What I Read – Villa America

I must preface this by mentioning that I have an enormous amount of respect for authors. I am well aware of how much work is involved in producing a work of fiction or non. I don’t feel good at all about writing anything negative about someone’s hard work, but here I go.

I didn’t like this novel.

Villa America follows the trend of fictional novels based on real 20th century figures like Loving Frank and The Paris Wife. It tells the story of Sara and Gerald Murphy who were at the center of the American expatriate social scene in the south of France during the 1920s. They are the perfect subjects for this genre, as they were incredible muses who were once well known, but have since been lost behind the art they inspired.

The story begins with Gerald and Sarah’s childhoods, courtship, and then their idyllic life on the Riviera surrounded by their famous and wealthy artistic friends: the Fitzgerald’s, the Picassos, the Hemingway’s, just to name a few. At the same time, a new player is introduced – the fictional Owen, an untouchable, stoic war hero who’s sexual awakening as a young man cost him everything (to be read in a dramatic movie trailer voice). After his career as a WW1 flying ace, he makes his living as a pilot, running errands around Europe for the Murphy’s and their neighbors. It is Owen that creates a wedge in what appears to be their happy marriage.

It’s the addition of Owen that really turned me off of this story. He felt random; one dimensional and just didn’t quite fit in the narrative, other than to create imaginary contention in the Murphy’s story. It seemed unnecessary when there is so much potential for conflict and crisis within their real life circle of friends. It’s been well documented that Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald both had crushes on Sara and Picasso was so enamored by her that he painted at least half a dozen paintings of her. Gerald had his share of admirers, as well, including men; I’m sure, as Gerald’s homosexuality (which from what I understand is only speculated, for the most part, in real life) is the arching plot of this story.

I also found the novel a bit disjointed and busy. There were too many historical references, spanning a long timeline, along with too many supporting characters and Inconsequential details about them that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the story.

Overall, I was looking for a novel that would, even from a fictional perspective, help me connect to the Murphy’s and understand more about what made this couple so inspiring to the people they spent time with. However, the fabricated interloper, choppy timeline, and too many supporting characters that didn’t really help drive their story left me wanting.

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What I Read – The Stranger (Just One Night, Part 1)

I didn’t read 50 Shades of Grey and I don’t intend to. It’s not the genre I have an issue with though. From what I’ve heard, it’s actually a poorly written book with a weak plot. I admit, I was mildly curious when the book was at a fever pitch. Then, I watched this clip of Gilbert Godfried reading a passage:

http://youtu.be/5K1RcKJVbHA

That, combined with a series of articles and critiques about it, I was able to confirm it really wasn’t for me.

I think this erotica trend in literature is great though. I know there’s always been dirty prose and pornography out there for women, but never before has it been so accessible and acceptable. Men have always cornered the market on smut, and it’s great to see us finally getting our share. Chalk one up for equality! Plus, anything that gets people reading these days is a plus.

Still, this genre really isn’t my cup of tea. However, when one of my favourtite author released an erotic fiction novel, I had to check it out.

You guys, this was…hot.

*fans self*

I was expecting something cheesy, melodramatic, and rife with gratuitus sex. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to read an engaging and thought provoking story with multi-dimentional characters. As well, her approach to writing about the sexy times (and there are a lot in this very short novel) is elegant and tasteful (for example, she doesn’t refer to it as the sexy times), while still maintaining the salacius nature. It was descriptive without being overly vulgar.

The story ends with a major cliffhanger, but It’s part of a trilogy, and the next installment is scheduled to be released on March 18.

I’ve already pre-ordred my copy and cleared my schedule for that day.

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What I Read – The Marriage Plot

When I first read the synopsis for this book, I wasn’t impressed. It sounded a lot like chick lit. Don’t get me wrong, it is a genre I adore, but I expect so much more from Jeffery Eugenides. He’s responsible for two of my favourite books: The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, and since those are the only two novels he’s published, I was anticipating something epic with The Marriage Plot.

After reading the novel, I can tell you, it was not epic, and seemed a lot like chick lit.

The story centers around Madeline, an English major with a keen interest in the marriage themes in classic English literature. After college graduation she is finds herself in a love triangle with two of her former classmates. One is brilliant, but intense and struggles with mental illness, while the other is more spiritual, grounded, and pines for her from afar. The narrative follows the three though their first year after graduation from their ivy league college in the early 1980s.

If this had been written by anyone else, I would not have been just a little bit disappointed. Although this was a actually great novel, it just wasn’t extraordinary like his other stories. It was still enjoyable to read though, but if you’re a fan of Jeffrey Eugenides, you’ll find it’s not quite the kind of book you’d expect.

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