Monday, November 26, 2007

Disobedience by Jane Hamilton

Oh, I did not like this book. I could hardly bear to finish it, and the only reason I stayed with it was because I was on an airplane and it was this, or Us magazine.

This book is about Henry, a teenage boy who is obsessed with his mother’s extramarital affair and who stalks her and her lover via their e-mail messages which he reads on the sly. What oedipal conclusions should we draw? Especially when we find out that a psychic has revealed that Henry and his mother were once married in an earlier life. Yuck. Henry also has a little sister, Elvira. Are we expected to believe that any parent in the contemporary U.S. would bestow this name on a child? Elvira is obsessed with Civil War re-enactments, and prefers to dress in her recreated uniform, complete with sword. She even attends family weddings in this getup. One review said this book was filled with “gentle humor.” More like grotesque humor. These people are weird, and not the least bit sympathetic.

Worse, Hamilton’s prose just goes on and on. She interrupts herself constantly with incomprehensible digressions. I read many paragraphs after which I would say to myself “okay, what was that about?” and I would be forced to answer “I haven’t the faintest idea.” Jane Hamilton is one of those authors whose popularity and acclaim I don’t understand. I tried to read The Book of Ruth years ago, and hated that also. Is it just me? Is there something I’m missing?

(Book 52, 2007)

8 comments:

Megan said...

Jane Hamilton is one of those authors whose books I seem to "collect" but not read. The only one that I have read, her newest, When Madeline Was Young was, in my opinion, a dismal effort with unlikeable characters and minimal plot. I can't weigh in on the rest of her work, but if the one that I've read is any indication, I agree with you on not understanding all the acclaim!

Kay said...

I think I tried to read this one several years ago. I know that I tried to read The Book of Ruth and just could not get through it. I gave Jane Hamilton up and decided that she just wasn't for me.

Maxine said...

This is why I rarely go anywhere without two books! (The other reason is because I fear being stuck in a broken down train or something, finishing my book, and having nothing to read.)

Susan B. de Philly said...

Okay, call me weird, but I thought this book was GREAT! Henry's relationships with his mom and sister struck me as very interesting and I loved the girl's obsession with the Civil War and the family's with Morris dancing and such-like.

I also thought the prose was very good and the asides insightful. Jeez Louise, we really differ on this one, Becky. Different strokes for different folks, I guess!

Becky said...

Maxine, I once wrote a post about airplane books, and the need for a backup book. I almost always have two also, so I can have one in reserve. I was just too disorganized on this trip to follow my own rules.

Becky said...

Susan, I KNEW you were going to say you liked this book. I even thought about ending my post with a question for you, like, "Susan, tell me what I am missing!"

Okay, and I have to admit I liked the bits about the music camp and the Morris dancing. I think she captured that well. I liked Henry's relationship with Lily, which I think was the most realistic part of the book. So it wasn't all bad.

Nonanon said...

Well, that's a shame. Of all the Oprah books I've forced myself to read over the years, "The Book of Ruth" was one of the few I remember fondly. And the cover of Disobedience is so beautiful, too.

a fool in love said...

As someone who experienced a similar affair, I must say that Disobedience was a chillingly accurate depiction of the heart-wrenching pull between "freedom and passion," as she herself puts it. It made me think that poor Jane must have been in such a situation, to know so well how torturous it can be. If you haven't had to experience that, then you're fortunately not on the same wave length and the book perhaps isn't for you. It helped me quite a lot, just to better understand the solitary pain I went through. so thank you Jane Hamilton.

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