well, every book its reader &yadda…
i won this in a gr giveaway, and when it arrived, i admired it as a physical object, but upon reading the synopsis i was all, “why did i…?” until i remembered i had entered the giveaway because this was the author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, which i had heard such spectacularly glowing things about from reviewers i trust. i still haven’t read The Last Painting of Sara de Vos—i bought it but haven’t felt any urgency to read it because it doesn’t sound like my kind of book, despite the praise from people whose opinions matter to me. one day i will, and i will probably love it, because reviewers make it sound very appealing, but this one wasn’t my thing.
those readers with an affinity for stories about the early days of filmmaking or well-researched historical fiction in general will probably love this book. my own tastes in film are…unsophisticated, and for me to appreciate historical fiction, there needs to be a beating-heart story at the center of all the period details.
this was factual and atmospheric, for sure, but it was also dry and slow-going for my tastes. it took me ages to read, because i was never hooked by it—it wasn’t the kind of book that i wanted to drop everything and read, and when the choice between “should i spend the afternoon reading or should i binge-watch Unbelievable?” presented itself, well, the book lost that battle. along with some others.
i absolutely applaud authors of historical fiction who do the work. it is very clear that smith didn’t just hire some intern to bullet-point him a list of historical highlights to window-dress this book. the research permeates the narrative atmosphere—it feels thoughtful, meticulous, lived-in. but it also comes across a bit constrained—the characters are flat, and i felt no emotional connection to them. they aren’t as well-integrated into their personal stories as they are into the larger historical story. much like caveman-me watching a silent film, there just seemed to be an element missing
there are some high points—sophie’s heroic performance as Hamlet repeatedly disrupted by folks in the theater next door losing their minds over the film of an omnibus barreling towards them, the susan berg soup scene, claude’s slyfox WWI move, but much of it just didn’t resonate with my personal tastes in subject matter and writing style.
i liked it fine, you will probably like it more, and we will both be correct.
that spine, tho’ = ♥
don’t worry, the cat’ll land on all of its feets.
my SECOND goodreads win of the year! after a very disappointing first six months, maybe my luck is finally turning!!!