Monday, September 20, 2010

And We're Back!

I think my October goals are pretty much shot, but now that my computer's back up, I've got more to say.

I've meant to read something by Dennis Lehane for a long time.  He's an iconic Boston writer, I've liked a number of the movies based on his books, and he's one of my friend Sheila's favorite writers.

I picked Shutter Island because it seemed kind of up my alley--kind of creepy, with (I heard) a twist ending.  Plus, I don't like Leonardo DiCaprio, so it was a way to avoid seeing the movie in spite of being a little intrigued.

So, since I clearly don't get "real" reviews, let's go through the experience of reading Shutter Island chronologically.  No plot spoilers, but if I tell you where I get confused or skeptical, that might give something away to you, I guess.

First, the beginning: not bad.  I stumbled a little over the fact that the preface is narrated by a character who doesn't relate to the beginning of the book, and I kept confusing him with the main character.  But it's a book with a good premise, and the solid, direct prose you'd expect of a guy who mostly writes detective novels.

Then the tension builds, the mystery, the conspiracy.  It gets more complex--not convoluted, not hard to follow, but full of tensions, characters, motivations.  As that happens, things get a little more unlikely.  It wasn't unbelievable, but I found myself wanting it to hurry up and get sorted out so I could put the pieces together.

Now, let's remember that I knew going in that there was a twist ending.  So this is the point where I did that thing I'm not supposed to do and flipped to the last page.  I didn't read too much, just a line or two. 

From this point, a combination of that glimpse of the ending and what's going on in the story gives me a few possible guesses to the twist.  And now I'm pissed off, because all of these endings are contrived, irritating, lame, overblown.  Every hint I get, I want to throw the book across the room.

So I slog angrily along until I get to the Big Reveal.  And it is, in fact, one of the outcomes I have foreseen.  But somehow--and I'm pretty impressed by this--it was really, really satisfying.  It made so much more sense than anything else would have, and I was surprised and impressed to find that all the loose ends tied up neatly.  I didn't assume they'd be left dangling, but I was expecting some ugly, awkward knots.  It was all quite elegant, though.

So, at the end, I didn't hate the book.  I would give it a pretty good review now--a mystery that trots along neatly with a twist ending.

But most of the time I was reading the book--at least half the time--I hated it.  I was miserable reading it, didn't trust the author, raged against the plot twists.  So tell me, a good review or a bad one?

This is why I like to review them while I'm reading them.  And why reviews are not for me.

No comments: