Now that the year is coming to an end, it’s time to start publishing my wrap up posts for all those reading challenges I signed up for! I actually finished the Chunkster Challenge a couple of months ago, but I waited until now to a wrap up because I knew I still had a couple of chunksters (books longer than 450 pages) left on this year’s TBR list. After some reshuffling of my TBR pile, I think I’m pretty much done with chunksters for 2010.
The books I read for this challenge were:
- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen – 568 pages [review]
- The Crime of Father Amaro by José Maria Eça de Queirós – 480 pages [review]
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – 817 pages
- Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – 562 pages [review]
- Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange & Ifa Bayeza – 558 pages [review]
- The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie – 576 pages
My goal was to read 4 chunksters, but as you can see, I ended up reading 6. Believe it or not, I actually didn’t intend to double down on Jonathan Franzen this year, either. But since I did, I can say with certainty that I like The Corrections more than Freedom (though Freedom is awesome too), and I appreciated it more on my second reading.
You’ll be hearing more of The Crime of Father Amaro some time next month, but I will say that it was one of my favorite books of the challenge!
My least favorite book of the bunch was Some Sing, Some Cry because of the transition/ plot issues I mention in my review, but it was still an entertaining and enjoyable read.
Final thoughts: YAY! I finally read Anna Karenina, which I’d read about 200 pages of like 8 years ago, then never returned to. I loved what I’d read back then, but at the time I was a full time student with a demanding schedule, and I just never got around to finishing it. I’m also quite pleased I read The Satanic Verses this year because it had been on my TBR list for a long, long time. But I have yet to write reviews on these two, so I’ll stop here.
Cross-posted on PostBourgie.
Some Sing, Some Cry is a sweeping family saga that spans seven generations of the Mayfield family. It begins with Ma Bette, the Mayfield matriarch, and her granddaughter Eudora as they leave Sweet Tamarind, the planation where they’ve spent their entire lives, and head to Charleston to begin their lives anew. In the generations that follow, many of the Mayfield women spread out to New York and even cities in Europe as they follow their dreams .
The characters that sisters/co-authors Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza created are all strong women who endure hardships and sacrifice all that they have in order to succeed, or at least help their children succeed.
The prose is rhapsodic from the outset; music is not only plays a part of each of the characters’ lives, but is infused in the composition of the sentences as well. Take, for instance, this excerpt describing African American soldiers doing the grunt work assigned to them upon landing in France during World War I:
They unloaded five thousand tons a day in twenty-four-hour shifts…Together, the men sounded one note that was simultaneously a chord, in harmonies so close they were dissonant though whole, broken buy holding as one great rolling arc of power—the baritone voices of a hundred men, a palimpsest. Might was subverted into song. Like saints cloaking the aura of orishas, the words spoke another language in the tones. Locking in the harmonies and rhythms, the hammer of Ogun cracked, driving them onward.
At times, though, the prose can become a bit grating. Shange’s and Bayeza’s background as playwrights is telling, as the prose sometimes crosses the line from third-person fictional narrative to almost-soliloquy. The first chapter, especially, has a tendency to do this, and the effect is a bit jarring.
The time transitions between generations also feel disjointed and leave much to be desired. The authors do an excellent job of building suspense, and many of these characters’ stories could become novels in their own right. However, the endings of several of the chapters are aggravatingly choppy; one minute you’re reading something intense, and the next minute you’re reading a few hastily written paragraphs that cover a large span of years–sometimes even decades–of a character’s life.