Monday, April 6, 2009

A Good House by Bonnie Burnard~★★

Author: Bonnie Burnard
Title: A Good House: A Novel
Release Date: September 5th, 2000
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "For the Chambers family of Stonebrook, Ontario, the year 1949 is filled with promise. The post-war boom and hope for the future color every facet of life: for Bill, a hardware store manager, his wife, Sylvia, and their three young children, Patrick, Paul, and Daphne, possibilities seem limitless.
In the fifty years that follow, these possibilities narrow into lives etched by character, fate and circumstance-beginning with Sylvia's untimely death, which marks her family indelibly. Daphne unabashedly follows an unconventional path and embraces the consequences, while older son Patrick discovers that for him happiness requires a series of compromises. Paul finds the perfect marriage but it yields an imperfect child, and Bill confronts the onset of old age less gracefully than anticipated. Throughout, his second wife, Margaret, remains, surprisingly, the family stronghold. As the generations intertwine, pull apart and come together again, family members spread out from their small town into the larger world, and the bonds deepen and widen, sometimes fraying. Loyalties are tested by time and chance, people resort to necessary, self-preserving lies, and love creates its own snares.
In this superbly crafted first novel, Bonnie Burnard has created people we can all recognize; through them, she has exposed the human heart with delicacy and daring. Bringing to her deceptively simple narrative a clarity and grace that are both moving and profound, she imbues the apparently ordinary lives of her characters with an integrity and depth of emotion that in the end make them---and A Good House---unforgettable.

Taryn's Review: This book was peculiar because it moved too fast and too slow all at once. The author is a good writer, but she spent so much time describing and focusing on pointless details in the book that it felt like the book was crawling. However, as a reader, I also felt the book moved too fast when time shifted from 1986 to 1995. So many years had passed and when the characters were introduced again, they weren't the same people they were in the past chapter, thus my interest waned quickly for each person.

For me, the book also lacked emotion. After Sylvia died, her husband Bill remarried Margaret rather quickly, yet the children  all seem to just accept this change seamlessly as part of life. I would think there might be anger, resentment, hurt, confusion, something. The only one who really seemed to struggle with everything was Patrick with his small bouts of depression. I think in this type of situation,  which became even more muddled when Margaret became pregnant, there would be fiery emotions. None were found in the book.

The other part of me wondered why Sylvia was even included in the book. She's not mentioned often, and when she was, it was very brief. I don't know if Burnard wanted Sylvia to seem more haunting to the reader during the few chapters she was alive, but she's forgettable. When characters did bring up Sylvia, there was little interest or emotion aroused on this reader's part.

The book was not my style. Mundane details described so in depth made the book easy to skip and the big jump throughout the years made the characters distant. Burnard has strong writing skills but I'd like to see her focus on different aspects of the book individually so people can really connect with the characters on a more intimate level.

On another note, I loved the picture used on the cover of this book. I don't understand why it was used for this book, but I still love the picture.

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