Monday, May 4, 2009

Bookworm Monday: Tom Wolfe & Jodi Picoult

The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

685 Pages, copyright 1987 long last (and a good 3 months late) I finish the New Classics Reading Challenge. The Bonfire of the Vantities was the 6th (and final) book that I read for my very first Reading Challenge. Even though I finished late, I finished. The New Classics Reading Challenge was the reason I picked up this book, although it has always been on my list of "must read" books.

The Bonfire of the Vanities takes place in New York City in the 1980's. It follows Sherman McCoy, a bond tradesman, at Pierce & Pierce; Peter Fallow, a British ex-patriate, who works for The City Lights, a local tabloid newspaper; Larry Kramer, an assistant district attorney in the Bronx; and Reverand Reginald Bacon an activist.

One incident that occurs in the book will bind all of these characters together. Bonfires of the Vanities tackles the issues of GREED, social class, racism and ambition. The title literally means a huge fire of the vanities/conceits of all the characters in the book. I don't want to say what the incident is because I do not want to give away too much of what happens, so you'll just have to read the book to find out.

I have only read Tom Wolfe one time prior to this, I Am Charlotte Simmons. Wolfe's strength is taking everyday life and filling it with the most despicable, unsympathetic characters. There are few characters I have hated more than Wolfe's. He takes it to excess.

The first half of this book Wolfe works in great details to build these characters, to make you the reader understand each of them and what makes them tick. Then the incident occurs and the book really takes off. While I criticized what I felt was his excessive character development I understood why he did it as I was reading the 2nd half of the book.

I felt that the 2nd half of the book redeemed itself. Wolfe certainly makes you think. When everyone's motives are wrong then who is right? How many of us every given day are motivated by truly selfless motives? What would we have done if we were in the shoes of any of these different characters (well, I hope a lot - because like I said they were pretty despicable!)

Overall, I would say this book is a take it or leave it purely based on the length. It was a long haul and a real commitment to read and I'm not sure at the end I was satisfied. I was certainly happy that I had read Wolfe's most beloved and well known novel but I can't say I would enthusiastically recommend it. If you told me you were reading it though I'd be interested to discuss it with you.

3 Stars

Perfect Match, Jodi Picoult
352 pages, copyright 2002

I decided it was time to pick up another Jodi Picoult book because I hadn't read her in awhile.

The premise of Perfect Match is, Nathaniel Frost, a 5-year old boy, is sexually molested and his parents decide to take justice for their son into their own hands. The book makes you question what makes a good parent and what would you or wouldn't you do to protect your child?

I did not think that this was one of Picoult's stronger novels. I just felt too much happened, once you got over one hurdle something else went wrong and so on and so forth. Most things that went wrong centered around the mother, Nina Frost. She was not a sympathetic character and it was hard for me to get behind some of the decisions she made. I found her incredibly selfish, claiming to do the things she was doing for her son, but it seemed like she was doing them more for herself and what she could and could not live with. Now granted I'm not a mother so maybe I would have felt differently if I had a 5 year old son and I was reading this novel.

In addition, I found child molestation a very difficult topic to read about. It's not very uplifting and you really do not want to know the details. Thankfull Picoult was not too graphic. I will also say that I was displeased with the ending of this book...but I won't say more about that because I do not want to give it away.

With all that said I did not hate the book. I thought her writing was strong and she once again tackled a very timely issue. This book was published in 2002 during the Catholic Church scandal. I would not outright recommend it but if you were to pick it up I wouldn't say it was a bad read, it was just OK.

3 stars

Post in Comments:

Have you read Tom Wolfe? Do you like his writing style?

What's your favorite Jodi Picoult book?

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