MIDWIVES: style, structure, etc.greenspun.com : LUSENET : The Book Club : One Thread
As I've said, I'm halfway through the book and I have a lot of opinions. Not all of them are good. I'll post more after a few other people have started the book; I don't want to discourage people. It's definitely compelling and entertaining; I'm just bothered by a few things.
-- Beth (email@example.com), March 02, 2000
***NO SPOILERS*** I read this book in December 99 after a friend insisted I borrow her copy (it's not the kind of book I would buy myself). Overall I didn't feel it was a waste of my time to read it but I was bothered by a few "things" as well. The one thing that I did like was the style in which it was written. One of my all time favorite books was "To Kill A Mockingbird" and it had that same rambling feel to the story. I felt connected to the narrator and liked that the author kept the focus on the actual events rather than the narrators feelings about these events.
-- Dawn M. Maliszewski (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 06, 2000.
**NO SPOILERS** (Good idea, Dawn.) Funny you should mention the rambling style, because it annoyed the heck out of me. Actually, it was the structure rather than the writing style that got to me -- I thought the writing was generally good, but every event was foreshadowed, and then it happened, except then you realized she was jumping ahead to the future, and then the same event happened again, only in more detail ... gah. Drove me nuts. I did like the book much better once I was through with it than I did mid-stream. Here are some thoughts I had:
- I had some problems with the point of view. Every now and then there was a clumsy attempt to reconcile this problem, but the daughter knew some things she really should not have known. Some passages were clearly through Sybil's eyes, and even with the notebooks at her disposal, the daughter wouldn't have had that perspective.
- I didn't buy Connie's character. (The teenager daughter/narrator.) I felt better about the character by the end of the book, but I had the sense that the author had just gotten a handle on his (her? is this author male or female?) narrator by that time. Earlier, she was like a cliche of every adolescent female narrator you've ever encountered, as if the author grew up on a planet without little girls and learned about them by reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Judy Blume. Connie really didn't ring true to me.
- The book was too long. Considering that I read it in just a few sittings and it kept me engaged, that's a strange comment -- but some events were dragged out forever in unnecessary detail. It felt a bit like a short story that got out of control.
- I can't decide if the ending turned this into a cheap potboiler, or if it was a reasonable resolution. But discussion of that should probably wait until more people have read the book.
I did enjoy the book, though, despite those criticisms. I liked the Asa (the bereaved husband) character -- I liked that the author made him a preacher from the south (and the minister of a hell and brimstone church, to boot) but didn't make him a cartoonish evil guy. I thought it was a nice touch, and he was nicely juxtaposed with Sybil. Sybil also rang very true to me, so much so that she almost seemed like a cliche. I've known quite a few women like Sybil.
-- Beth (email@example.com), March 06, 2000.
I have gotten through less than a forth of the book, but something is already striking me as strange. Well not strange, but different. The author is a man, or at least the cover says so. Last time I checked I hadn't met a man who would even talk about women giving birth. Yet here is an entire book about natural childbirth by a man. He even pokes fun at men, saying that at the first birth Sibyl is present for all the men present left on the pretense of going for a doctor and waiting out in the cold for hours for the ambulance... It intriged me to read the author not only describing Sibyl dealing with all the messy bits of the birth, but also of Connie's developing teenaged feelings. I didn't have a problem with most of the parts with Sibyl, but somehow Connie seems less real. Those are just first impressions though.
-- Mae (Meggieee@lineone.net), March 07, 2000.
Yeah, I agree. I give the author credit for doing (I think) a pretty good job of writing about something that must be largely outside his experience -- although he didn't do as well with the teenage girl, I agree. I did wonder if he was being too harsh on men; I know plenty of men who have done just fine through the births of their children.
-- Beth (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 07, 2000.
I don't think that there is anything strange about a man writing from a strongly female POV, even to the extent of some light male-bashing. And remember that he's talking about twenty years ago, and the scene where all the men go away is 35 years ago, and you know what? That was pretty standard at that time.
Anyway, I bought the book Monday, finished it Tusday, selling it on eBay Wednesday. Or I would if there weren't so many copies already up. I did like it, I mean, I flew through it and was quite riveted, but I cannot imagine wanting to read it over and over again.
-- Kymm Zuckert (email@example.com), March 08, 2000.
Regarding the ending, I really didn't feel that it was worth the wait, because basically, what else could it have been? It was all "March 15th, the entry on March 15th, ides of March!" all over the place, and what could it have been? That aliens came down and killed the woman? It couldn't have been anything but what it was, so when it was presented, ta daaah! as though it was unforseeable, I just sort of though so what?
In fact, I liked the book better when I was reading it than when I was finished with it because the ending was so disappointing.
-- Kymm Zuckert (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 08, 2000.
What most annoyed me about the book was how the narrator would casually mention the fact that she was an OB-GYN in the middle of something riveting. It annoyed me because that part of the story wasn't developed, and it didn't really matter. I mean, the fact that she became an OB-GYN, whether or not it was a result of her mother's experience, would fill another book. When the narrator mentioned it, it always took me out of the story and wondering about why she did that, etc.
-- Karen (email@example.com), March 09, 2000.
Overall, I thought the book was perfectly entertaining - in the sense of "decent way to kill a few hours" than "deeply thought-provoking and life-changing". There were definitely things about it that irritated me.
Probably the most bothersome aspect of the book, for me, were some of the "Connie as typical teenage girl" passages. While I know that the author was trying to build her character, I didn't get the sense that these scenes were anything more than filler. With a few exceptions (noting how she met Floogie & family; how she heard about the incident at school; possibly the presence of Tom), these scenes were more of a distraction than an enhancement to the story.
The foreshadowing got a little heavyhanded at times, but not quite enough to be really disturbing - though I admit to thinking more than once, "Okay, already, so give me the March 15th notebook entry and be done with it!"
And finally, that's what he
-- Liss (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 10, 2000.
Just finished the book. I agree with a lot of the thoughts already expressed here. THe character of Sibyl was great, but the character of Connie sucked. The constant foreshadowing was irritating, and the way Connie was conveniently privy to every single thing that happened was way contrived.
That said, my biggest problem was the ending. I got the idea that Sibyl got cancer as "punishment" for what she did wrong. Perhaps it is just the narrator (Connie) who believes this, but it is pretty clear. At one point, she flat out says that the reverend didn't seek a civil trial becaus he knows who doles out the REAL justice. Next scene: cancer.
Did this strike anyone else?
-- Monique (email@example.com), March 15, 2000.
I agree Connie knew too much with no real explanation how she came to know these things, I think it would have been better written from Sibyl's perspective. I also thought the book was too long and found that it dragged a bit in the middle... Get to the trial already!
-- Cathy (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 22, 2000.