Review Notes: The Snapper, The Van, Queen of Babble

248. The Snapper by Roddy Doyle
Publication: Penguin (Non-Classics); Open market ed edition (September 1, 1995), Omnibus, 640pp / ISBN 0140252622
Genre: Fiction
Rating:
Read: December 20-21, 2009
Source: Library
Summary from Amazon:

Sharon Rabbitte is single, pregnant, and living in Dublin, and as her stomach grows, her situation elicits a wide range of responses from her family and community.

Notes:
– Liked it a bit better than The Commitments, maybe because it focused more on individual characters than a whole group. Though it did encompass a group– a family, I mean. But it was mostly focused on Sharon and her father.
– It was hard to like the characters. I mean, I was fascinated with their life and I practically devoured the book, but they aren’t the sort of people I’d know in real life or even really WANT to know in real life. The people in The Snapper aren’t always perfect, they’re instead sort of…hyper-real people?
– I can’t help but compare it to my experiences with Joyce’s books: I don’t like the characters as in I-want-to-be-their-friends like, but I do enjoy reading about them. Because they’re so real. If that makes sense?

249. The Van by Roddy Doyle
Publication: Penguin (Non-Classics); Open market ed edition (September 1, 1995), Omnibus, 640pp / ISBN 0140252622
Genre: Fiction
Rating:
Read: December 21-23, 2009
Source: Library
Summary from Amazon:

Jimmy Rabbitte Sr. is unemployed, spending his days alone and miserable. When his best friend, Bimbo, also gets laid off, they keep busy by being miserable together. Things seem to look up when they buy a decrepit fish-and-chip van and go into business, selling cheap grub to the drunk and the hungry–and keeping one step ahead of the environmental health officers.Set during the heady days of Ireland’s brief, euphoric truimphs in the 1990 World cup, The Van is a tender and hilarious tale of male friendship and family life.

Notes:
– Again there’s this weird super-reality that’s technically boring stuff (going to the bathroom, going to the library, watching TV) but it’s still somehow fascinating to read about. I think the writing must be really fantastic to pull that off!
– On the other hand, this one made me really uncomfortable, mostly because of Jimmy Sr’s leering at young women. Not that he did anything, really, but it reminds me of old dudes who leer at me and that’s gross.
– Basically I think The Snapper and The Van is full of stuff that people think and do but that normally aren’t put into books. So it’s interesting to read them because you get that feeling of “oh, so this is what people did in Ireland in the early 1990s. Cool.” But on the other hand it’s kind of like “wtf did I just read? Did I really just spend an hour reading about some dude making french fries in a van?”
– Also it just kind of cuts off at the end! With no solid resolution! Just BOOM. Done.
– Is there a sequel after this? What the heck happens to the Rabbitte family afterwards? I want to know!

250. The Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot
Publication: HarperCollins e-books (May 23, 2006), ebook, 270pp on a Sony Reader
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Rating:
Read: December 25, 2009
Source: Bought
Summary from Amazon:

Lizzie Nichols has a problem, and it isn’t that she doesn’t have the slightest idea what she’s going to do with her life or that she’s blowing what should be her down payment on a cute little Manhattan apartment on a trip to London to visit her long-distance boyfriend, Andrew. But what’s the point of planning for the future when she’s done it again? See, Lizzie can’t keep her mouth shut. And it’s not just that she can’t keep her own secrets, she can’t keep anything to herself.

This time when she opens her big mouth, her good intentions get Andrew in major hot water. So now Lizzie’s stuck in London with no boyfriend and no place to stay until the departure date on her nonrefundable airline ticket.

Fortunately, there’s Shari, Lizzie’s best friend and college roommate, who’s spending her summer in southern France, catering weddings with her boyfriend, Chaz, in a sixteenth-century chateau. One call and Lizzie’s on a train to Souillae. Who cares if she’s never traveled alone in her life and only speaks rudimentary French? One glimpse of gorgeous Chateau Mirac — not to mention the gorgeous Luke, the son of Chateau Mirac’s owner — and she’s smitten.

But while most caterers can be trusted to keep a secret, Lizzie’s the exception. And no sooner has the first cork been popped than Luke hates her, the bride is in tears, and it looks like Chateau Mirac is in danger of becoming a lipo-recovery spa. As if things aren’t bad enough, her ex-boyfriend Andrew shows up looking for “closure” (or at least a loan), threatening to ruin everything, including Lizzie’s chance at finding real love. . . .

Unless she can figure out a way to use that big mouth of hers to save the day.

Notes:
– I’ve never read of Ms Cabot’s adult books before, so the sex scenes and overall frankness was somewhat of a shock. (They weren’t that bad, though: the first one was funny and the second one was, from what I could tell while skimming, really sweet and not at all overdone like some other books.)
– Lizzie annoyed me a lot in the beginning because she’s always trying to see the best in people. That’s a nice trait to have, but when it turns into delusions and negatively affects your own life– yeah, not good. Thank goodness she had a wake-up call early on in the book, because I don’t think I could have read 80 more pages of her making excuses for someone else’s horribleness.
– The hero was kind of interesting: he’s obviously the Perfect Guy, but with a few quirks that made him more real than Perfect Guys tend to be. And those quirks matched up nicely with Lizzie’s quirks, so their romance was actually really adorable.
– BUT I do think that QOB isn’t as emotionally or plotfully (uh…) complex as maybe someone like Madeleine Wickham’s books, or maybe Marian Keyes. It’s somewhere between YA romance books and adult books– cute, but not as satisfying as it could have been.
– Mostly because I think the romance wasn’t as believable as it could have been. Lizzie just got OUT of a relationship with a dude she only knew for, like, less than a day, and that was a really bad relationship. Then she gets into another one in practically the same amount of time? Even if he IS her soulmate (or whatever), I just don’t think it was as romantic as it could have been because it’s like Lizzie is just repeating her mistakes all over again. And though she seemed more aware of her mistakes going into this second relationship, I can’t help but doubt her ability to look objectively at someone instead of sticking on all these projections of what she wants that person to be, instead of who they really are (which is what happened with the first dude).
– I mean, even if Luke is an awesome dude, how awesome is he really? I suppose my main problem with the book is that Lizzie isn’t a trustworthy narrator, and that throws everything into wack.
– However, I enjoyed it enough that I think I’ll read the sequel. I want to follow Lizzie and Luke and see what happened after they got together! Is Luke really as great as Lizzie thought he was? Has Lizzie learned to not make excuses for everyone?

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0 Comments

  1. Kay

    Completely know what you mean about boring activities making great reads – Javier Marias is like that. I remember being amazed that he understood so clearly how people go about going into their house. I never looked at my keys the same way again!

    I am a bit iffy about reading Meg Cabot – be it her YA or adult books. None of them sound all that interesting… yeah, I don’t see her on my TBR list any time soon.

    • It’s such a weird feeling, because I don’t even care about those thing when I’m talking to my friends/family, but I’ll totally read 200+ pages about some dude who just sits around watching soccer games. SO. WEIRD.

      I think with MG– I enjoy her books, but they’re really sort of…like…funnel cake! They’re sweet and fun to read and somewhat relaxing, but they aren’t really filling and afterwards you’re like “wtf did I eat that much funnel cake for.” For example. 😀

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