Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: During the Reign of the Queen of Persia

The title makes this book sound like it will be some sort of historical fiction. It isn't. It is simply a tale about four girls (cousins) living together in a small Ohio farmhouse and dealing with what it means to be a woman, with life, and with the tragedy of death. The title refers to the matriarch - the grandmother - who is a fiery, determined old woman ruling over her four daughters and their offspring.

This was a book club pick and the first time I have ever read a book for group and then thought to myself, "I really didn't like the book enough to even want to gather around and discuss it." It just wasn't my thing. A winner of several awards for first fiction, lots of people on Amazon are raving about the lyrical writing and comparing it to the writing of Marilynne Robinson (author of the wonderful book, Gilead - a much better read).

If I had to quantify why I didn't really care for the novel, it seems to boil down to nothing drawing me in at any point. It was definitely slow going in the beginning. The characters were neither likeable nor interesting. There was little to call a plot, since it is really a stream-of-consciousness telling of the events leading up to and after the death of their beloved Aunt Grace, from cancer. (Spoiler alert: skip this sentence.) It ends abruptly with one of the granddaughters attempting suicide and losing the baby she was carrying. The ruminations on the difficulties of being a woman grated on me at times. I almost gave up on it several times and would have definitely set it aside if it hadn't been a book club pick. But part of me kept hoping it would pick up after a bit and I would come to feel differently about the book.

Alas, I think I'll be skipping this month's club meeting and wishing I had spent the time reading another book on my huge stack. I've been inundated recently with held books from the library which have come available to me but must be read within the three week loan period because someone else will be waiting for them on the hold list. At the moment, I have nine books due sometime between now and the 31st, which cannot be renewed because they are from a lengthy hold list. Something will have to give or something be neglected. Sadly, they all sound interesting and worthy of my time. Do you ever encounter this kind of problem?

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