Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Review: 'The Glass Castle', 'Wicked', and 'Seventh Seal'

The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
Rated: PG-13

This memoir, about an impoverished girl making her way in the world to become a successful journalist despite her eccentric, sometimes neglectful, parents, is fascinating and emotional. It is a valuable lesson in the resiliency of children, and begs questions about good and bad parenting. Two chapters in and I couldn't put the book down. It is a quick read and a remarkable case study of unique and sometimes horrifying circumstances that Jeannette and her siblings endured and also flourished in. For instance, the burns she acquired by cooking hot dogs for herself at the age of three, while her parents were engulfed in their own creative projects. This story offers a pointed lens of a child's vision of alcoholism, mental illness, creativity, and intelligence working in sync to create perfect chaos and dysfunctional love. The writing itself is succinct and inventive. Ms. Wall's pros do not rely on tired clichés to tell her story, which makes reading fun again.

by Gregory Maguire
Rated: R

The overall plot of this story, which for all intents and purposes is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, is fun, thought provoking, and complex. The author gives multiple dimensions to the wicked witches of the East and West, as well as to Glinda. Alternately, his plot sometimes takes a turn into very modern Wicca culture from eastern Massachusetts, where he and I both hail from. At points in the story I felt like I was walking down a mix of Derby Wharf in Salem and Harvard Square, which was very jarring and pulled me out of a story that was supposed to be taking place at the turn of the 20th century. Additionally, Madame Morrible, the headmistress, carried a striking, but evil, resemblance to Minerva McGonagall, as well as the university at Shiz to Hogwarts. Furthermore, in the author's exploration of evil, he takes some scenes entirely too far, not only for the readers, but for the believability of youth of the early 1900s. It is these little glitches in an otherwise intriguing story that cause me to downgrade my rating one paper clip in an otherwise compelling plot. It is a mostly fun read that requires a strong stomach for some scenes not for the faint of heart, and it leaves you with as many questions as answers.

Seventh Seal
by Jessica Draper and Richard D. Draper
Rated: PG

Seventh Seal, a work of LDS fiction about the last days, has positive and negative aspects to its story. The plot has a very slow start and characters come across as very two-dimensional throughout the first two-thirds of the book, which hinges on the moodiness of contemporary cultural stereotypes and norms for implied information. The writing is clumsy and contrived in the beginning, making many of the mistakes that amateur writers are guilty of by over describing non-essential pieces of information and back story, giving human characteristics to inanimate objects, and relying heavily on current technological props to make guesses about the future 50 years from now. In the last third of the book, all of that changes because the plot is essentially a conspiracy storyline that emerges at the end using actual prophesies from Revelations, the Book of Mormon, and D&C working as a secondary character. The writing tightened up, plot intensified and became more streamlined, and the pacing increased it's momentum and moved comfortably without gaps of too much back story so that by the end the reader is disappointed that it's over. If these writers had taken the time to do a thorough re-write to pull out all the unnecessary verbiage that hindered the pacing, the book could have easily jumped one or two paper clips. It is nothing a really good editor couldn't fix. The story has a lot of potential, and it was worth trudging through the first two thirds to get to the last third, which I thoroughly enjoyed.


Anonymous said...

I just read the Glass Castle for my book club last month and it was wonderful! Definitely a fast read and one of those that you can't put down. And I'm absolutely horrified that there are parents out there who are that self centered. One more good reason for sterilization. Amy

Karen B said...

Are you rating books with paperclips? I can't tell what the shape is. Also, did you have to go on a waiting list to get Glass Castle? I want to read that now.

K&B Brown said...

I want to read The Glass Castle now and I have been wanting to see Wicked for a long time and very jealous of Beebe for already seeing it- without me!
Great reviews, I am now waiting anxiously for the third review.

Ali-kat said...

I am rating with paper clips because I don't have stars in webdings. The book is wait listed. Scott put in for it three months before he got it. It's worth the wait though.

Emily R. needs to read it especially though. She'll have a better appreciation for than most. One character in the book mirrors a person in her real life in a very surreal way.

Emily said...

Fun of you to review! Phil told me you chilled and read yesterday, and good for you! You needed a break.

I will read the Glass Castle, and I hope my darling husby will, too. :) (He's not the character, btw)

Emily T. said...

I read the Glass Castle in Februrary while Erin (Devin's sister) conducted a Harry Potter Club meeting at a local bookstore in Orlando. It was a very interesting and quick read. I skipped only a few parts so I could finish the book before I had to leave the bookstore. As a teacher, I found the perspective of the kids to be very interesting.

Ann said...

I read Wicked last year, and I fully agree with your review. I liked the story alot, with its twists and explanations of the Dorothy story. But the parts that were crude were unnessesarily so and for that reason I gave my copy away. I didn't think I should have it around with my little guys reading everything. Not that they would pick up that huge book, but you never know.

I'm very interested in reading the Glass Castle. I'll look for it at the library today. Today is Book Report Day, you know.

Chunky Monkey said...

Don't worry... you should still see Wicked, the play. It is rated PG and fantastic. It is Tyler's favorite of all stage productions ever. I'll say top 3, but the top 3 are not rated against each other, as I tend to do with my top whatevers.

I have never heard of Glass Castle before. It sounds like something I would devour. And MormCulture writing is in definate need for good editting. Isn't there someone out there at Deseret Book who will step up and clean up these books and movies?