I put this book on hold because I thought it was written from a non-human point of view. I was partially correct.
Marcellus is an octopus in an aquarium. He was captured when young and has spent his life in a glass tank. Tova is an elderly woman who cleans the aquarium to keep busy. Her son died under mysterious circumstances thirty years ago. Cameron is a man in search of his father. His mom gave him up when he was nine and never told him who his father was.
The three of them develop a kind of friendship. First is Marcellus and Tova, who communicate enough to understand each other. Marcellus keeps leaving his tank in search of tasty alternatives to his daily meals (and finds those alternatives in the other tanks). Tova catches him and keeps his secret. She talks to him as she cleans, tells him bits of her life, enough that he understands that her son is at the bottom of the ocean.
Cameron rides into town on a hot lead about his dad. While in Sowell Bay he takes a job at the aquarium to make enough money to survive while there. He’s a bit of a petulant man, I’d think of him as a man-baby, who is pissed off at the world for not giving him what he feels is his due. With a drug-addicted mother and absent father, he was raised by his aunt.
Gradually, Cameron opens up to Tova’s tutelage on how to properly clean the aquarium and learns Marcellus isn’t as stupid as he’d thought.
Marcellus draws a line of connection between Cameron and Tova, and works hard to let her know.
Overall, this book was entertaining. I felt like the author re-iterated information unnecessarily, but that just made it for an easy read. I didn’t have to think or try to work anything out, I could just enjoy the scenes as they unfolded. I didn’t particularly like Cameron’s character, but did see some growth toward the end.
If you like soft novels about family and friendship, this might be a good book for you.
I put this book on hold without reading a synopsis because I’d read the author’s work before and enjoyed the narrative flow. While not disappointed, I was surprised by the subject matter. This tale takes place during the 1918 Spanish Flu. So I read a book involving a pandemic while living in a pandemic. Again.
On the surface, this book is about a woman, Nurse Julie Power, who cares for pregnant women in a makeshift ward in an overflowing hospital in Dublin, Ireland. But it’s also a love story, one that unfolds in teeny tiny bits.
Julie doesn’t fall for a handsome doctor or anything, but instead she falls unknowingly in love with a helper girl named Bridie. Julie isn’t aware of how she feels, exactly, but is aware that at thirty she should be married and popping out children of her own. This is the way. Or was the way, back in the day.
The author does, rather brilliantly, give the reader an unflinching gaze at birthing babies at a time where the process left women scarred or dead. Those that survived would keep on having babies because birth control was rather frowned upon back then.
Also, the author paints a vivid picture for the setting. I could feel the drafty little room, smell the stink of the air, and feel the pang of hunger alongside the characters.
No men were featured. There were a couple that had bit appearances, but barely any speaking lines. What a delight! I’m so accustomed to books chock full of men that, for a while, I was overjoyed when a woman had more page time than a man. Books are better now, yes, absolutely, and I love the trend. After all, we aren’t all white men so why should we read stories about white men? That’s enough politics for one post. Let’s move on.
Not once did I feel like I was taken out of the story. The author managed to keep me firmly anchored in Dublin, in the chill of the room, in the dark of the streets at night. This is part of the reason I blew through this book in a couple of days. The main reason is because of the author’s writing style. As I said above, I love it.
My only complaint is that there aren’t any quotation marks around the dialogue. This makes it hard to read for me, as I’m not always sure someone is speaking or just thinking. But the more I fell into the world the more I was able to gloss over it as a minor pebble in an otherwise smooth road.
I would absolutely recommend this book as an immersive read into a topic that causes many to flinch. Especially now, amid our own overflowing hospitals. Stay safe everyone.
I bought this book because my library is still closed. Don’t get me wrong, I want it to be closed because of a tiny virus making a big impact on the world, but I do prefer to borrow a book rather than buy it. I rarely read a book twice and just about never read it more than twice, so buying them seems a bit wasteful. Except they fill shelves and it’s nice to have a physical reminder of the words I’ve consumed, I suppose.
Anyway, I was glad I bought this one because I might like to read it again, now that I know how it ends. I suspect this book will reveal things to me that I didn’t see during the first read, and that I’d understand better now that I know the ending.
Forewarning to readers: this book was a bit disturbing.
The Gloss: This is a little book. Smaller than a trade paperback, larger than a pocketbook, and only 213 pages. The pages are soft, the typeface (thankfully) sharp and clear. Pleasant to hold and easy to read.
The cover is made of that nice, slightly rubberized stuff that’s popular right now. It makes the book feel like my fingers can grip it easily and without sending my fingertips into sensory overload.
There’s a fracture in the title. Nice and subtle, but there nonetheless. This is an excellent representation of the main character’s fractured personality. Not too broken, just slightly, uncomfortably, off. Well done.
I also like the image of the kinked hose. From my perspective, that image reminds me of one of the minor annoyances of life. I mean, has anyone else felt that grumbling irritation of having to unkink a hose? In addition, the kink indicates a pressure buildup, but one that’s contained. There will be no explosion, no debris scattered everywhere, just a rush of water the instant that the line is free.
The Characters: Thomas is the main character and the book is entirely from his perspective. He’s detailing his past to the reader, explaining why he did what he did, how he arrived at one particular decision.
Miriam is Thomas’ wife, Ava his daughter. Both are presented entirely as Thomas remembers them. The author maintains this perspective throughout, enough so that it’s a bit frustrating as the reader. I wanted to know things from Miriam’s pov, or even Ava’s, but I also know that additional perspective would’ve tainted the story.
There are other, tertiary characters, like his mom and sisters. The mention of his dad, but not too much. Instead, the author demonstrated the impact the father had on Thomas without Thomas saying too much about him. Enough to know that the father was abusive to the children, and that Thomas had a few of the more unpleasant traits like controlling behaviour and narcissism.
Readers do get a glimpse of Thomas in how other characters react to him. Or, more accurately, how he remembers people reacting to him. One scene describes Miriam talking to a group of people, how easy and relaxed she looked, until she saw him. Then she flinched hard as if struck. Thomas waves this away, makes excuses for what someone else might think is a hint of abusive tendencies.
The Plot: Simple and elegant. No extraneous plot lines, no plot points left without explanation.
Thomas has everything: prestigious job at an advertising firm in Manhattan, wife and daughter, and is a devoted family man. His ego is rocked and he does something horrible that he can never undo. The book details his introspection leading up to the pivotal event.
The Story: Beautifully told with rich language. Tidbits of foreshadowing are doled out just often enough to add a sense of foreboding. As a reader I was never rushed to learn something, nor ever left wondering where the tidbit led.
Thomas goes back and forth in time during his introspection but the reader is never left wondering when he’s talking about, nor are the transitions sudden or difficult.
Nitpicks: I didn’t have any. Nothing stood out as annoying or out of place. The only thing would be the near constant opera references, but those serve to highlight how Thomas views himself, so they have a solid purpose. They were abundant though, and for someone like me who knows absolutely nothing about opera, the author gave enough information that I wasn’t frustrated by the references.
Quick edit: The book has no quotation marks for dialogue. While this can be confusing, it fit well with the formatting of the story. Also, quotes weren’t required as Thomas was relating the dialogue to the reader, rather than have the characters speak for themselves, which also reflected the story well.
Overall: This book is excellent. Early on I had the sense that Thomas was an unreliable narrator, that perhaps the image he was presenting was false, but it was subtly done. Enough so that I could identify with him on several occasions, and felt bad for him.
I loved the language used, the way the author describes everything. Ani Katz is an author I’d read again regardless of content.
After attempting to read four other books, I made it through this one. Why? Mostly because of the author’s voice.
I know a lot of people will chose books by genre or subject matter, but I will often chose by the author’s writing style. Well, that and character development over plot development. This book is a good example of that. Let’s get started.
The Gloss: The cover art fit the story quite well. I wasn’t sure about it but the more I read the more I understood the artist’s choices.
Four leaves could represent the four daughters nicely, but could also represent how the book is quartered into seasons. Note the leaves are in varying stages of decay.
Genres seem to have specific art formats and this one fit the general fiction category.
The rest was disappointing. Nothing special about the font, or the texture of the pages/cover. I borrowed the book from the library and the cover had the standard plastic over the dust jacket. The glue to bind the pages was strong and the book heavy.
The Characters: are many. There’s the main couple and they’re four girls, plus the tertiary characters. This is a lot to keep track of but the author did a good job. Multiple points of view were presented in each chapter but it flowed surprisingly well.
Thinking of pov, what stood out was how well the author managed to view everyone through different eyes. Each character had a different view of each other, just like real life. I mean, you know your own life and your own choices, but how someone else views you could be remarkably different than you would believe. The author represented this beautifully.
Each character is wonderfully well rounded, something I appreciate in a book. I could understand each character’s motivations and behaviours with ease. Delightful .
The Plot: Um, I’m not sure of the main plot line. This isn’t a bad thing, I don’t mind a meandering story.
I’d say it was about a woman who got married, had four children, and experienced life with a man she loves.
Another plot line: one daughter gives a child up for adoption and that child re-enters the family’s life. How each character deals with that child is demonstrated. I was wrong about who the father of that child was though. The author hinted that the child’s mother had sex with someone another sister would find upsetting. I guessed the father was the sister’s new husband and I guessed wrong. But I didn’t mind being wrong. By that point in the book I was in it for the character development and not the Big Reveal.
The Story: was about the characters, and I really enjoyed that. I felt as if each character was presented softly, gently. Even at their roughest points I felt as if I was viewing them through the hazy lenses of memory.
The author gave a huge amount of information about each character, but did it in a way that I found easy to track and understand. At no point did I wonder who was talking or which head I was in.
I’d also classify this book as gentle erotica. There were a lot of references to sex. Having sex, talking about sex, and enjoying sex, all without explicitly describing sex.
Nitpicks: If I saw one more emdash I was going to throw the book at a wall. This drove me absolutely bonkers. I felt like the majority of dialogue was interrupted, jarring, and hesitant and it irritated me to no end. I get it, people talk like that in the real world, in incomplete sentences and repetitious phrases, but I read a book to escape my real life. I wanted to yell at the author to just let the damn characters speak.
The two main characters, Marilyn and David, were in lurve. I got that early on. Cool. No problem. But I was so sick and tired of reading about their sexual life that my eye sockets hurt from the orbs rolling around in there. This couple had sex like they were new-ish lovers throughout the book. Always ready for each other, making out like teenagers, semi-public sex, all good things but seriously pulled me out of the story after a while. I was expecting their sex life to change much more than it did.
Overall: Very enjoyable. The book was like a slow, epic saga without being an actual epic novel. I was in it for the character development and wasn’t disappointed. Each person grew and changed throughout and interacted with each other in a realistic manner.
But dammit older couples just don’t make out like teenagers at every opportunity. I had a hard time accepting that tiny bit.