2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
October 6, 2002
Don't be taken in by that sticker which proclaims, "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize!" or all those great reviews. This is a bad book and unworthy of your time. A dull story, duller characters, and poor writing style combine to create a novel that plods along until the final page.
Virginia "Ginny" Cook, the narrator spends more time detailing what she's cooking for breakfast/lunch/dinner/supper or discussing mundane farm matters with her remarkably dull husband than anything else. The potentially interesting things that do happen: Harold Clark being blinded by acidic chemicals, Daddy Cook dropping dead of a heart attack in the cereal aisle, Pete (Ginny's brother-in-law) driving his truck into a water-filled quarry in a drunken rage are all drained of emotion because they're told third-hand, which is the big drawback to this novel being written from Ginny's mundane point of view.
While based on Shakespeare's "King Lear", I never really felt there was any tragedy in this story. Certainly bad things happen to the characters, but tragic, no. Nothing that happened in this book affected me emotionally in a positive sense and that is the biggest problem.
The writing, in my opinion, was subpar all through the book. Smiley ignores a cardinal rule of writing by not breaking up dialogue so that she has two (or more) characters speaking in the same paragraph. This is very confusing to me, the reader, and after a while it becomes irritating. Also, the choice of Ginny as a first-person narrator was a poor one because she doesn't really understand the central characters like her father and sisters, hence the reader never really understands them either, forcing us to make our own conclusions.
To put it bluntly, this is a bad book. The story is boring, the characters are uninteresting, and the writing is not up to snuff. Of course, that's just my opinion.