Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

Search results: "fitzgerald" (page 1 of 13)

Everything Feels Like The End Of The World – Else Fitzgerald

Everything Feels Like The End Of The World - Else Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Everything Feels Like The End Of The World is “a collection of short speculative fiction exploring possible futures in an Australia not so different from our present day to one thousands of years into an unrecognisable future”. The wonderful team at Allen & Unwin were kind enough to send me a copy for review.

These short, sharp stories are like fireworks. Fitzgerald is clearly a writing talent to be reckoned with. I particularly appreciated her brilliant use of simile and metaphor, the kinds of descriptions that make you say “woah” out loud.

Really, the only downside to reading Everything Feels Like The End Of The World is that Fitzgerald writes so well, the science fiction (science faction?) is all too believable. It’s straight-up frightening. The intensity with which she depicts the fires and floods, the confused yearning she captures so beautifully about the future and whether or not to bring kids into it – it’s honestly terrifying.

I couldn’t sleep after I finished this book; I needed a glass of wine and a cuddle with my dog until my heart stopped pounding. It’s scarier than any “horror” novel I’ve ever read.

So, obviously, I need to offer trigger warnings for natural disasters and in/fertility in Everything Feels Like The End Of The World. If you can handle that, and you’re a fan of Black Mirror, you absolutely must read this collection – it hits a lot of the same, terrifying, notes. This is an incredible debut collection, Fitzgerald’s writing belies her early career status, but be sure to take care of yourself while reading it.

The Cry – Helen Fitzgerald

I was truly blown away by the TV series The Cry when I caught it by chance on the ABC a few years ago. I didn’t actually realise it was adapted from a book until I came across a copy! So, even though the ending is “spoiled” for me (I couldn’t forget it if I tried, it’s brilliantly plotted), I was still eager to read The Cry and see how it unfolds on the page.

The Cry - Helen Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy The Cry here.
(And my tears will turn to smiles if you use an affiliate link on this page to make a purchase, I’ll get a tiny cut of the cart!)

From the blurb: “When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world. Lies, rumours and guilt snowball, causing the parents, Joanna and Alistair, to slowly turn against each other.”

Naturally, the premise of The Cry evokes Madeline McCann, for the tender age of the child and the worldwide scrutiny of the parents in the case, but also Azaria Chamberlain for its Australian setting. It’s a modern take on the missing child, told in the style of Liane Moriarty and Gillian Flynn (if you’re fans of their books, you definitely want to pick this one up).

The family at the heart of the story – Joanna, Alistair, and baby boy Noah – are embarking on a long-haul flight from Glasgow to Melbourne when The Cry begins. Joanna is a first-time mother, and the former mistress of British Labour spin-doctor Alistair. The nine-week-old child cries the entire flight, so Joanna is understandably stressed (to say the least) while Alistair remains remarkably calm and actually manages to get some refreshing sleep (typical). Joanna is relieved that when they reach Melbourne, now that the ordeal of the flight is over and Noah is finally asleep.

Of course, the ordeal is only beginning. Baby Noah goes missing, taken from his car seat while Joanna and Alistair were picking up a couple of items from a grocery store.

All of this is told from a close third-person perspective in Part 1, but it shifts in Part 2 to alternating first-person perspectives (more on that in a minute). The timeline of The Cry also shifts back and forth, from events in a courtroom where a trial is taking place back to the events around The Incident, before it settles into a roughly chronological rhythm.

The blurb doesn’t exactly advertise what I’m going to say next, so I’m not sure if it constitutes a “spoiler” – so, heads-up etc. if that would bother you.

The first-person accounts are those of Joanna, and Alistair’s ex-wife, Alexandra. The Cry actually offers a lot more insight into Alexandra’s perspective than I recall being in the TV series. She’s a natural suspect in Noah’s disappearance, if only for the fact that the reason for Joanna and Alistair’s trip to Melbourne is to fight a custody battle for a child from his first marriage. In the book, we can see more about her role in what’s unfolded and her conflicted feelings.

What’s great, though, is that The Cry isn’t a “woman v. woman” thriller. Even though there’s not much love lost between Alexandra and Joanna, Fitzgerald doesn’t pit them against each other in the sympathy stakes.

Both are harangued by the press and the public in the wake of Noah’s disappearance – though Joanna, obviously, more so. It feels sadly realistic and believable, the way that Joanna is picked apart. She’s too distraught, she’s not distraught enough, she shouldn’t smile, she should cry, what’s she wearing, why did she behave this way… It’s a public stoning we’ve seen play out all too many times.

The Cry isn’t a police procedural, so you won’t find any hard-drinking detectives declaring they’re “too old for this” or they “won’t rest until they find Noah”. In fact, the police are increasingly baffled by Noah’s disappearance (and they do a piss poor job of communicating with the parents and the public, to boot).

The ending didn’t punch quite as hard in the book as it did on-screen, but I put that down to Jenna Coleman’s incredible performance as Joanna and Glendyn Ivin’s masterful direction, rather than any fault in Fitzgerald’s writing. The Cry still has a brilliant twist (or two), no matter which way you experience it.

It’s a dark, psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma, perfect for anyone who enjoys a story about good people doing bad things. I really want to emphasise that The Cry isn’t just for thriller readers; anyone who likes ethical grey areas and/or the complexity of modern families will rip through it. Clearly, there’s some triggering content (child/infant loss, mental illness), but if you can cope with that, it’s definitely worth a read.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Cry:

  • “This was an interesting and puzzling story. I enjoyed the writing style of the author and the basis of the plot. What I didn’t like was the character of the mother…whiny, weak, and worn. Often, I put down books written about women who are ‘man crazy’ and lose their own souls just to have a guy pay attention to them. Plus, why did this baby cry ALL THE TIME? Take it to a Dr.” – onecarolinagal
  • “If you’ve not lived with a psychopath then you might not appreciate this book.” – Lovinavidadaluz

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The recent Keeping Up With The Penguins trend of reviewing short-novels-by-dead-white-guys-that-got-turned-into-movies ends (promise!) with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy The Great Gatsby here.
(If you make a purchase through an affiliate link on this page, I’ll earn a commission – it isn’t Gatsby money, but it helps!)

This is a beautiful Penguin edition of the 1925 novel. I picked it up from my favourite secondhand bookstore (as always), and yet it looks brand new, never read. In the front they’ve printed Fitzgerald’s original dedication, to his wife Zelda. I thought that was really sweet… until I later learned that she was quite a piece of work, and would probably have kicked up a royal stink if he hadn’t dedicated the book to her. I can respect that.

Fitzgerald began planning The Great Gatsby in 1923, but it was a long and laborious process to get to the finished product. In his first year of writing he pumped out 18,000 words, only to scrap it all and start again. There were stacks of revisions, even entire chapters re-written, before it went to press. Fitzgerald also changed the title more often than he changed his underpants. His reported favourite was “Under The Red, White and Blue”, but it was vetoed by his publishers (and his wife, ha!).

The Great Gatsby, in its final form, received mixed reviews and sold “poorly” – just 20,000 copies in its first year. Fitzgerald died in 1940 believing himself to be a failure (boohoo). Shortly after his death, the book experienced a strong resurgence, thanks in large part to the Council on Books in Wartime that distributed 155,000 copies to American soldiers fighting in WWII. It is now considered a contender for that ever-elusive accolade: The Great American Novel. It has been adapted for film, television, literature, opera, ballet, radio, and even computer games. I vaguely remember seeing the 2013 movie at some point, but my memories are mostly just glitter and sparkly costumes. The only concrete fact that my brain saw fit to retain was that Leonardo launched a thousand memes.

Leonardo Di Caprio as Jay Gatsby - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Anyway, what’s the story? Well, a young Yale graduate slash Great War veteran (Nick Carraway) moves to Long Island to work as a bond salesman and basically sort himself out. He ends up friends with his rich neighbour – Jay Gatsby – who throws a lot of fancy parties. (He’s really rich, okay? It’s very important that you know that.)

So, Nick just kinda hangs out there a bit. His only other social outings are visiting his flapper cousin and her philandering husband, who live just up the road.

As I was reading, I couldn’t stop asking myself: what’s the point? I mean, a swotty young guy discovers that he likes drinking and pretty girls, and he hangs around his rich neighbour’s hectic parties – so what?

Later, we find out that Gatsby is actually in love with Nick’s beautiful cousin, and has quasi-stalked her for years (but we’re supposed to think that’s romantic, not creepy). He uses Nick to engineer a rendezvous, and finally gets into her pants. They continue hooking up on the sly for a while, until her husband Mr Philanderer finds out and gets all jealous (ironic). There’s a crazy show-down at a hotel in the city, and the beautiful cousin runs over her husband’s mistress in Gatsby’s car (yes, shit really escalated, but it’s not over yet).

Because of the car, everyone assumes that Gatsby is the one who was driving, and it’s all very I Know What You Did Last Summer. The mistress’s husband avenges her death by killing Gatsby, and then himself. The beautiful cousin gets back with her husband, and they run away together. Nick tries to throw a funeral for Gatsby and nobody comes. The end.

Fitzgerald famously drew inspiration from the parties he attended in Long Island in the early 1920s, and many true events from his life are reflected in the plot (he fell in love with a girl and needed to “prove himself” with material success before he could marry her, and so on). You don’t have to try too hard to pick apart the Very Important Themes in The Great Gatsby, a lot of stuff about the façade of class mobility in America and the excesses of wealth and the recklessness of ambitious youth. Blah, blah, blah… It all boils down to a cautionary tale, and a pretty boring one at that.

How many times do we need to expose the “underbelly” of the Great American Dream? It is a myth, we get it. I mean, maybe they didn’t back in the 1920s, but we’ve all seen American Beauty now, so I’m not sure how much The Great Gatsby adds to that narrative.

I fail to understand how this has become a staple of the high school English syllabus. Is it because it’s a “classic” that’s short enough to squeeze into a teenager’s limited attention span? Do the grown-ups think it’s “relateable”? The characters do all talk and act like rich, indulgent teenagers I suppose, like an old-timey version of The OC. I know I’m not an authority, but I think there are better choices for reading assignments. I mean, as far as the literary merit goes, to me Fitzgerald sounded like a wannabe poet trying too hard to write romantic prose. He told a friend that he wanted The Great Gatsby to be a “consciously artistic achievement”, but it came off sounding like desperate, over-reaching wank half of the time.

So, in conclusion, no. Not for me. No, thank you. My tl;dr summary is this: a shady rich guy gets taken in by a slapper, and owning a fancy car comes back to bite him in the arse. I really didn’t care about the characters or the story at all, and finer examples of American literature abound as far as I’m concerned – but by all means, check this one out for yourself if you want to see just how far it falls short of its reputation.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Great Gatsby:

  • “Hated this book. It was a total waste of time. If I wanted to be depressed and read about unfaithfulness in marriage, I would read the court records. Don’t know why this is a classic.” – Amazon Customer
  • “Wow, even better than the Cliff notes I read in High School.” – Marc Reeves
  • “I had to buy this for my son for school. He did not like the book but that’s not Amazon’s fault…” – D. Basuino
  • “One star is too many, but it is the minimum.
    The only reason I read this was for a class. I gave the teacher a stinker review as well.The book is a pointless exercise in futility about pointless stupid people. The only point to the story is that people with money are just as trashy, if not more so, than people without. The characters have no development, are barely two dimensional, do stupid things for no reason and face no consequences for their veniality.This books is the literary equivalent of being stuck in a window seat on a airplane for 14 hours needs to a drunken, smelly creep with bad breath and smelly gas who talks at you for the whole flight about his pointless job. For being such a thin book, it is the hardest reading I have ever had to do.Of course, it is even more aggravating that the kindle edition costs $11 for a book you can get at a bookstore for less than a dollar.” – Heinrick Ludwig von Mencken

13 Well Plotted Mysteries

Have you ever thought about how hard it must be to plot a mystery novel? The author has to know who did it, why they did it, how they did it – and they’ve got to figure out how to tell the reader all of that, without going too fast or too slow, and keeping them entertained all the while. It’s no mean feat, and it’s all the more impressive when an author does it particularly well. Here are thirteen well plotted mysteries that will keep you intrigued all the way through to perfectly crafted solutions.

13 Well Plotted Mysteries - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
The plot thin-ens: there are affiliate links on this page and when you make a purchase you’re supporting the site.

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

The Cry - Helen Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I happened to watch The Cry as a television mini-series before I read the book, but let me tell you: it’s one of the most well plotted mysteries you’ll experience, no matter the format. The central mystery revolves around a missing child, an infant who disappears from under his parents nose. The media flocks to the scene, the parents make tearful appeals – but all is not as it seems. There’s a reveal at the mid-point of this one that will knock your socks off, and you’ll barely have a chance to pull them on before they’re knocked off once more. Read my full review of The Cry here.

Kill Your Husbands by Jack Heath

Kill Your Husbands - Jack Heath - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Jack Heath is a remarkably prolific writer, with over forty titles to his name across multiple genres, so he’s got a well-practiced hand when it comes to writing well plotted mysteries. Kill Your Husbands is a sharp and funny mystery-thriller about a couple’s weekend gone wrong – like, really wrong. Three couples rent an isolated house on a mountaintop, and decide to spice things up with some partner-swapping. It’s all fun and games until one of the husbands turns up dead, and then another, and then one of the wives goes missing. Read my full review of Kill Your Husbands here.

Remember Me by Charity Norman

Remember Me - Charity Norman - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Are some secrets best left buried? That’s the question at the heart of Remember Me, a wonderfully suspenseful novel about a young woman who went missing twenty-five years ago, and the clues to her fate coming from an unlikely source. Through the mists of her father’s failing memory, Emily gets glimpses of the past, and what might have happened to Leah Patara. But does she really want to know? It’s a family drama wrapped around a crime mystery, and it will keep you hooked to the very last page. Read my full review of Remember Me here.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall - Liane Moriarty - Keeping Up With The Penguins

You might know Liane Moriarty best for Big Little Lies, the best-selling novel turned HBO series starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, but if you’re after well plotted mysteries, it’s well worth exploring further into her catalogue. Apples Never Fall is perfectly paced and totally readable, with town gossip and parallel timelines that keep you guessing. There’s a cast of characters bound together, but each harbouring their own secrets – secrets a nosy detective is determined to uncover. If you’re a fan of town gossip and barely-founded assumptions, this is the mystery novel for you. Read my full review of Apples Never Fall here.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

56 Days - Catherine Ryan Howard - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Is it too soon for a COVID-19 murder mystery? Not when it’s as well plotted as this one! 56 Days is Catherine Ryan Howard’s latest high-concept crime thriller, set in Dublin in the early days of the city’s first lock-down. The main characters are a couple who barely know each other, forced into the pressure cooker situation of living with each other during the pandemic, so the reader gets two (or more?) very different perspectives on the same events. It’s well written, well paced, with tantalising clues and a couple of truly excellent fake-out twists. Read my full review of 56 Days here.

The Likeness by Tana French

The Likeness - Tana French - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Tana French has been called the reining queen of Irish crime, with good reason: her Dublin Murder Squad series is wall-to-wall well plotted mysteries. The Likeness is my favourite, the one with a premise so bonkers that I simply had to read it. Detective Cassie Maddox is trying to find her balance after a major trauma on a previous case when a murder victim shows up who looks identical to her. That’s weird, but it gets weirder when they learn that the victim was living under an alias that Maddox once used while undercover. None of the victim’s friends know that she’s dead, so Maddox’s boss has her pose as the dead girl, pretending to recover from her injuries in the hopes of luring the murderer out of the woodwork. It’s insane, but will it work? Read my full review of The Likeness here.

I Saw A Man by Owen Sheers

I Saw A Man - Owen Sheers - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I Saw A Man isn’t a thriller, but it’s every bit as tense and gripping. It’s a literary mystery, one that penetrates far more deeply than your standard paint-by-numbers airport novel. Owen Sheers uses two terrible tragedies to interrogate the psychology of trauma, the capriciousness of chance, the weight of grief, and the morality of complicit silence, all the while keeping the reader glued to the page by the mysterious moral dilemma that changes the life of every character. Read my full review of I Saw A Man here.

Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies In A Small Town - Diane Chamberlain - Book on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Regular readers of Keeping Up With The Penguins might be sick of me recommending Big Lies In A Small Town, but I can’t help it! It’s one of the most well plotted mysteries I’ve read, all the better for the fact that I simply wasn’t expecting it at all based on the cover and blurb. The story centers around a Depression-era mural: the woman commissioned to paint it (who disappeared under mysterious circumstances), and the woman charged with restoring it for installation, nearly eight decades later. Will she uncover the truth with the layers of paint and grime? Read my full review of Big Lies In A Small Town here.

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman Is In Trouble - Taffy Brodesser-Akner - Keeping Up With The Penguins

You probably won’t find Fleishman Is In Trouble shelved with the mysteries at your local independent bookstore, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most well plotted mysteries of recent years. It looks like your stock-standard New York divorce novel, with a privileged couple – he’s a doctor, she’s a talent agent/manager – sniping at each other and using their kids like battering rams in the dissolution of their marriage. But by the end of the first chapter, you’ll realise that this is something very different. Read my full review of Fleishman Is In Trouble here.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Plot - Jean Hanff Korelitz - Keeping Up With The Penguins

It’s so meta: one of the most well plotted mystery is a book about a well plotted mystery. How about that? The Plot is “a psychologically suspenseful novel about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it”. A creative writing student sadly dies tragically young, and his professor decides to take the plot he planned to use for his debut novel. Who would notice, who would care? It turns out someone does, and they care a lot. Enough to put the author’s life at risk, not to mention his career and reputation. Read my full review of The Plot here.

The Woman In The Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman In The Library - Sulari Gentill - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The Woman In The Library is an underrated gem, a well plotted metafictional mystery that will keep you turning pages way past your bed time. Hannah Tigone is a crime writer, working on a novel that begins in the Boston Library. Four strangers get to talking after a woman’s scream in the next room breaks the silence. Later, they discover that the woman who screamed was murdered – could one of them be the killer? Chapter-by-chapter, Hannah forwards this work-in-progress to her writer friend Leo, but slowly his responses reveal he might not be the trusty correspondent he seems. Read my full review of The Woman In The Library here.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn - Keeping Up With The Penguins

With just a few well plotted mysteries, Gillian Flynn has changed the game. She reached mainstream popular appeal with her best-seller Gone Girl, but her debut novel Sharp Objects is the one with the truly masterful plot. The follows Camille, a journalist for a small Chicago newspaper, as she’s drawn back to her hometown to report on the abduction and murder of two young girls. At first, she doesn’t seem particularly unusual – sure, she’s a bit of a drinker, and she clearly has some unresolved issues with her family, but who doesn’t? Soon, you’ll realise how dark she really is, and why those issues with her mother and her hometown might never be untangled. Read my full review of Sharp Objects here.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Of course, it’s not a list of well plotted mysteries without an Agatha Christie novel. And, even though it’s kind of an obvious choice, we really can’t go past And Then There Were None. It’s a Christie classic, a locked-room mystery with a ticking clock, featuring ten strangers trapped on an isolated island. All were brought there under similar false pretenses, and all of them are destined to die. But who would draw them there? Why are they being killed off, one by one? How can the murderer operate undetected? Christie will tell you when she’s good and ready, but you’ll realise that the clues there all along. Read my full review of And Then There Were None here.

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers is one of those authors that really should be a household name, but few people seem to have her books on their shelves at home. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter was her debut novel, published in 1940 when she was just (get this) 23 years old. As reviewers noted at the time, there is a startling gap between her youth and her ‘astonishing perception of humanity’ in this remarkably insightful novel.

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Get The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter here.
(The reviewer’s heart is a lonely one too, but it warms up a bit when you make a purchase through an affiliate link on this page.)

She originally called her story The Mute, but her publishers made her change it to “something more poetic”. The title that went to print is drawn from a poem called The Lonely Hunter by Fiona MacLeod (aka William Sharp): “Deep in the heart of Summer / sweet is life to me still / but my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill”.

The opening line is a corker: “In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.” In fact, the whole first chapter will knock your socks off. As the first sentence suggests, it focuses on two close friends, John Singer and Spiros Antonapolous. They are both deaf, and communicate primarily via sign language; their disability isolates them from the rest of their community in the small mill town where they live, but they are satisfied with each other’s company.

Unfortunately, Spiros’s mental health declines rapidly. Singer is happy to continue caring for him (reviewers have likened their relationship to that of George and Lennie in Of Mice And Men), but his only living relative elects to have him institutionalised, rather than risk any liability or take any responsibility. This is devastating to Singer, who loses the only person with whom he can communicate with ease.

He moves out of the apartment they shared, finding it too painful to live among the memories of his friend, and takes up residence at a nearby boarding house. He eats at the same diner three times a day, and gradually begins to attract interest from miscellaneous lost souls, all of whom are looking for connection.

These are the “satellite characters” that we follow over the course of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. The introduction to my edition (by Kasia Boddy) offers a really helpful description of them, explaining how each of them represents a different kind of loneliness or alienation, alongside Singer himself.

Thirteen-year-old Mick Kelly confesses [to Singer] her growing passion for music; fifty-one-year-old Dr Benedict Copeland talks about his frustrations at raising the consciousness of the town’s black people (starting with his own family); Jake Blount, a twenty-nine-year-old itinerant labour agitator and drunk, reveals his plans for revolution; only Biff Brannon, the forty-four-year-old cafe owner, recognises that Singer is a ‘home-made God’ for them all… [Singer is] a blank canvas on to which just about anything can be projected.

Introduction (The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter)

McCullers said that she sought to write a novel about “a character to whom other characters reveal their innermost secrets”, and by any measure, she succeeded. By virtue of the fact that he cannot hear or speak, Singer becomes a de-facto therapist for the town, specifically these four characters who have difficulty connecting with others for their own reasons. The image of a priest also popped into my head a lot as I was reading The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter – not that I know much about them, but something in the anonymity of hearing sealed confessions… you get my drift.

There are many pleasant surprises in The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, but there’s one in particular I want to highlight. I’m amazed by the progressive politics threaded throughout the story. If you can set aside some of the archaic language (yes, there’s a few n-words that are very of-the-time, and Singer is frequently described as a ‘deaf-mute’), McCullers is streets ahead of many writers of our time, let alone her own. She writes intricate inner worlds for the kinds of characters so often reduced to tropes and stereotypes – people of colour, people with disabilities – and gives them agency. Not only that, she allows them to explicitly advocate for themselves politically, be it through Blount’s socialism or Dr Copeland’s racial activism or Mick’s proto-feminism.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this kind of pinko-leftie philosophy would lead to widespread criticism and controversy (books are being banned for less today!), but The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter rocketed to the top of the best-seller list almost immediately. McCullers’ prodigious talent superseded any qualms the reading public had about her politics; she “gave voice to those who are rejected, forgotten, mistreated [and] oppressed”, in such a way that readers forgot about their prejudice. In fact, I think there’s an argument to be made that many readers over the decades have projected themselves onto the characters of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, in much the same way that the characters project themselves onto Singer – a kind of meta-genius that’s almost infuriating, and downright baffling when you take into account McCullers’ tender years and limited world experience at the time of writing.

Yes, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter is an annoyingly good book. You’ll be annoyed that a woman so young and sheltered can be so wise and insightful, you’ll be annoyed that she can articulate that insight so beautifully, and you’ll be annoyed most of all that her name isn’t held aloft alongside Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s when it comes to the best literary writers of the 20th century.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter:

  • “McCullers’ book clearly contains some wonderful character descriptions, but I gave up early hunting for the story….” – D.Beyer
  • “Didn’t know this was an Oprah selection before I started it. If I had i never would’ve read it. It was true to her lousy taste.” – Kindle Customer
  • “OK so it is well written and has interesting characters, it is also depressing and boring.” – Monica K
  • “I found this book to be about as enriching as reading Karl Marx and as uplifting as reading the national enquirer.” – Darlene Riley
  • “Just look at how popular used copies are. People are desperate to get rid of this nonsense.” – Marc
  • “In the grand list of books that you will have enjoyed having read, this one ranks slightly above “Tom and Jane Go to Camp”.

    Now, I’m not going to say that this book was trite, boring, lacking in substance or otherwise devoid of anything resembling redeeming merit, because it does have its purpose. That purpose being to sit on your shelf and make it appear as though you are some kind of eruditic masochist.

    If, like me, you were forced to read this book as some sophomore hazing ritual, you will no doubt remember that this book contains very little in the way of plot and character development. The characters don’t so much grow as fester.

    I would not recommend this book to anybody, even those that I hate. People who have suicidal tendencies are warned to stay away as the most cheery portion of this book is slightly happier than a crushed puppy.

    In closing, let me just summarize: this book is bad.” – Rolf M. Buchner
« Older posts