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11 Aug 2009

Kite Runner + Daniel Deronda

I read these quite a while ago. I ought to have written up the reviews when the books were fresh in my mind, but, as some of you know, things around here have been.... unstable.

The Kite Runner

I really enjoyed The Kite Runner. It had the potential to be something quite special, 5 star even, if it weren't for the second half. Yet I forgave any shortcomings on the strength of the first half.

The first is touching, poignant, subtle, heart-wrenching, gently fascinating. One of the characters stole my heart.

And the second half? It's like a different book! Suddenly there's crazy action, unlikely situations, more coincidences than you can shake a karmic stick at, obvious cliches, and all round predictability.

So why did I enjoy it anyway. Like I said, the first half won me over. When I realised the obviousness of the rest, I didn't cringe. Instead, I saw it all as a high drama. Something akin to a (better) Bollywood film or soap opera. Sure, it was over the top stuff, but it was so thrilling. Well, in a harrowing sort of way. It's a terribly sad story.

I also enjoyed reading into a different culture.

It's a short book. If you can accept the drama, it's worth it. If Hosseini had maintained the story's integrity and subtlety, it could have been a real gem.

Daniel Deronda

Another Eliot for me this year. Enjoyed it many times more than Mill on the Floss.

I was even more impressed with Eliot. She really is wonderously observant. Such a keen eye and ear. But more significantly, a keen inner ear. Reading the motives behind what charcaters do is simply delicious. I wish I had read her more back in my university days as a psych major.

However, she is also very heavy going. As sarah mentioned on the last Eliot review, it feels like you're reading a classic. And that holds true for even if, like me, you read plenty of them. There were paragraphs in this one that were monstrously cumbersome. I mean, I was reading them twice over and still thinking, wth!?

And if she were writing today, an editor would cut out her lengthy ponderings. They are much too self-indulgent. Yet, they are goooood. They are lengthy, but they're not rambles. They are monologues of high intellectual order. She's just so spot on. But it makes for a classic that is 500+ pages of regular head-spining linguistic complexity.

Okay, so what of the story? This heroine, Gwendolen, is more real for me, compared to Maggie in MotF. Maggie is good and sweet and how could we dislike her? But for me, I can't relate to the piously sweet. We may not necessarily like Gwendolen, but she sure keeps our interest. I was a little frustrated with how Eliot evolved her, but won't say more at risk of spoiling anything.

The second story, about Daniel Deronda, that weaves in, out, and through the first, was not so interesting to me. Again, characters being oh so very, very good. Too good. Yawn. But don't think I'm dismissing it entirely. There is much in the way of fascinating ideas, exchanges between characters, and historical interest, to make it worth the read.

Recommended to readers of the classics, or anyone wishing to enrich their souls.

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