Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Book: The Virgin in the Garden

I still don’t know why I convinced myself I should read this book. It sounded smart, maybe, or the fact it was written by AS Byatt may have swayed me.

It shouldn't have!

It took me six looooonnnnnnnngggggg weeks to read this book. The first 200 pages were filled with a lot of descriptions, some character development, and no pleasure. The second 200 had some action, but it was always stunted and filled with more writing about minutia than is fair for a novel written by the same author that gave us Possession.

Basically, the Potters are a really strange academic family with ties to the local boys school because Mr. Potter teaches there. Alexander, who is one of the teachers at said school, writes a play about Elizabeth I that gets made into a big local production. The oldest Potter daughter, Stephanie, falls in love with the locale curate and marries him. The younger daughter Fredrica is in love with Alexander and gets cast in his play. The Potter's son Marcus is a strange boy who makes friends with another strange teacher at the school, and they both end up in the loony bin (after 375 long pages).

I marveled at the knowledge that Byatt had to possess in order to write such a book. She can expound on any subject for pages and pages, but since it doesn’t advance the plot in any way, shape or form, what good does it do? In one lovely chapter, she used over 50 words to explain the look of a countertop. How special is that?

I made it a goal to finish this book on New Years Eve, which was accomplished at 3 am. I did this only to find that the book ends with a “cliffhanger” that forces you to ponder the giant task of reading books 2, 3 AND 4 in this series. I wasn’t tempted, even knowing that I had #2 sitting innocently in my library bag, where it has sat since I started Virgin.

I casually dropped both books in the library drop-off bin yesterday. So much for that series.

But, I dutifully finished it, and now I’m cozily 60+ pages into Possession, a Byatt work that I will savor. And I can guarantee it won’t take me close to 6 weeks to finish.

Here’s to a 2008 that is filled with much better reads than Virgin in the Garden!


Lucy said...

Thinking Possession was historical fiction when I read it, I think she does do a massive amount of research for her books. Sometimes, I think if you've put that kind of effort into research, you want to include it somewhere....anywhere...whether it pertains to your work or not. I know I've done it with scientific papers and imagine Byatt, while more talented, is as flawed as the rest of us.

Bummer about that kind of time and energy into a book you didn't like. I know how it feels. Lately, I think more books than not are a disappointment to me. I hate to be such a critic, but once you've read some really good ones, the bar gets raised.

Isabel said... should sign up for Britt's blogger book exchange. It's fun!

Kasandra said...

Becky........thanks for your comment on my blog.....I love my girls and am so grateful for the bond they share, especially because I don't have that kind of bond with my own sister. You and Amy seem so close!!
As for this book review, was amazed you stuck with it.... I always remember a professor I had that said "DIP INTO IT!" He was a great believer in reading little bits, read the end, skip what you don't like, he just made me laugh...but you showed great perserverance, I know I wouldn't have finished it. You guys are great examples to me of reading better books, I get lazy and read easy all these reviews are helping me reach out more!!
thanks again, Kasandra