Mini Reviews: The Opposite of Loneliness, A Gentleman of Leisure, & Raven Girl

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


The Opposite of Loneliness
by Marina Keegan

This collection of fiction and nonfiction essays is just boiling over with earnestness. The writing is good, but the main thing I took away from it was the tragedy of the potential. The author was so talented! She was a Harvard grad who died in a car wreck just days after graduation. Regardless of the disaster that cut her life short, the book was hard to put down. Her voice is immature, but that’s perfectly fitting for her age.

One essay focused on her mother’s tireless work to make sure her food options didn’t set off the symptoms of her disease. It’s written in a way that makes you ache for the unappreciated Mom. Another piece is about a girl whose boyfriend dies, but it’s his ex-girlfriend who really feels the loss. None of these brief summaries do the stories justice, but they just emphasize that the author had the skill to make just about any topic feel personal.

BOTTOM LINE: The situations are mainly ones a young generation will relate to, but the writing pulls you in and connects you quickly no matter what age you are. I wish we would have had the chance to see how she would have matured as a writer.

A Gentleman of Leisure
by P.G. Wodehouse

I’d like to begin by saying that I LOVE the Jeeves novels. They never fail to make me laugh, even when I’m in a bad mood. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy those so much that this one fell flat. Knowing what Wodehouse is capable of makes this effort a disappointment.

Jimmy falls in love at first sight with an American named Molly while traveling across the Atlantic. Later an unwise wager involving robbing a house leads to lots of misunderstandings and an awkward meeting between Molly’s father and Jimmy. The ensuing complications, including a young thief, a party at a country house and a young lord with a desire to marry for love instead of money, make up the rest of the plot.

Unfortunately those elements don’t add up to much. The novel lacks the hilarious scenes that Jeeves’ droll presence adds to Wodehouse’s other books. Without Jeeves the flighty, rich young man character just doesn’t work as well. That plucky, but clueless chap needs the grounding gravity of Jeeves and without it the story falls flat.

BOTTOM LINE: Skip it and head straight to the Jeeves books. It doesn’t matter where you start, they’re all funny.

Raven Girl
by Audrey Niffenegger

I loved Niffenegger’s first novel (The Time Traveler’s Wife,) but her style hasn’t clicked with me since then. This one is particularly strange. The premise is that a postman falls in love with a raven and they have a human daughter together. I knew that before I read it, but I assumed there would be a bit more to it than that… not really. The daughter decides she’d rather be a bird than a human. The whole story is a bit disturbing and odd. It felt a little like a Neil Gaiman story, but without the heart and character depth. The odd nature of the story could have worked, but it didn’t feel like it had enough of a point. I know it was supposed to be a fairy tale of sorts, but those usually have some sort of lesson that’s taught by the end or at least redemption for a character. 

BOTTOM LINE: It was a creepy graphic novel that never provided any depth for me. 

*I read later that this was turned into a ballet. I could see this being a beautiful story in that more abstract medium, but I still don't think it works as a book.


Ellie said...

I've had The Opposite of Loneliness on my wish list for some time now and here's yet another review that makes me want it even more!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ellie - I had no idea about this tragic story of the author when I first picked it up. It was really well done.

thecuecard said...

So sad to hear the tragic story of the author

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

thecuecard - It really is heartbreaking. A good reminder not to put off doing the things you love!

Jillian said...

Audrey Niffenegger hasn't impressed me since TTTW either, which is sad, because I loved that book so much. The premise also sounds promising, too bad it was a let down.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian - I loved TTTW so much! It is disappointing, but I keep hoping.