Sunday, December 2, 2007

What I Was by Meg Rosoff, part 2

I was testing the limits of Blogger's comments so I decided to post another entry. This is the UK cover. I'm not a fan of that wobbly writing.

I love Meg Rosoff books. I love how she weaves a little fantasy into her novels and nothing is really what it seems. You just have to surrender to the story and let it take you on its journey without over analyzing the how and why. I love the words she chooses to tell her stories and, to echo Patti, her knack for beautifully written passages. I approached this novel expecting the unexpected. When the witch said "Look more carefully" I knew Rosoff set a trap.

Here's where I come clean, Folks. I admit that about 2/3 of the way through, a little frustrated with H and impatient for progress towards the "scandal", I flipped through the back pages and saw one thing that changes everything. I was spoiled and I don't regret it. I like to know what's going on. Same with movies. Someone just tell me what happens because I can't stand the suspense. But back to the book. I was able to read the next few chapters looking for clues. I was still affected by the "heart-wrenching scandal" (spoilerage and all). I am not a fan of stories where there is some Big Tragic Event that is the focus of the story and we're just waiting and waiting for it to happen. See above with the impatient spoiling bit. I think I liked this book a little more than Patti though I do share some similar frustrations about H. I liked him, annoying features and all, until the end of the book where we learn about H as an adult. I felt not unlike Gibbon in my need to attack him. My sympathy was there as a teen, but not so much as an adult.

The ending still confused me some. This is where I'll need to talk to Patti so she can straighten me out. I found myself rereading bits to see if I had missed something because I wasn't sure what, or who, was being referenced. Still the story fascinated me and that is due in part to my appreciation of Rosoff's writing. To the question of "adult" vs. "teen", I think that calling this book adult is doing so while it just tips its toes over the line. It could also be that I so rarely read an adult novel, that one where there is a teen but without any sex, drugs, rock&roll, swearing (by US standards) etc confuses my lines. We have A Separate Peace as adult and this would be kind of similar. If I remember that book at all. I do truly wonder at the adult audience for this book. Do adults go and read books on teens if they don't normally read teen fiction?

So in closing I'm going to quote some of my favorite passages.

"Of course back then, I still thought of history as a full and frank collection of facts. Now I understand that it is only a story, one of many, or many parts of several different stories."

"I felt no particular shame, having encountered dozens of chippy little
fascists in my time, but continued to wonder at their delusions."
(1st favorite)

"From behind him a small gray cat gazed, its tail erect and twitching, as if testing the atmosphere for spies.
(2nd favorite. this cat gets some great lines.)

"None of what I felt could be explained by what I generally understood
about sex. The ceaseless tangle of emotions confused me, forced me to wonder what I was. There was no one to ask."

"By Friday I had come to the conclusion that I was crowding him, so I made myself as small as possible, stifled the desire to burble over with enthusiasm for each new discovery or to follow him around like the adoring hanger-on I was."

"Sometimes I thought about the content of those lives, the intangible things that leave no fossils and no marks on history. Would people from the future excavate traces of passion? Of hope, disappointment, despair? Would they uncover layers of love and layers of loss? Or would the entire human race end up drowned and forgotten, buried under waves of melting ice with no on left to dig us up or wonder a what was or what might have been."


Patti said...

Oh, I liked it a lot - just not as much as I would have if I had liked H in the least. Of all the things I expected - an unsympathetic main character wasn't one of them. I mean Rosoff had me pulling for the cousins to get together in How I Live Now for god's sake! I've never wanted cousins to be together before...or since actually. So I did like it, I just didn't like it as much as her previous books.

I thought it was an adult book primarily because of the difficulty of language used - a teen would have to be a VERY good reader to understand the book. Also because it was an older man looking back and looking back with the experience of having lived a full life. What a teen would pull out of a book and what an adult would are different - to my mind anyway. There were lots of shades of gray that I'm not sure a younger reader would pick up on as readily. Lots of comments/experiences that an adult reader would identify/relate to more than a teen. Not that a teen couldn't enjoy this book, they could, I just felt like adults would get more out of it.

The ending is already fading from my mind - you'll have to remind me when we talk next!

joanna said...

I was really pulling for H, but in the end I realized that I didn't like him. I'm not sure I really liked anyone. The cat was pretty awesome. It will be fun to talk to you on this. I sent it back to you today when I stopped by the library this morning.

I agree about the language being more difficult and some of the more adult themes. I do remember thinking about those things as I was reading. This is an older man looking back... like the main character in Cures for Heartbreak? Hm? :)

Patti said...

LOL!!! That is too funny.

Yes they're both looking back, but the feeling was different to me. Cures for Heartbreak just felt like a teen book and this one just felt older to me.

I'm not sure there is any actual reason behind it, just feelings!

too funny!