Monday, March 28, 2011

What I Am Reading Now-"Distant Hours" by Kate Morton

I think reading this book was one of the most schizophrenic literary experiences I have ever had.  Now that I am writing pretty regularly and studying writing techniques, I read as two people, The Writer and The Reader.  When the book is well written and engaging for me, it is really a seamless experience because both The Writer and The Reader are equally pleased.  However, there was a big disconnect between my two halves as I read this book, so I spent a lot of time when I wasn't reading it in an intense internal debate with The Writer and The Reader arguing their separate points.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What I am Reading Now - "Voyager" by Diana Gabaldon

Spoiler Alert: I will discuss some plot points so if you haven't read the book and want to stay in the dark, stop reading now.

This is the third in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.  In the interests of true confession, I will tell you upfront that I am completely addicted to this series.  I time reading these books carefully because I know if I pick it up, I won't be able to put it down.  Definitely a vacation read.  The biggest impetus to get through these long novels is the fundamental desire to know what else could possibly happen to this couple.  I had to laugh because I recently read a blog post through Writer's Digest entitled "6 Common Plot Fixes," number three being "Add another level of complication."  Diana Gabaldon takes this suggestion and multiplies it by a thousand.  Nothing in her novels is ever straight forward.  Jamie and Claire finally are back together after twenty years, but they have to go through another 700 pages of adventure that take them half way around the world before they can even think about drawing a breath.

As I read the novel, I felt there was something missing, something unsatisfying in a way that I couldn't put my finger on. It wasn't until the end of Chapter 59 that I realized that Jamie and Claire hadn't really reconnected until that point of the book.  That unlike typical romance writers who would have had the couple completely back together at the beginning of the book, Ms. Gabaldon treated them like people who really had been separated for twenty years.  It took time for them to get to know each other again and reveal all the deep dark secrets that occurred in their years apart.  It was a very interesting and subtle use of character.

Another thing that struck me was how strong her characters continue to be.  Jamie and his commitment to doing what is right and Claire head strong as always.  I remember reading a passage where Jamie tells Claire to stay put and chuckling to myself and thinking, "Yeah right, Claire never stays put."  The brilliant thing is that it is their basic character traits that drive the plot for the novels, not the other way around.  They have to take the next steps no matter how perilous because it is not in either of their natures just to leave things lie.

I do have to say that I wish she had broken this novel up into two or three books.  There were a couple places where it could have been separated easily.  The problem was that I returned home after vacation and was on page 700 or so.  I was really busy and was afraid to pick the novel up to finish it because I didn't have time for a twelve hour reading jag.  I was still having that weird incomplete feeling about Claire and Jamie and the book was beginning to feel like work.  I began thinking of Diana Gabaldon as The Dominatrix, standing over me wearing her thigh high black leather boots, snapping her whip and shouting at me, "Read It! Read It!"
Like any junkie, I finally couldn't resist and picked up the novel and finished it.

These novels do defy description.  If there is a time traveling, romance, period fiction, action/adventure genre then this book fits neatly into it.  The best thing I can say is that I am working against my addiction for now. I know it will over take me eventually because long after I finished the book and put it down, it continues to haunt me.  Images keep coming up, questions lingering.  Next vacation I'll probably be reading the next one "Drums of Autumn."