Catch the Rabbit — Restless Books

I feel like every good thing I have to say about this book comes with a caveat.

First, Lana Bastašić can write. Her similes are just impeccable; they pack a punch–this is a good thing, but also a bad thing, because I feel like Bastašić’s descriptive writing is almost exclusively reliant on similes. If Bastašić wants to describe something, it’s always “X is like Y” or “X does Y as though it’s Z.” And that’s pretty much the extent of what you get in terms of formal variety in this book. As much as I loved the similes, they started to get old very quickly, especially when you start to notice three or four consecutive ones on the same page.

Second, I thought the character exploration in Catch the Rabbit was fascinating. Being inside Sara’s head was unsettling, especially as she’s the kind of character who fixates on everything where her friend Lejla is concerned. And “friend” is a very fraught term in this novel; Sara and Lejla’s relationship is far from clear-cut or uncomplicated. And to a certain extent, I liked that; I liked that you couldn’t ever really put a finger on what was happening between Sara and Lejla, on the kind of friendship that they had, or indeed if what existed between them could even be called a “friendship.”

What I didn’t like, though–and here’s that caveat–is that all this character exploration skewed a bit melodramatic. At a certain point, every moment in Catch the Rabbit started to feel like a Moment, and it grated on me. I don’t mind symbolism–what is fiction about if not things symbolizing other things–but when everything in your novel is Symbolic–when every event becomes imbued with monumental importance–the narrative ends up feeling incredibly bloated and frankly, exhausting. I love symbolic moments and all, and they suit given that Sara, the narrator, is writing this story down retrospectively, and so is liable to embellish and give meaning to events that might not have otherwise meant a lot, but Bastašić just took it too far. It got to a point where I couldn’t parse out what these characters were actually feeling beyond the overwhelming cloud of Literary Significance that crowded every single moment.

So all in all, a mixed bag.

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Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

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“Always it was the same, Furlong thought; always they carried mechanically on, without pause, to the next job at hand. What would life be like, he wondered, if they were given time to think and to reflect over things? Might their lives be different or much the same – or would they just lose the run of themselves?”

A gentle, moving novella about the small moments that make up a life, and that have the power to change it as well. I enjoyed this, but I can’t say much more than that. It’s the kind of story you read, and enjoy while you’re reading, but not really the kind of story you’re likely to think about after you’ve finished it. I found this forgettable, yes, but that doesn’t mean that that will be the case for you too. I’d still recommend this, and I will definitely read whatever Claire Keegan comes out with next.

Thanks so much to Grove Press for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I think my biggest impression of this novel is just how full of love it is. Casey McQuiston poured their heart and soul into this story and it really shows. 💖💖💖💖

Casey McQuiston is just so good at creating a sense of community. Of course the romance is great–Jane is such a charismatic character, it’s virtually impossible not to love her as much as August does–but the side characters bring so much life and vitality to this novel. It’s testament to how well McQuiston develops them that you become as invested in them as you are in the main characters. Also, where I found Red, White and Royal Blue too plot-heavy for my taste, I thought One Last Stop had just the right amount of plot: just enough to give the story momentum, but not so much that it detracted from the romance.

I loved this a lot, and I’m sure a lot of people will, because it’s just really, really good.

Thanks so much to Macmillan Audio for providing me with an audiobook ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

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BOOK REVIEW: THE GREAT MISTAKE by JONATHAN LEE The Great Mistake: A novel (9780525658498): Lee, Jonathan: Books

“He would go looking for it everywhere in the years to come. Love, love, love. As if it were a coin to be found in a field, or a park. As if it could be obtained without forfeiture.”

I think I wanted to like this more than I did, but I still really did like it.

First of all: Jonathan Lee’s writing is absolutely exquisite. I could run through a whole laundry list of adjectives, here: beautiful, evocative, moving, earnest, endearing. Reading The Great Mistake, you get the sense that Lee is genuinely enjoying playing with language, stretching and shaping it to his own ends. If I were rating this novel on the basis of its writing alone, it would without a doubt get a 5 stars. As an example: Lee’s writing can take something as simple as a hug and turn it into this,

“And then, after a moment of hesitation, comes the embrace–one that seems to lack a center. A feeling of being held only by the very edges of who you are. Of wanting, so intensely, to be brought into the heart.”

One reason the writing works so well is because it almost effortlessly endears you to the novel’s main character, Andrew. You get such an intimate sense of his longing and his loneliness, his persistent sense of inadequacy and alienation. I’ve never felt so sympathetic towards a character so quickly.

Plot is where this novel falls short. The plot of The Great Mistake feels a bit janky, like an object with all its screws a little loose. The object still presents well, but when you hold it, you can’t help but feel like it’s about to come apart in your hands. Despite the beautiful writing, this novel was missing a strong, more streamlined plot. It has two timeliness, one following Andrew’s past, and one following the present investigation of his murder (the first line of the book is literally: “The last attempt on the life of Andrew Haswell Green took place on Park Avenue in 1903”). I was much more invested in the former plotline than the latter; the whole murder mystery aspect of it all didn’t really feel like it belonged to the novel, and as a plotline it felt shoddy, with characters I didn’t much care about doing things I also didn’t much care about.

Despite the weakness of its plot, though, the writing in this novel is so strong that it almost makes up for that plot’s inadequacies. Almost being the operative word, here, since the writing never fully picks up the slack from the plot. Still, though, an excellent novel.

Thanks so much to Granta for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

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