fulfilling my 2019 goal to read (at least) one book each month that has been digitally moldering, unread, on my NOOK for years and years and years.
sometimes i find i don’t have much to say about a book when it comes time for the reviewing of it. and i know no one’s holding a gun to my head saying “you must review every book you read!” and there are 100+ books on my “review pending” shelf that i still 100% intend to review and i could just let this one drift into that herd without any real consequences, but regardless of the lack of gun-to-head/penalties for not reviewing, it has become somewhat of a compulsion to dissect the books i read – it helps me fixate them in my brain, to organize my reactions, to understand my own reading preferences, and serve as a kind of closure, so – here we are.
i just… didn’t love it.
and it should be exactly the kind of book i love – all manner of flawed people populating a western-themed family saga full of rough living, misguided decisions, regret and revenge and tragedies, and it opens with one of the most horrifically bloody childbirth scenes i’ve ever read, which squeamishly thrilled me out of the gate with the what’s-to-come, but although this was a beautifully written novel, the actual story left me feeling a little flat.
and i’m not sure why.
although it covers thirty years of a family’s travails, the events are small and can be condensed into: suffering breeds suffering, cruelty and neglect breed cruelty and neglect. or a lesson: don’t let horse races determine your future.
the characters are unsympathetic, which is to be expected in grit lit/westerns, but i’m someone who wants their antiheroes to be truly antiheroic, not just… commonplace shitty. karel has plenty of cause for complaint about his upbringing and the path his life took, but he doesn’t become a ‘burn the world down’ figure, just a dude who betrays his wife, is lousy to his lover, and yearns for the girl who got away and married his brother. and although it’s undeniable that he was wronged as a child and he was doomed from the start, he’s largely numb and passive and uncompelling as a character, and it made it difficult for me to hope things would all work out for him in the end.
i’ve been wanting to read machart for a while now, and there’s enough stellar writing in this debut to keep me on the line for his later work – i was just hoping for more in the way of character and story.
this ‘review’ is a flop, but – hey – maybe my own later work will be better.