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detailmuse
Posts: 180
Registered: ‎01-24-2008
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Re: Writing Style


bonereader wrote:

Some of the sentence constructs were too complicated. I reference one entire paragraph on page 3 that consists of only one sentence! HOWEVER, I became happily surprised as I read on. The author seemed to settle into a more comfortable style, and I really started to connect withthe characters and become invested in them.


hoo boy, yes, it's a distinctive writing style, sentences branching off and back in so many curlicue phrases. But like you, I felt that either the author settled in (or I acclimated!) pretty quickly, and the reading became more enjoyable. And there's actually a lot of good material in those asides.

 

It's a long novel -- only 400 pages but every one is dense with solid blocks of text. I estimated the word count at 200,000, that's more than twice the length of a "typical" novel. I want to ask the author/editor about that in today's market.

 

All the "like" in the dialogue is bumping me out of the story. Verbal stumbles like that (or um, uh, etc) don't generally get into published dialogue, so the inclusion here is certainly intended as characterization. It's as annoying here as in real life! ... a la the fuss about Caroline Kennedy's "you know."

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m3girl
Posts: 194
Registered: ‎03-02-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five

Hi again,

 

I finished chapter one last night and might have some ideas why some of you all may not have liked it.  I noticed that the omniscient point of view moved from a very high level - almost reporting finally zooming into Beth at the reception.  That was all fine until the 'camera lens' moved in and out from Beth's perspective to the narrators perspective - perhaps too quickly and to frequently.  And then at one point when the cake is being cut the perspective moves to Sadie - the comments about the knife.  This is called head hopping (Sadie) and is usually discouraged because it makes the reader uncomfortable. 

I noticed that the second chapter (which I plan to read tonight) starts with Beth's perspective - and sort of hope it stays there ...

 

I do like the narrator's voice - even when the perspective is at a high (almost reporting) level.

More later.

Susan

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momgee
Posts: 584
Registered: ‎07-24-2007
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Re: Writing Style

 

I certainly agree with the "like" in the dialogue quibble. That was driving me crazy! Aren't these women supposed to be articulate college grads and they talk like that. I think I had a hard time getting into this book. If you are not from that area, a lot of it just seemed to be name dropping and snobby commentary. If the author strived for superficiality, it sure came across. I thought the sex scene did not need quite as much lurid detail. The fact that she didn't really know him at all and consented to sex in the first place is enough to tell me she is an insecure ninny with absolutely no self respect. 

 

I hope this gets better because after 5 chapters, it certainly is not grabbing my attention.

 

 

 


detailmuse wrote:

 

It's a long novel -- only 400 pages but every one is dense with solid blocks of text. I estimated the word count at 200,000, that's more than twice the length of a "typical" novel. I want to ask the author/editor about that in today's market.

 

All the "like" in the dialogue is bumping me out of the story. Verbal stumbles like that (or um, uh, etc) don't generally get into published dialogue, so the inclusion here is certainly intended as characterization. It's as annoying here as in real life! ... a la the fuss about Caroline Kennedy's "you know."


 

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
Groucho Marx
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dhaupt
Posts: 11,865
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five

My first impression of the book was very good. I expected chapter one to be tedious and it was. The author involves her readers right away with many different characters, so I expected to be overwhelmed at first.

The wedding as unexpected as it was to the friends, I think went off really well and I liked how the author shows her audience how much in love the bride and groom were (pg. 19 "Mom" he said grinning brilliantly at Lil... - "Oh my God" he said when she came fully into view. It was all she could do to not wrap her arms around him and press her face to his cheek.) And I think all her friends understood at that moment why she was marrying him and maybe a little jealous that they weren't at the same point in their life.

The families remind me of all the families I know and knew while growing up, we as children and young adults rarely think as highly of our own parents as we do of our friends parents, we're not subjected to the faults of those parents like we are of our own.

This book is not of my era but that of my daughter who is nearing 30, but I think things don't change too much from generation to generation and the friends animosity towards each other and the jealousy isn't really new.

The sex scene between Beth and Will didn't upset or astound me, and from that moment Beth became my favorite character. I saw in her a piece of myself being afraid never to fit in quite right, but not being afraid to try. And I know that a lot of you had trouble with said sex scene, but I knew that Beth trusted Will and for some reason so did I.

Some of the changes that I've noted between the wedding and that fateful party was, the friends seem to be growing up more, making more grown up decisions now that they have put many miles between them and Oberlin and the dynamics that once made them thick as thieves are starting to unravel. And obviously there is trouble in paradise for Lil and Tuck.

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Kliksix
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎12-15-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five

 

I think the wedding was such a big deal because these are "modern" women, the have degrees and I believe a few are even working on their masters. They are living in a city and a time that says its ok to lead an unconventional life. They seem to try to convey a feeling of fierce independence. Lil, especially, was the most vocal about the uselessness of marriage. I think the first chapter shows us a slight glimpse of what we can expect from the characters as they develop: we see Lil's willingness to follow Tuck (I feel that she does whatever she can to make him happy and find it annoying!lol). We see Sadie getting all of the attention from the men and we also learn that Beth can be a bit insecure and possibly a little jealous?

 

As far as the "sex scene"... I am a few years younger than these characters are supposed to be so maybe I am missing the mark completely but I do believe that Beth is still completely hung up on Dave. I think that the situation with Will was to try to either convince herself that she no longer had feelings for him or that whether there were still feelings there or not, she was capable of moving on. Beth is very smart but also insecure. That being said, I think that she was caught up in the moment. She felt wanted and even though it got a little weird, I think she was curious and wanted to see where it could go. 

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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five


JSS wrote:
But doesn't that just seem natural for members of a group that age to have a wide range of feelings when one of them is the "first" to take the huge step of marriage? It just seemed very real and human to me that everyone in the group had different feelings about Lil's getting married. It's the single largest step anyone can take in their lives to demonstrate both their own independence from others AND their willingness to depend on someone at the same time.

Great point, JSS. Viewed this way, Lil's marriage becomes an affront to her friends on two different levels, personally and ideologically.

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bookworm_gp
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I thought the wedding was a good place to begin, but the girls all seemed so shallow. Made me glad I only have a 2 year degree if this is what college does to your perspective.  As I mentioned before, I believe the sex scene had everything to do with Dave. Beth is still hung up on him and trying to prove something - to herself or maybe to him. Anyway the engagement shocked me. I didn't think she'd go that far.
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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five


pjmama wrote:
I'm so glad to finally be able to talk about this book.  It's been so intriguing to me because these women are of my generation, and I have a similar group of college girlfriends.  I think this really helps me understand how close the girls are (or aren't as the case might be).  This is a group of friends who shared common experiences and interests in college, but are now faced with the "real world" which bears no resemblance to their sheltered existence at Oberlin.  Their connection was easy at college and now they are struggling to move themselves forward and still stick together.  That's why the story starts with Lil's wedding...a "real world" event that they don't know how to react to.  The other important connection that I make with this group and my own group is although they are close, they are also competitive.  Beth feels like she can't live up to expectations and compares herself to Lil and Sadie...and as we get to know the other characters throughout the book they compare each other as well. (Don't worry...no spoilers!):smileyhappy: This is one reason that the girls don't seem as close as they maybe should be.  Their past connects them, but their struggle to find their own individuality keeps them apart for long stretches of time.  

 

I agree -- I think Smith Rakoff captures these characters in that phase of life where, for some, the lofty ideals of college begin to give way and friends become people you didn't think they were. It's a pivotal moment for this group, as they struggle to remain close while also maybe resenting the judgments they know are being made about their decisions.
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AshALee
Posts: 11
Registered: ‎10-22-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five


bookworm_gp wrote:
I thought the wedding was a good place to begin, but the girls all seemed so shallow. Made me glad I only have a 2 year degree if this is what college does to your perspective.  As I mentioned before, I believe the sex scene had everything to do with Dave. Beth is still hung up on him and trying to prove something - to herself or maybe to him. Anyway the engagement shocked me. I didn't think she'd go that far.

 

I did enjoy the wedding as the beginning, but like many others I struggled to get through the first chapter.  The girls are all very judgemental, especially amongst each other, which makes them very unlikeable for me.  I want to like Sadie as she's struggling to not turn into her mother, but I just can't.  Beth comes across in the first chapters as just incredibly moody.  Lil seems to be the most desperate, for what I'm not sure though.  Sadie's pedigree?  The only one that not much background is given on is Emily.
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READERJANE
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎01-21-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

When I stated this book, I felt like I was reading a rehash of many books that preceded it but the wedding and the preparation for it took me by surprise. I got a chuckle out of the mothers and the bridesmaids. I think that her getting married, helped her friends realize that they were grown up and that life was about to change for them.Weddings are suppose to change your life ! And this one does change Liz' life in ways that she cannot anticipate. I liked the fact that she enjoyed her wedding, not many brides do.

 

What happened in the months between the wedding and the party, in many ways helps to set the stage for their role in the decade that is unfolding around them and gave them a setting to catch up with each other lives. The fact that Tuck was still in college dorm mode in his job comes across beautifully ! The fact that he write a book about what he perceives to be  his "cross to bear" in his job just extends the college dorm mentality.

 

Rob and Catlin are also introduced at this party and what a pair they are ! :smileyhappy:

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dhaupt
Posts: 11,865
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I also wanted to say how great it is to see so many new people on the board as well as all the friends from First Looks past.
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READERJANE
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎01-21-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

The sex scene, I thought was really overdone, although it  established that Will had some issues, I felt that that there were other ways that the author could have let us know about them. The description of the sex is really soft porn.
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READERJANE
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎01-21-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

She reminded me of many women of my generation (mid 60's) who were experimenting with sex in all of it's various disguises. The world today is very different from the mid 60's and she really took a chance with  her life going along with Wills demands
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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five


bonereader wrote:

I was intrigued by the paragraph in Chapter 1 discussing hyphenation of last names. Isn't it ironic that this generation of young women raised to think of ourselves in this feminist age as women who can "do it all," find ourselves in these very human situations where we are so torn between old-fashioned comfort situations and this need to show how independent we are? In a way, I think our age of educated women demonstrate our independence by saying, it's just a name and it really doesn't change who I am.

 

Along that same vein, I was disappointed that Lil wasn't the independent woman that she seemed to be at the outset. Her whole acceptance of Tuck's nastiness/immaturity when he was fired made me realize very early just how weak a person she really was. She seems to only exist as she relates to other characters, not capable of standing on her own. It's as if she sees glimpses of Tuck's true persona, but she doesn't want to face or admit that the "fantasy Tuck" she has created isn't real.


 

I think you rightfully pick up on some personal or character issues that prevent Lil from living out the feminist views she espouses. It's as if she's been educated to think a certain way -- to value independence and strength and autonomy -- but she wasn't raised to actually be independent or strong. Do you see evidence of this in her interactions with others?
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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five


eileen100 wrote:

CJINCA wrote:
I agree esp about missing out on how Beth gets engaged to a man who states on the first date, that he doesn't "do" obligations.  Maybe this is something we will get to learn more about in subsequent chapters...but I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see that happen ourselves. 

In general, I find the style of the book a bit choppy -- we are given so much back-story and interpolation, the conversations don't really flow the way it does when old friends get together, at least so far.


I'm glad a few of you brought up this topic, because I feel the same
way. I find that the detail in this book is very inconsistent. The
author can spend pages and pages describing a very short period of time
and covering the most trivial things in excruciating detail, and then glosses
over major life events that inexplicably occur during chapter breaks. We learn about every alcoholic beverage, book, author, trend, movie, and other preference of each group member. We dwell on every minor thought that crosses each character's mind. We even learn about Sadie's mother insistence on slant-tipped tweezers over square-tipped ones. And yet the description of Beth's developing relationship with Will is so abbreviated that our jaws drop when we suddenly find that Beth is engaged.

 

What's up with that?  Do we need to know the most irrelevant minutiae of daily life of the group members and then not be apprised of how Beth and Will's awkward start bloomed into engagement?  After a while this writing inconsistency and emphasis on trivial detail has begun to irritate me. I'm a bit more than halfway through the book now, and finding it harder and harder to dive back in after putting the book down.


 

I actually thought this style of contrasting great detail with larger gaps in how particular decisions are made by various characters was an effective technique for illustrating the way sometimes the people you think you understand best do things that you just cannot fathom. It seems particularly true of relationships from this period of life, young adulthood, when you think you know someone thoroughly because you could list their favorite passages from books, and yet you might not really understand the deeper underpinnings that inform their big life decisions. I'll mention this in our discussion of friendship next week, but I think it comes down to the difference between intellectual bonds and emotional ones. 
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kittykat59
Posts: 44
Registered: ‎12-08-2008
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Re: Chapters One through Five

I'm having a difficult time reading this. Beth's character is interesting. Her past relationship with Dave and how she is handling it when she sees him for the first time at the wedding. Lil's wedding represents a milestone in this group of friends lives. Someone is finally doing a grown up thing. No one thought it was going to be Lil though.
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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five


Dances_through_Books wrote:

[edited]

 I agree with the majority on Beth and Will's sex scene. I related to Beth in so many ways, up until that scene. I understand that the author was trying to create an event for Beth to "hurry up and catch up" to the rest of her friends. She really felt like a little girl, with her choice of dress, her mannerisms, and her lack of experiences compared to the other girls. These girls are in the middle of the age where society pressures them to "hurry up and get married and start a family," or hurry up and finish your education and pursue your successful career. As a member of this generation, as I watch my friends married off one by one; I understand the sense of betrayal one feels, and the fear of losing all your friends, and having to "catch up" with the rest of your generation.

However, I feel Beth took a huge risk by going home with Will without really knowing him. She could have been raped or killed, she didn't know his intentions. I felt Beth is too intelligent of a person, and too stuck to her convictions and morales to stoop to such an idiotic and irresponsible decision.


 

nfam wrote:

Beth's character is pliable. She feels as if the others have been doing exciting things while she's been stagnating in Milwaukee.


 

I agree with your assessments of why Beth would engage in something so potentially dangerous. She feels so out of touch with what she perceives as her friends' exciting and edgy lives in New York City and left behind by the sudden development of their serious relationships (Lil and Tuck, Sadie and Tal) and this leaves her vulnerable to doing something risky. As someone correctly pointed out, this type of sexual encounter would likely be seen as more assertive and empowering than submissive by someone of Beth's circle. That the whole thing evolves into a real relationship was the real surprise to me, a nice plot turn by the author that asks us to question our own assumptions about the meaning of such an act to Beth.  

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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Initial Reaction

LA-Rose, your "Initial Reaction" post offers a really terrific summary of all the conflicts and themes that are established in these chapters. I especially like this point:

Rakoff's statment on page 76 is quite interesting when interpreting this coming of age novel; "That's the big difference, she thought, between novels- or movies- and life. In real life, people don't actually change." We will see how true that statement remains, as the novel progresses.

 

Wonderful!

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KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five


detailmuse wrote:

I liked the wedding as a venue for introducing the many characters, the setting, the time period. Like others, though, I had to persevere to get through the chapter and was happy to feel more engaged in the next chapters.

 

I also liked that we see, right away, that this group of supposedly close, long-time friends keeps secrets from each other: dislikes, jealousies, rivalries. That made it believable that Lil could change her views on marriage, and Beth's relationship with Will could evolve, in ways that surprised their friends. I rather liked how the author introduced Beth's engagement ... it made the reader feel as blind-sided as Beth's friends must have felt.


 

Great observations, detailmuse!
Correspondent
meme1
Posts: 106
Registered: ‎12-17-2007
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Re: Chapters One through Five


Kliksix wrote:

 

 

As far as the "sex scene"... I am a few years younger than these characters are supposed to be so maybe I am missing the mark completely but I do believe that Beth is still completely hung up on Dave. I think that the situation with Will was to try to either convince herself that she no longer had feelings for him or that whether there were still feelings there or not, she was capable of moving on. Beth is very smart but also insecure. That being said, I think that she was caught up in the moment. She felt wanted and even though it got a little weird, I think she was curious and wanted to see where it could go. 

____________

 

I agree that Beth is smart, but insecure.  I think that her tryst with Will is to try to prove to herself that she doesn't care about Dave- but she isn't sure enough of herself to really make that decision.  I'm hoping that she learns the value of herself. 

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