I have such mixed feelings about this book so I think I'm going to need to break it down in pieces to sort through my emotions.
1. The Writing. A freaking plus! 5 stars! Sarah Blake is an extraordinary talent when it comes to her writing style. Her work kind of reminds me of the great classics in that it's so elegantly executed with sweeping, graceful prose. She truly captured the scenery and the essence of the island and made me feel like I was right there in the book with all of the characters.
2. The Content. 3 to 4 stars. The overall message of race and equality was executed well for the most part and this is the portion I would give 4 stars. I understood the point she was trying to make and the content she was trying to drive home. But while the message was there, there were times it got a tad lost in all of the minutiae along the way. Now for the 3 star piece of the content.... the relationships and timeline. The book covers several generations of characters and stories (which is superb) but there were times where I needed to mentally reset and remember which timeline I was in with which characters. And the relationships of the characters to each other sometimes became a tad muddled and confusing. Frankly, I needed a family tree to reference at times to keep myself straight.
3. The Length. 2 stars. Listen... I'm all for long novels. When the length is warranted. This book probably could have benefited from editing down 50 - 100 pages of content. While Blake's writing is beautiful, there were portions of the book where descriptions of characters or scenery or feelings were so long and drawn out it felt bogged down.
4. The Characters. 5 stars. While there were a lot of them, the characters were very well developed. In fact, some of the secondary characters were so good that they felt like primary characters and their stories really shone through. I could tell Blake put a lot of thought into developing distinct personalities and traits of each character.
Overall, this is not a quick and easy book to read. It takes a lot of focus, attention, and patience. It is definitely not a book that you can put down and pick up repeatedly. I found myself needing to dedicate large chunks of time to read it so that my brain could focus and absorb the information presented. It is extremely dense but it has an important message.
I don't think this book will be for everybody and judging by the reviews so far on Goodreads you're probably in one of two camps: those who appreciate Blake's writing and message and those who couldn't finish the first 100 pages. But if you can see it for more than just entertainment and as an exercise in thoughtful reflection, you will likely find it rather superb.
-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Sarah Blake, and Flatiron Books for the opportunity to review.-
- Hardcover: 496 pages
- Publisher: Viking; 1 edition (30 January 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670920436
- ISBN-13: 978-0670920433
- Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 3.5 x 22.2 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 562 g
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