This is one of those books where the writing is so beautiful, I feel like the writing in my review will be inadequate to describe it. If I could tell you exactly how the author achieved the effects he did, I’d be a best-selling author myself. Instead, I can only give you my impressions. The writing was very concise but every word the author used seemed meaningful and carefully chosen. The author often repurposed common words and phrases to give them fresh meanings which made me think about the world in new ways. The author also juxtaposed the poignantly sorrowful and upliftingly hopeful in a way that made my heart ache. If I haven’t convinced you to pick this up, I hope you’ll at least check out the many other rave reviews in hopes they’ll convince you instead.
It took me a while to get into Fingersmith. It was a slow moving story and the writing style took some getting used too. It could just be the setting and the fact that the main character was an orphan, but the writing reminded me of Charles Dickens. That was one of my favorite things about the book because it felt authentic, as though the main characters could actually be narrating their story. I liked the slow-burn relationship development and loved reading my first historical fiction with LGBT main characters. I didn’t love that the whole plot was just as slow to develop as the relationship. The ending, in particular, felt slow and a bit anti-climactic. I think the book was so slow in part because the writing was very rich and detailed, which isn’t a terrible trade off. I’ve read reviews where bloggers say similar things about Sarah Waters’ new book and I still plan on giving it a try.
One of the cover blurbs on my copy described Zadie Smith as philosophical and sassy at the same time and that’s exactly right. Her combination of beautiful, literary writing and down-to-earth wit was completely unique. It was also perfect for exposing the profound moments found in everyday life. I could easily see this becoming a modern classic because the story focuses on human nature in a way that I think will make the book timeless. However, the author also highlights many of the big issues of our time, including immigration and religious conflict. The ending was the only part of this book I didn’t think was perfect. The big reveal wasn’t especially surprising or profound, so I was sorry it was the focus of such a wonderfully written book.
I loved Fingersmith! Oddly enough, I loved it in part because of the slowness. And I keep hearing I need to read White Teeth – I mean for years! Clearly I need to read it.
I mostly enjoyed the slowness too. It was really beautifully written and I think the slowness was inevitable consequence of the lovely descriptions. I didn’t love the ending, but I do want to read some more of Sarah Waters’ books 🙂 I didn’t love the ending of White Teeth either, but I’d still recommend it. The writing was wonderful in a very unique way, so good I think experiencing Zadie Smith’s writing is reason enough to pick this up!
I have never read anything by Zadie Smith, though she is very acclaimed. Thanks for these reviews.
With reason! I might not have loved the plot, but the writing was so fantastic, I felt like the book lived up to the hype 🙂
You’ve been reading some good books! I own A Constellation of Vital Phenomena with the hope that I will read it soon. I have heard nothing but good things about it. But, all of these sound great!
It’s true! All three of these books were ones I’d been hearing good things about for a long time. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was definitely my favorite of the bunch 🙂
Sarah Waters can be an acquired taste for the slowness of her plots, but I just love them. The atmosphere and detail take over for me in such a delightful way. I still have Fingersmith on my TBR to read.
I’d believe that. Although I wasn’t completely won over by this one, there were enough things I really enjoyed about it that I’m excited to give her books another try.
Shannon @ River City Reading
Constellation was one of my absolute favorites last year, so I’m glad you enjoyed it, too! I’ve yet to read any Sarah Waters and have heard similar things…I’m trying to figure out where to start.
It was fantastic! I can’t believe I didn’t get to Constellation sooner. So good!
I’ll have to see if there’s another Waters books which is particularly well-reviewed because I would like to give her another try myself and I’m not sure which book to go with.
tanya (52 books or bust)
Both Constellation and White Teeth are books I’ve been meaning to read. You’ve convinced me that I should ASAP. Thanks.
Awesome! I think they’re books that are worth putting at the top of your to-read pile 🙂
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was stunning. I’m so glad you liked it!
Oh, I loved it! I’m glad you enjoyed it too 🙂
Leah @ Books Speak Volumes
I LOVE A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. It blows my mind that it’s a debut novel.
I read Zadie Smith’s One Beauty a few years ago and didn’t really care for it, but I’d like to give White Teeth a shot!
I loved Constellation too! I honestly can’t believe that it’s a debut novel. It was just too good!
I liked Smith’s writing style enough, that I might go back and check out One Beauty in hopes I’d like the plot better. I’ll have to read your review and see if I think I’d be likely to enjoy it any more than you did.
Heather @ Book Addiction
I really loved the one Sarah Waters I read (The Little Stranger) and Fingersmith is on my bookshelf, just waiting for me. I read White Teeth years ago and didn’t get it… one of those books that just was not for me. Glad it worked out better for you!
I like Waters, but I don’t think I loved her as much as other people. I think I’ll give her another chance and see if I get what people who love her work enjoy so much. White Teeth was definitely unusual, but I did end up enjoying the writing style. I wouldn’t quite say I like any books that are new and different in terms of how it’s written or presented, but that goes a long way for me 🙂
I felt about The Paying Guests the same way you felt about Fingersmith- slow moving. I could not stay engaged so think Waters may not be my cup of tea. On the other hand, I have GOT to read Marra!
I haven’t decided for sure about Waters. I think I’ll probably eventually give her another try and see what I think. A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon was by far my favorite of these reads. I’d definitely recommend it!
Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net
Glad you enjoyed A Constellation of Vital Phenomena! Definitely a favourite read of mine from last year…I can’t wait to see what he writes next 🙂
It was so good! I will definitely be keeping an eye out for anything else he writes!