Saturday, February 18, 2012

Mildred Pierce, James M. Cain (1941)

Reviewer: BeezusKiddo

Rating: 4 Pierogies

Review: When my book club picked Mildred Pierce for our February book, the only thing I knew about it was that the HBO miniseries got plenty of buzz at the 2011 Emmy's. I figured that if the miniseries was good, the book must be too. Luckily, I was right.

This book is not "good" in the traditional sense, with the traditional battles of good/evil, love/hate etc. This book is driven purely by the reader's schadenfreude--you turn pages quickly because you so desperately want to see the bad people suffer. There is not a single likeable main character. Some are bad, some are mean, some are pathetic. None of them are admirable.

 I found the plot gripping and wanted to keep reading and reading and reading, if only to see the dislikeable characters get their comeuppance, and the rare good displayed be rewarded.


 IT DOESN'T HAPPEN. EVER. Good things happen to bad people. I want Bad people to suffer consequences, terrible terrible consequences. I want Good people to be rewarded. That never, ever happens here. The Bad people revel in their badness and reap reward after reward, and the Good people suffer.

 I didn't end this book disappointed because the writing was so engaging and because there is a certain level of resolution at the very end. Also, I really do like books that are filled with baddies. The Believers and Notes on a Scandal (both by Zoe Heller) are some favorites that come to mind.

Mildred Pierce was adapted to an Oscar winning film starring Joan Crawford in 1945, and the Emmy-winning miniseries starring Kate Winslet just came out on HBO last year. I can't wait to see them both!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson (2005)


Reviewer:  BeezusKiddo

Rating: 4 Pierogies

Review: My mom left her copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at my house well over a year ago. It has been sitting on my dining room table the entire time.

My book club picked it as the next selection, and I finally shook off the dust and took a look. Now I ask myself what took me so darn long? All the hype around the book made me less interested in it, but there was hype for good reason.

Larsson is an excellent storyteller, who has created intriguing characters, and can weave a quick and intelligent plot. Even though this book is 300+ pages, I got through it in less than a week.

A number of friends have told me that they struggled through the first 150 pages. That first section wasn't boring or difficult for me, but I didn't find it particularly gripping either. After the first 150 pages, things pick up and the plot really takes off.

I suppose the mark of a good translation is that the book doesn't feel translated. Still I find that most translated works are a little choppy. This book had no such problem. The language was very smooth.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It's full of violence and dark themes. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, Larsson's writing was heavily influenced by a violent assault on a woman that he witnessed, and he never forgave himself for intervening. This comes through clearly in the book.

What most impressed me was that all 3 books in the Millenium Trilogy were only discovered and published after Larsson had died. I'm sure some editing was done, but I can't imagine any major editorial overhaul was undertaken without the author being available. For an unpublished author to just leave a work like this behind was amazing to me.