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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-1 of 1 reviews(1 star). Show all reviews
on October 9, 2003
I know from the start that I'm going to get slammed for reviling this book, since visitors here at Amazon seem not to judge a review by its quality but rather by the opinion of the reviewer. But I don't care----I can't stand this book.
Those of you who are drawn to "Was" because you stumbled across "Wicked," another Oz-themed book from the 90's, beware. That was my reason for wanting to read it, and man am I horribly disappointed. I couldn't put "Wicked" down; I could barely bring myself to pick "Was" up. By the end, I was reading it simply to finish rather than to find out what happened next.
On the last page of "Was," one character accuses another of not being able to remember what it was like to be a child. One could make the same criticism of Geoff Ryman, the author. For a man who decides to stage a huge portion of his novel from the point of view of children, Ryman is completely inept at giving his writing a child's voice. He's not as interested in exploring how children react and develop in response to environmental and physical circumstances as he is in forcing thoughts and behavior on them that satisfy his pre-conceived notion of how things should turn out. I hope that makes sense--I just didn't believe in any of his characters for one second (except for one, who I'll get to in a minute).
This book is a mish-mash of ideas and agendas. Ryman seems to be trying for a deconstruction of themes associated with "The Wizard of Oz," but fails at that. He seems to be trying for a cautionary tale about letting oneself become disassociated from anything resembling a home, and fails. His book seems to be at varying times a criticism of the treatment of children and at the tail end of the treatment of women, but fails. I cannot put it any more plainly--this book failed to do anything other than make me miserable.
Why did I finish it at all you may ask? Because on paper the story sounds so unique and cool, and other readers here kept promising that at the half-way mark it becomes unputdownable. Well, it doesn't.
There were only two moments of genuinely good writing (or at least more interesting writing) and I guess these are what kept me going, even though they occur early on. One involves Judy Garland's makeup artist during the filming of "Oz," and this is interesting only because I'm a film buff and the Hollywood studio setting added a welcome relief from the drudgery of the other stories. The second part is an all-too short soliloquy delivered by Judy Garland's mother, and to give Ryman credit, it's a beautiful piece of writing. The rest is miserable, gloomy, depressing drek.
You know what this reminded me of? "The Hours," by Michael Cunningham, except I love that book. Like Cunningham's novel, "Was" plays with inter-related stories in the same way, and creates parallels between the present and the past and has characters struggling with some of the same universal issues that plague us and have plagued us in both the past and the present. Except that Cunningham is a good writer and Ryman is not.
I guess Ryman is a fantasy writer, and I don't know anything about anything else he's written, and now I don't want to.
I'm sorry to write such a rambling, bitter review, but this book really made me feel lousy, and I'm so glad my reading experience is over.
Needless to say, I'm not recommending this one.
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