Five First-Person Narrators

I just finished Songs of the Humpback Whale: A Novel in Five Voices by Jodi Picoult. Miss Snark praised her, I’ve seen her name everywhere, she writes both young-adult and adult fiction, so I grabbed this one. It was good, interesting for me from a craft sense, but somehow unsatisfying. Is this women’s fiction? I think so, or some region on the border of women’s and literary fiction. It’s the account of a marriage breakup and reassemblage told from five different first-person viewpoints with the chronology all shuffled up. So technically that was interesting but I had a strong sense that the choice was not inevitable. That it was less “it has to be this way” than “let’s try this.” And the other thing I found disappointing in such an acclaimed writer is that the voices of the five different narrators all sounded curiously the same. There were a few overtones of individuality, but the way they looked at the world, their literary voice, was at foundation the same. So, interesting yet unsatisfying. I didn’t learn anything here except maybe what to watch out for in my own work. [I know, hideous hubris for me to be dissing a well-loved and recognized novelist while I languish in slush, but I pound my chest and declare it’s my right to be a critic if I want. (blows raspberry)]

Here’s the latest list.
11. Songs of the Humpbacked Whale, Jodi Piccoult
10. So Not the Drama, Paula Chase
9. The Fugitive Wife, Peter C. Brown
8. The Sea, John Banville
7. Looking for Alaska, John Green
6. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
5. The Night Journal, Elizabeth Crook
4. The Ice Queen, Alice Hoffman
3. Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klause
2. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman
1. The End, Lemony Snickett

have reread:
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
3. Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I am now reading The Children of Hurin, another of Christopher Tolkien’s mining of his late father’s notes and unfinished drafts of the history of the First Age of Middle Earth. Gorgeous illustrations. I’m sure it’s going to be like the Silmarillion and Lost Tales, so I won’t be disappointed. I am one of those who has actually read Silmarillion several times.

And re-reading HP and the Order of the Phoenix.

Also have breached p. 300 of The Golden Bough and am re-reading sections of Central Asia, a 1960s scholarly tome by Gavin Hambly. I am fascinated by Central Asia and Gus and I were talking about the Huns after watching Disney’s Mulan, so I went to check things out and was drawn back in. I should probably make this a separate post but it reminds me of how arrogant we Americans are, little jumped up bantam rooster of a nation compared to the incomparable sweep of the history of Iran (think Persia, Darius, Transoxiana, Alexander, Moguls, etc.) Our foreign policy (which my professors at Columbia back in the ’70s made a point of saying doesn’t exist) is so ignorant and self-righteous.

One thought on “Five First-Person Narrators

  1. I take a very dim view of Chris Tolkien spending his life publishing things his father never thought were ready for the light of day. I think Jodi Picoult is an excellent writer from a technical perspective. She’s also an issue writer, picking whatever they’re talking about on NPR that week and turning it into a novel with, IMO, mixed results. Maybe it depends on how you feel about the issue. I couldn’t get through My Sister’s Keeper, forex, because in the second chapter the 2 year old gets leukemia and my daughter was 2 at the time and I just couldn’t take it.

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