March 9, 2007 archive

The Double Bind – Book Review

I really wanted to love this book because Chris Bohjalian is a favorite author of mine. I am drawn to psychological thrillers, so I thought this book would sweep me away. But it didn’t.  I found it rather contrived and unbelievable. And, without giving away the ending, I was left rather confused about the point of view of the book once the twist was revealed. There seemed to be so many plot holes and coincidences, and ultimately I wasn’t sure what was truth and what was not.

Bohjalian begins the novel with lots of back story. I found myself having to re-read sections to try to keep all the characters and events straight in my mind.  I think Bohjalian probably could have shaved a third the back story off and had a more manageable story.

Laurel, the main character, and her friend Talia are two likeable characters. Their friendship makes sense; the reader finds herself wanting to know more about these two young women.  Bohjalian’s  handling of the men in the book, however, left me cold. Whit, the guy who I believe the reader is meant to like, comes across as sexually immature and patronizing. Laurel’s boyfriend – David – simply annoyed me…perhaps he was supposed to annoy me.

Whenever he dated women even close to his age, he felt on the first date that he was being scrutinized as a marriage prospect; if he passed – which invariably he would because he was breathing and employed – by the second or the third the subject of children would arise.
– From The Double Bind, page 163-164 –

It was this attitude – condescending and chauvinistic – that got under my skin.

Bohjalian has written a book about mental illness, and fantasy versus reality. He interjects a socially sensitive subject like homelessness and victimization and leaves the reader feeling manipulated rather than entertained.

I can’t recommend this one.

The Tournament of Books


March 8, 2007
– The Morning News is doing its annual Tournament of Books. It’s a lot of fun. Today there are interesting reviews of Half of a Yellow Sun and Absurdistan…the two books that went head to head in the first round. Half of a Yellow Sun came out as the winner.

March 9, 2007 – Another round…this time between the Echo Maker and The Emperor’s Children. The winner is here.

March 12, 2007 – Round three pitted Brookland against Firmin. And the rat came out ahead. Read the reviews here.

March 13, 2007 – Round four completed. The contest was between a book I’m dying to read (The Road) and one I’ve never heard of (The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo). Read reviews and see the winner here.

March 14, 2007 – I was looking forward to Round five with two NYT Most Notables facing off (and both books I want to read): Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes AND One Good Turn, by Kate Atkinson. They both got good reviews (which made me especially happy because I just purchased both of these books in the last two weeks), but one came out ahead as the better mystery of the two. Check it out here.

March 15, 2007 – Colin Meloy writes a witty and original review to expose today’s winner in the TOB. The Lay of The Land faces off against a book I’ve never heard of – English, August.

March 16, 2007 – A surprise winner today over at TOB. Apex Hides the Hurt and Alentejo Blue are both reviewed for Round Seven. Are the rest of you enjoying this as much as I am?

March 19, 2007 – Hope everyone had a grand weekend…now back to the tournament. Round eight – whereby Against the Day is pitted against a short, graphic novel: The Pride of Bahgdad. I have to admit, I would probably never read either one of these books. Check out the not so surprising winner here.

March 20, 2007 – We are onto the next tier of the challenge…officially Round Two, Match One. Half of a Yellow Sun came up against The Emperor’s Children. I thought it would be a blow away win for Adichie’s beautiful book, but it seems the judge actually didn’t really like either book! To read the review and see who won “by default” go here.

March 21, 2007 – The first day of Spring and Round Two, Match Two at the Tournament of Books. Lots of people have been waiting breathlessly to see Firmin face off against The Road. From the small amount of information I’ve gleaned about these two books (sorry, haven’t read either – YET), I didn’t think it would be much of a competition. And it wasn’t. At least according to judge Mark Sarvas. See the results here.

March 22, 2007 – Round Two, Match Three. I’ll warn you right now – if you intend to read either of these books you might not want to read Maud Newton’s lengthy reviews with spoilers included. Here’s another judge who apparently liked neither book too much. Lay of the Land receives a bit more of her verbal thrashing, but One Good Turn doesn’t fare well either. Click on over to The Morning News to view the results of this match.

March 23, 2007 – So here we are in the final match of Round Two – Alentejo Blue vs. Against The Day. How can someone really determine which of these two books is “the winner?” They are of vastly different styles. It would be like me trying to choose which I like better: chocolate or reading (I love them both and couldn’t possibly choose one over the other!). At any rate, Sam Lipsyte admits to not having finished reading Pynchon’s massive tome, but that doesn’t seem to impact the judging. Once again there is a fair amount of negative comments for both books. Go here to see the results.

March 26, 2007 – We are in the semi-final round and what a way to kick it off with Half of a Yellow Sun pitted against The Road. I’ve read the former, and loved it. The latter is on my TBR pile for May. Elizabeth Gaffney admits to loving both books  (finally a judge who enjoyed the books!) and having a difficult time choosing the winner. To see her pick, go here.

March 27, 2007 – In Match Two of the Semi-finals Against the Day faces off with One Good Turn. Apparently Judge Sasha Frere-Jones didn’t think it necessary to actually read both books. In fact, she’d already made up her mind before reading either book. Does this seem a little meaningless to anyone else? Results are here.

March 28, 2007 – So today is the Zombie round where they resurrect a “loser” and pair it with a winner. The Road vs. Against The Day. You already know which one wins, right? Here is what I’ve been pondering. How did Pynchon’s giant tome make it into the semi-finals when almost no one can even finish reading it?

March 29, 2007 One Good Turn goes against Absurdistan in the final Zombie round. Rosecrans Baldwin writes an interesting review of these books – one that will likely keep me from reading either book for a long time. To end the suspense, go here for the winner.

The Championship Round
March 30, 2007

And so, The Tournament of Books comes to an end. All the judges voted and the winner has been chosen. I bet 99% of you can guess who steamrolled over the competition to become number one!

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