a copy at the library.

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