Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reviews in Twos!

Time for the next installment of Reviews in Twos (I know you’re all very excited)! The last two reviews were both of wonderful classics. I was so glad to have read both of them. This time it’s a bit different. One’s a classic book, but unfortunately in my eyes it was a huge disappointment, and the other isn’t a classic at all but the latest of the Pendergast books by Child and Preston.

So here we go!

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
2 stars

This is the classic tale of the sailor, Marlow, reminiscing about his travel up the Congo River to meet up with and bring home Kurtz, an ivory trader of great renown. Everyone the Marlow meets along the way describes Kurtz the same way, as quite remarkable. As he journeys deeper into the Congo he is horrified and also fascinated by what he finds and his anticipation to meet the "voice" of Kurtz only increases.

I personally found this book to be highly overrated, maybe it was because I had such high expectations for it since I know the actual real story of the Congo atrocities. Joseph Conrad himself traveled to the Congo before he wrote this book and it’s supposed to be semi-autobiographical about the horrors he witnesses towards the treatment of the native Congolese. But the non-fiction book I read entitled King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild was such a better account of it all (obviously it was more in depth but that’s not really the point).

I did not like the way the entire book was basically written via Marlow's dialogue to fellow sailors. The whole book was written in one big quotation almost which I thought was unnecessary and the climax was...a letdown to be honest. I was just expecting Marlow's reaction to be so much more, I don't really know how to describe it. You kept hearing about the "voice" of Kurtz and it was all leading up to meeting Kurtz, meeting Kurtz, all this anticipation for nothing really. Once it happened I was really sitting there thinking "this is it?" I liked a few parts of the book like the ending and it does have one great line that has been repeated over and over again more times than I can count (“The horror! The horror!) but otherwise I thought it nothing special. A whole book for one great line is not worth it.

Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
4 stars

Again Preston and Child open us up to a bit more of Special Agent Pendergast's past (if you‘re not familiar, Pendergast is a great character they‘ve created and there are several several books revolving around him), which I love. This time around Pendergast realizes that his wife, Helen, who died 12 years ago on safari was actually murdered. He decides to find out why and who was behind it all with the help of his favorite New York detective, D'Agosta. The hunt leads them out of New York and down South to Louisiana and Mississippi. There’s also a lovely tie-in with the famous naturalist and painter, Audubon.

I really liked this one in the Pendergast series because a lot of it takes place in my old home state of Louisiana. It made me miss it. But also we learn a lot more about Pendergast and it also develops his relationship with Captain Hayward, one of my favorite recurring characters in this series. The twists and turns are delightful as always as he tries to solve the complex riddle of his wife's murder. The book was basically impossible to put down after about 200 pages. But don’t expect everything to be all neatly wrapped up by the end…can't wait for the next one!

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