Friday, 15 August 2014

We Are Not Ourselves

Author: Matthew Thomas
Genre: Modern Fiction
Type: Kindle e-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
First Published: August 19, 2014
First Line: "His father was watching the line in the water."

Book Description from GoodReadsBorn in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: Lately I've been on a search to find a great sweeping saga of a read - one that spans a couple of generations and has a lot of drama.  So when I read the description of this book on NetGalley it seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

This book was described as 'epic in scope' so I suppose I was expecting much more of a intergenerational family saga with lots of energy, familial turmoil, engaging storylines and characters that I could root for.  Unfortunately, this book wasn't what I expected and I had a hard time staying interested.

I admit that certain scenes were touching but overall the book felt excessively long and lagged most of the way.  I think We Are Not Ourselves focuses so much attention on character development and relationships that the plot and energy waned and got bogged down in small, daily life details.

It didn't help that Eileen wasn't a character that I clicked with at all.  She comes off as self-centred and always on the hunt for the 'things' that will make her happy.  She was extremely superficial and I didn't connect with her at all.  I'm still not exactly sure why Eileen's xenophobia was brought into the storyline either.  It didn't seem to give me a better insight into her and made me like her even less than I already did.

Towards the end of this book I was still holding out hope that the author would divulge some big, monumental secret.  Some family skeletons that were going to turn things around and give this book some oomph.  Unfortunately that big reveal never came.  I will say that I found this book, at times, quite touching and emotional due to personal connections that I have with one of the major issues in this book. 

I truly wanted to like this book (and my feelings are in the minority with many other reviewers).  But while I found this book to be well written unfortunately it was just too slow moving and I wasn't fond of the characters or its unrelenting melancholy.

My Rating: 2/5 stars


Pattie said...

I recommend that you read The Son by Phillip Meyer.
A generational saga set in Texas. Was a runner up for the Pulitzer. This book is a page turner with plenty of character development, adventure and history.

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

Thanks Pattie. I've heard of The Son but haven't read it yet. A customer at the library where I work also suggested Belle by Lesley Pearse as a good saga, epic read. So many books, so little time. Thanks for the suggestion! I love getting suggestions from other people. You find the best books that way!

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