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Chris Johnson has commented on (8) products.

Bridge of Sighs: A Novel by Richard Russo
Bridge of Sighs: A Novel

Chris Johnson, June 3, 2008

Richard Russo continues to explore the interactions between love, friendship, and family. I think this is his most ambitious book so far, and I give him full marks for challenging himself and his readers. The Bridge of Sighs is a bridge in Venice over which prisoners used to pass on their way to prison, often seeing Venice for the last time. Russo skillfully manages this as a metaphor throughout the book, while also pulling together apparently independent threads of narrative. The first half of the book is a dead-on description of the trials of junior high school in '50s - '70s America, which had me squirming with recognition, and was the highlight of the book for me.

Russo chose as his primary narrative the first-person account of Lou C. Lynch. In keeping with the character's personality, the writing is generally plain, straightforward prose. In one sense, this is a real accomplishment because it so perfectly fits the character. On the other hand, as others have commented, it makes for slow going at times. Not all of the book is narrated by Lynch. Parts of the book feature an omniscient narrator (or two, I sometimes felt - a Thomaston narrator and a Noonan narrator). This shifting perspective is necessary for the plot, but is sometimes awkward. Unlike Russo's other novels, the ending of Bridge of Sighs seemed aimless to me and left me disappointed. If you've read and enjoyed any of his other books, you should read Bridge of Sighs. If you are new to Richard Russo, I would recommend Nobody's Fool or Empire Falls as a better place to start.
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(17 of 26 readers found this comment helpful)

The Polish Officer by Alan Furst
The Polish Officer

Chris Johnson, June 2, 2008

I have enjoyed all of the Alan Furst novels that I have read, and this was no exception. The descriptions of wartime Poland and pre-Anschluss Paris in this novel are wonderful. Furst is great at intuiting and describing the practicalities of everyday life in wartime and occupation. de Milja is a somewhat reluctant spy, and Furst does a nice job of describing his "learning curve." The storyline in this novel is straightforward compared to most of Furst's other novels, and I was not particularly moved by de Milja's relationship with his wife, nor did I really see its relevance to de Milja's character and actions. Still, worth every penny.
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(6 of 11 readers found this comment helpful)

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
Consider Phlebas

Chris Johnson, June 2, 2008

The best place to start if you want to read the Culture novels of Iain M. Banks. This was the first one, with the greatest insight into the Culture. A more-or-less straightforward "space western" plot, but populated by imaginative and fascinating life forms, and with a fantastic denouement. Banks writes gripping stories with imagination, nuance, and moral complexity.
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(10 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)

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