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The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves.

October 14, 2008.

Okay, a few more words.  You may remember that I have a deep and abiding love for Volume I: The Pox Party.  Not only do I think it was one of the most finely written pieces of fiction (not just Ya fiction – fiction in general) to pass in front of my eyeballs, I adored the period language and the history and the character of Octavian himself.  I’ve been keeping my ears perked ever since I finished it for the second volume.  I want it in my hands now.  Or at least as soon as I’ve had a chance to reread the first one.

If you haven’t read The Pox Party yet, and like smart historical fiction and fab language, what are you waiting for?

I’ve been quiet lately, hmm?  Maybe because I’ve actually been doing a lot of school work (third quarter burn-out, how nice to see you again!) and reading one huge book and wallowing in my dairy products.*

The one huge book was Free Food For Millionaires, by Min Jin Lee, which I picked up because it looked interesting while I was processing it (I never actually browse the shelves at the library – the shelves are for ordinary people.  I do all my browsing with the ‘in processing’ books).  It was long, but fairly light and engrossing, and I was always interested in finding out what happened to the characters (even though a lot of things they did – particularly financial things – made me cringe).  But here’s the thing: the main character has a lot going on over the years the story covers (graduating from college and the next few years) and of course the side characters have a lot going on, too, because that’s life.  So it felt like Lee was trying to do the Dickens thing, with a huge cast of characters with bizarre little lives, the whole breadth of human experience, etc. etc.  But it didn’t quite work, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe because we never got to see quite enough of those characters – we get a taste of the sister, just enough to think “I want to know more about her life” and then we’re whisked back to Casey.  Same with her friend Ella.  We’d go off on these tangents, that really felt more like they could each be developed into their own story.  They didn’t quite fit together as a whole.

So, when the ending came around and there was no Dickensian wrap-up, because the characters all knew each other already, it didn’t quite work.  I’m not saying that a Dickensian cast of characters requires that kind of wrap-up, necessarily, but the more ambiguous “let’s imagine what might happen next instead of me telling you, okay?” ending didn’t quite match the story.  If the story had focused more on Casey, that ending would have felt more satisfying.

*I still can’t believe I can eat whatever I want.  I’ll think fondly of some food, or start to wonder what on earth I’ll eat for dinner, and then realize that I no longer need to eat like a vegan.  Hallelujah!

May 2008
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