Book: Bone

BoneBone
Fae Myenne Ng
1993

This is an unusual book about a single family living mostly in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The central event of the book is the suicide of the middle daughter of the family. The story is told from the point of view of Leila, the oldest of the three sisters. The youngest lives in New York. As much as the sisters are the focus of the story, the book seems to be really about the parents, Mah and Leon, and how they deal with the suicide and each other. There are vast amounts of history, culture and information, but the story essentially focuses on just these five people.

The story is really interesting, but that isn’t what makes it a good book. What is so unique about this book is the writing and structure. The book is told backwards, starting a while after the suicide. Each chapter is previous to the one before until you are back before Ona jumped hearing about the girls’ childhoods. This format is slightly confusing at first, but the writer manages to give clues enough so that the reader catches on eventually. I liked this technique mostly because it’s not common (I’ve never read a story backwards like this before) and the plot lends itself nicely to it. It wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful a book told forwards.

My favourite part of this book was the characters themselves. They don’t change much throughout the story, but I think that’s part of the point. They are who they are and they would be who they are whether Ona jumped or not. Mah has always been the way she is. Leon always does what he does. As a reader I expect most characters to change and grow and develop throughout the story, because that’s usually what happens. Mah and Leon never do that. Leila only sort of does. That is slightly jarring, but also interesting. There are people who are like that in real life, so why shouldn’t they be in fiction too? Why shouldn’t their stories be told? It was a fascinating story, but it’s effect on Mah and Leon was the most interesting part.

I liked this book a lot, but it’s definitely not for everyone. I know many people I would never give it to, but several others that I absolutely would. If it sounds interesting, you have a good chance of liking it. If not, don’t even try. You may like it, but the chance is low. I know my husband would go nuts reading this book. It’s good, but not universal.

- Book Blog Post (First Impressions)
- Book Blog Post (Characters)
- Book Blog Post (Final Thoughts)

- Buy it from Amazon

Book: Vile Bodies

Vile Bodies
Evelyn Waugh
1930

This novel centers around the social circle in London called the “Bright Young People”. At the very center of the action is Adam and his fiancé Nina. Adam has serious money troubles, but that never seems to bother him. The young socialites sail through their lives scandalizing their elders and generally forgetting anything that happens almost as soon as it ends. Obviously this book is largely commentary on society, but Waugh seems to be forecasting it’s downfall as well. I found it interesting that he also predicts a major war and was right, but that’s another point. Anyway, he clearly sees the problems with such society and some of the dangers are pretty clearly laid out (Miss Runcible’s fate in the book is pretty horrific). One of the things that is refreshing about the society, though, is that very tendency to put themselves in dangerous and exciting situations. Everything from throwing parties in blimps to driving race cars is in there.

This novel sounds great read aloud. All of Waugh’s stuff seems to have that quality (I haven’t read all of it) and it adds a lot for me. Each character is pretty two-dimensional, but that seems normal for people who plan on getting married because “it’s such a bore not being married”. Their voices are similar, but not quite the same, which is nice. That happens in circles of society and the fact that the book reflected that did a lot for supporting the point. I also liked that it wasn’t just the “bright young people” who were portrayed as being less than idea. Nina’s father and Lottie in particular were good examples of the older generation’s flaws. No one really came out looking good in this book, but such is the case with satires (which this only sort of is, but you know what I mean).

I really enjoyed reading this book, but I really felt that Brideshead Revisited is a better book. This did make me want to read more of Waugh’s work, which for some reason Brideshead never did. I particularly liked the title of this book. It was so appropriate and set just the right tone, but took me a few chapters to get it (which I actually like). I liked that location rarely mattered to the action, but was usually described anyway. The descriptions were great. But at the same time, the fact that Waugh rarely described people was also really good. I got a good idea of who they were just by listening to their conversations, which in many ways works better than just descriptions. The “Virtues” in particular were shown through conversation rather than description and it worked beautifully.

There is a fairly recent movie based on this book called “Bright Young Things”. I hadn’t any interest in seeing it before reading the book, but now it has made it onto my Netflix queue. I still don’t have high hopes for it at all, but I’m willing to give it a try and see how it interprets the movie.

I would definitely recommend this book, but Brideshead Revisited really is better.

- Publisher’s Description
- Book Blog Post (First Impressions)
- Book Blog Post (World)
- Book Blog Post (Title)
- Book Blog Post (Final Thoughts)
- Buy it from Amazon