No book on this site has gotten a five-star review. My inconsistent blogging has covered 69 books* and some have been close, but none have gotten 5/5. This is a natural consequence of parsing scores to tenths of points.
I have given three 4.9s which I stand by:
The Best of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl
Darn good and the best collection of shorts by a single author, but there are a couple clunkers…
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This will sound insincere and hyperbolic, but The Road is the closest thing I’ve seen to a technically perfect novel and it’s certainly head and shoulders above McCarthy’s other works. McCarthy’s books feature uniquely horrific depictions of brutality. Unlike other authors, he does not glorify violence, jazz it up for sex appeal, or temper it with humor. In The Road, there is finally something to offset his characteristic cruelty: the love between father and son. This results in a story better balanced than his others.
(Is it gauche to quote myself?) But McCarthy’s sentimentality pushes him to write the more… convenient ending. I get why he went the way he did. If the book had ended otherwise, I’d have needed a month to curl around my booze stash and question the fundamental violence and futility of life. It’s the preferred ending, but it does feel patched on.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In addition to the saccharine overtones, I felt that Atticus was overdone:
Scout is more nuanced since everything happens through her eyes, but Atticus is straight-up exceptional. Actual lawyers credit him, a fictional character, with bringing honor and respect to the legal profession. He’s the moral center of the book and half of what he says could be stitched onto a pillow. But he’s too perfect. When eight-year-old Scout expresses the perfectly normal sentiment of embarrassment around him (he’s old and bookish), Lee buffs up his image. God forbid someone say, “Atticus was pretty swell, but he embarrassed his kids”. So right when Scout worries her dad’s a dork, a rabid dog (confusingly named Tim Johnson) comes down the street:
“Atticus pushed his glasses to his forehead; they slipped down, and he dropped them in the street. In the silence, I heard them crack. Atticus rubbed his eyes and chin; we saw him blink hard.
“With movements so swift they seemed simultaneous, Atticus’s hand yanked a ball-tipped lever as he brought the gun to his shoulder.
The rifle cracked. Tim Johnson leaped, flopped over and crumpled on the sidewalk in a brown-and-white heap. He didn’t know what hit him.” (96)
You know those make-over movies where the main chick has glasses and a frizzy ponytail, but tears off the glasses and shakes out her hair to become hott? This is the male version of that. When Atticus rips off his glasses and takes up the gun, he is transformed into a bad@$$. Not only do his glasses crack on the ground, but when he picks up the frames he “[grinds] the broken lenses to powder under his heel”. Needless to say, Scout isn’t embarrassed by him anymore.
So far, I’m loving the books I pulled to participate in the Reading Ireland Month 2016 challenge hosted by Cathy746books and plan to recommend them all, but one in particular has completely floored me. I’ve spent the day following my husband around and reading him passages that all begin with “I cannot believe how this man** writes!—listen!:” I’ve been reduced to a fangirl and need a day or two to write a review that is more than, “Holy crap, you guys, I can’t even.”
While I take time to remember my words, care to take a guess which I’m ranking as best of the best?
*Given that this site is named “That’s What She Read,” I would like it noted that I refrained from a cheap joke here.
**Hrm. This doesn’t rule out any answers since I was thoughtless and am not reading any books by women. I’ll add another to my monthly queue in the next week.