Monday, April 16, 2012

This Week's Book: White Oleander

Meeting new people is fun! One of them recommended this book to me.

April 8-14: White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Literature (1999 - 390pp.) 

Finally, some more fiction! 

White Oleander is a book that made headlines when it came out, inspired a blockbuster movie, and all for good reason. Everything from the writing style to the cover art is so late '90s. It's interesting to look back with a little perspective on a period you know so well and see an artefact for the little piece of history it is, like how I had never heard Sevendust as a full album until about 2008. 

As for the actual book: it's interesting, to say the least. The story is at once heartbreaking and inspiring, and really touches upon a lot of personal aspects people prefer to leave not discussed. I felt for Astrid at times and was upset at her at others, as I suppose one would expect of a victimized teenager who makes some... questionable life choices. I will avoid getting normative with Astrid's life, but it is quite the study in how many of our actions we truly control. A nice takeaway was how close she often came to really being turned around in a hurry, showing how quickly peoples' lives can get righted, at least hypothetically. 

One of my favourite aspects was how well narrated the story was; for all the criticisms made about how poorly men narrate as women, Janet Fitch's example makes me truly believe women do this better. A lot of the concerns Astrid raises are ones that would never occur to me and never come up in my writing, so having that perspective was nice. 

At its worst, White Oleander is melodramatic to a fault. There are dizzyingly large statements about life in general, and a lot of the more poetic passages read like something out of a 15-year old's diary. That said, the story is told in first person by a teenager, so it is easy to see how this came about. There are also lots of comma splices, of all things. That is this style of writing, though. It is what it is, and the over-the-top bits ultimately work well enough in context that the overall quality of the book does not take much of a hit. This is still a great book. (For reference, it is the second here to receive the genre tag "Literature", and the first was Bleak House...) 

Thanks to a non-RYM friend for the recommendation. 

Ease of Reading: 9 
Educational Content: 2

No comments:

Post a Comment