The last few weeks have been miserable. I have not been able to combine words in any way that makes sense to me. Writing about books, which is normally merely a difficult task, has felt almost impossible. Even work has been difficult. I have had to soldier through work, though, and that’s good. Otherwise I would have gotten nothing done there, too. Now I’m going to try soldiering through some blog posts. First, I’ll tackle the non-Dahl books.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline’s family moves to a house which has an interior door that leads only to a bricked-up wall. Or so it seems, until one day she opens it up and finds another house and another pair of parents, so like her own, on the other side. Interesting and chilling, but it reminded me of Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always, which I think I might have liked just a tad better. I have heard such awesome things about Neil Gaiman, I feel like I ought to try all of his books. So far, I have read two (the other being Stardust). Both were good, but neither quite blew me away. I think I will try American Gods next, as one of my former coworkers gave it a rave recommendation.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
In The Forgotten Garden, a girl is abandoned on a ship when she is very young. A nice family adopts her and she doesn’t remember having been abandoned. But years later, her adoptive father tells her about it and she’s devastated. She becomes obsessed with finding out who she really is, and she passes the obsession along to her granddaughter. The stories of that girl, her mother, and her granddaughter intertwine into one long, convoluted tale involving two old houses, a book of fairy tales, a forgotten garden, and buried secrets.
This is the second Kate Morton book I have read, the first being The Distant Hours, which I liked very much. The Forgotten Garden has a tie-in with one of my favorite books of all time, The Secret Garden, so it seems like I ought to have liked it more than the first. I didn’t.
I have my suspicions about why. One suspicion is that Morton writes the same book over and over, just with slightly different sets of characters and different houses as a settings. It might help explain why so many reviewers claim to love one of her novels while hating the next. Perhaps they see the second one as formulaic. I felt that way, anyway. Another suspicion is that she’s getting better as she goes along. There was more to The Distant Hours than just the story. There were little details and asides that made it special. Those things allowed me to ignore the book’s flaws. I did not notice those same details in The Forgotten Garden, and it didn’t speak to me the same way.
So my working theory is, I guess, that if you’re going to read a Kate Morton novel, pick the most recent. It’s probably the best. And if you choose to go back and read her older work, don’t be surprised if it seems similar.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I really enjoyed The Night Circus. It had an interesting premise (a magical duel set amid a working circus). It was imaginative and well described. It was like a beautiful dream. If the main characters were, as I sometimes felt, a little weakly drawn, it was not enough to jar me from the dream. Thanks to my friend, Sprite, for sending this lovely book my way. I was in need of a good book and it arrived at just the right time!