Goodreads Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

A Girl Is a Half-formed ThingA Girl Is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is heartbreaking. Brain tumors, abuse, incest(ish), self-hatred – it’s all there, and it’s raw and dizzying. The narrator is a girl in trouble, a girl desperately trying to find something, anything to hold onto.

But something has to be said about the Joycean stream-of-consciousness narrating. At some points, it worked really well, showcasing the narrator’s frame of mind better than standard prose could have – but at other times it felt forced and unnecessarily disruptive.

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Things We Watched: Woman in Gold

Over the weekend, we saw The Woman in Gold. Starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, the movie is the true story of Maria Altmann, who battled the Austrian government to reclaim a family painting (the stunning Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, or Woman in Gold, by Gustav Klimt) that had been stolen by the Nazis.

The Woman in Gold

The Woman in Gold | image source

The movie probably isn’t going to win any awards (it has a 52% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but the story is fascinating. After her sister dies, Maria is sorting through her things and discovers correspondence related to a previous attempt to reclaim the portrait of their aunt, which the Austrian gallery had claimed had been bequeathed to them in the aunt’s will. Intrigued by the revelation that previous lawyers had never been able to view the will itself, Maria hires Randy, the son of a friend and a young lawyer struggling to establish himself.

The Austrian government views the portrait as a national treasure and is not prepared to let go without a fight. You can stop reading here if you’re worried about spoilers – but it’s not hard to guess that the movie has a happy ending. (How depressing would it be if, after all the personal sacrifices that were made and soul searching that was done, the movie simply ended with our heroes in defeat?)

Even after Maria and Randy dig up the original copy of the will – as well as some other documents proving that the painting is being held illegally by the gallery – an Austrian restitution committee refuses to return the painting. Randy and Maria find a loophole allowing them to sue the Austrian government in American courts. Unsurprisingly, the Austrian government opposes that, and, before you know it, they’re appearing before the Supreme Court. The eventually agree to mediation, and then to have the dispute arbitrated in Austria. After reviewing the evidence, the arbitration panel finds in favor of our heroes, and justice prevails.

Goodreads Review: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this so much more than I did. I really hate it when people dislike a book because they didn’t like the main character, but, man, I just couldn’t muster any empathy for Nate whatsoever. He was a self-obsessed misogynist. I liked Nate’s smarmy, class-obsessed friend Jason better than I liked Nate. I liked Roland Nair from Denis Johnson’s The Laughing Monsters more than I liked Nate, and that is really saying something because Roland Nair is an actively bad man. Because I found Nate to be such an objectionable human, undeserving of even a base level of happiness, I couldn’t read any of the scenes without hoping that his girlfriend(s) would put him in his place and then leave him, or wondering why his friend Aurit, who was portrayed as a successful, confident woman, continued to socialize with such a pompous, woman-hating jerk.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the book on an aesthetic level. The writing was smart and engaging – this is one of those books where you can really tell that the author has carefully chosen each and every word. The characters were well-developed and lifelike (although I will note that I thought that Hannah turned a less-believable corner toward the end), and the book made me super-nostalgic for Brooklyn.

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Easter weekend in Cincinnati

Over the Easter weekend, my mom and I drove from Illinois to meet my brother in Cincinnati. It was rather gloomy when we arrived on Friday night, but we waited out the rain with cocktails in the hotel bar. We claimed a spot by the window and amused ourselves with people-watching and feeling second-hand vertigo as the woman across the street leaned outside her third-story windows to clean them.

When the rain cleared, we grabbed some Indian food for dinner and then a couple of drinks. We started with fancy cocktails at the Orchids Bar in the Hilton, and then move to bourbon cocktails at Horse & Barrel. The bourbon sour was amazing.

Bourbon Sour @ Horse & Barrel, Cincinnati

Fantastic bourbon sour with luxardo cherries at the Horse & Barrel in Cincinnati.

Luckily, Saturday was a much nicer day and we spent most of it walking around outdoors. We strolled through Eden Park..

Eden Park, Cincinnati

Family photo in the park.

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