Friday, January 14, 2011

Quick Book Reviews

Shiloh - Shelby Foote
Although I'm probably a few re-enactments short of being a true Civil War buff, I've always been fascinated by the the War Between the States. I became ware of Shelby Foote via the Ken Burns documentary, but somehow never got around to reading any of his work. I really enjoyed this one, although it did not engage me on the level of a Killer Angels. At first, I was a bit thrown off by the moving narrative, but I got into the groove after a way. He is a talented writer, and brings a very unique style to the conflict. Let me put it this way: If you hate Faulkner, you may want to pass on this book. My wife and I visited the Shiloh Military Park a few years back, and I am actually quite glad that I read the book after having travelled some of those roads.

The Sign of the Four - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I'm not sure where this one ranks among Holmes aficionados, but I liked it quite a bit less than A Study in Scarlet. I cannot quite put my finger on the precise reasons, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that this one actually appeared to feature a bit less actual detective work. The plot line is typical Victoria era 'mystery from a colonial outpost' and some disbelief certainly must be suspended, but that's all in good fun. I think I left feeling a little cold by the boat chase sequence, as well as by the flashback sequence towards the end. Good, but not great. I look forward to reading more Holmes adventures.

Freedom - Jonathan Franzen
Let me get this out of the way. I haven't read The Corrections, so I am not in a position to compare and contrast the two books. I've now got a copy of The Corrections, and I'm 80 pages in. What I can say with great certainty is that Franzen is a terrific writer with a good handle on dialogue. He also excels at establishing a setting, and creating a believable world. On the other hand, his characterizations come up short, and this prevented me from being fully invested in the lives of the various members and associates of the Berglund family. I found myself not caring if any of them ever found happiness. Perhaps that was the intent of the author, but I only wish he could have chopped off 250 pages so that I didn't feel as though I was spinning my wheels for eternity.


Matt Bird said...

Hmm... I think you mean Study in Scarlet. Funny slip, though.

Scott M said...


Both my wife and I constantly made that mistake when we were reading the book last year. I guess it stuck in my brain.