Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Am I Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

I guess not.

Last night, while suffering through a really impressive attack of insomnia, I promised myself I could quit reading Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge. I'm not proud of myself. The book is supposed to be for kids in Grades 5 and up, after all. But I felt totally overwhelmed by what seemed to me to be a complex religious system for the world of the novel as well as the political skullduggery being carried on amongst two guilds, a group called the Birdcatchers, which probably has some religious significance, but maybe not, and which may not still be around at the time of the story, and a crazy Duke who pines away for some seriously creepy twin Queens. (I rather liked that part.)

After looking at some on-line commentary about Fly By Night, I'm now guessing that the never-ending list of bizarre household gods or saints or whatever they are is supposed to be funny. That shot right over my head. And I could not for the life of me figure out who were supposed to be the good guys and who the bad guys. And that's fine. I agree. That's sophisticated. But in this case, I could just barely keep these people with their funny names apart, let alone figure out who was after whom and why.

And I read 267 pages out of the total of 483.

Our heroine, Mosca Mye, is an attractive character, though she falls into that stereotype of motherless girl who is bookish because she has been brought up by a scholarly father. She travels with a vicious goose. That was mildly amusing, but I kept wondering, Why a goose?

I also found reading the book very slow going. I've been working on it for a good week, I'm sure. I think that perhaps the language is a little...artie...for my taste. Very elegant, maybe, for the sake of being elegant? Many similes, for instance, which are supposed to compare something unknown with something known, didn't quite do the trick. "His every sentence began in a deep, sonorous, church-bell voice, and ended in a chatty, rough-cut tone like a peddler's shamble." I believe the author was comparing a character's voice to a peddler's shamble, but I don't know what a peddler's shamble sounds like. That description, and others like it, weren't very helpful to me. They were just words for me to slug my way through.

Fly By Night isn't a bad book. I think there was probably a story, or maybe even stories, in there that I would have enjoyed. I just think that maybe there was too much in the book. Too much for me, anyway.

Not for Fuse #8, though. She loved Fly By Night, as did other bloggers.


Blogger Kelly said...

While I liked parts of "Fly By Night" (Mosca, the Goose), it really only should have been 287 pages. I think you've read it.

10:22 PM  
Blogger gail said...

You know, that may be right on the money. I kept reading and reading but the story never seemed to progress. I did sometimes feel it seemed like an early draft and should have been edited some more.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

I've still not read this - and your comments and Kelly's are not inspiring me to read it !

Surely a "peddlar's shamble" is the way a peddlar walks, not talks - in which cause how can a voice sound like the way someone walks ?

11:21 AM  
Blogger gail said...

That's what threw me.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

I'm not surprised you were thrown Gail - I'd probably have thrown the book onto the bed !

6:21 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Well, my interest is certainly piqued to the point of tracking down a copy of this title -- but I would like to venture an opinion on a completely different topic.

As a person whose household has included a total of eight geese, I think that if you want your character to have an aggressive pet, and you have for some reason ruled out a dog, then a goose is the obvious next choice. Plus, they are sort of inherently comical, except when it hurts.

12:19 PM  
Blogger gail said...

I can certainly see your point about geese. But in the context of the story, I think she's the only person who keeps an animal with her and why a goose? I think there needs to be a reason. Unless, of course, it's in the last couple of hundred pages that I didn't read.

I think it's wonderful you've become interested enough in this book to look for a copy. This is why I believe it's important to respond to (in my case)or actually review (as others do) books that you don't necessarily love. You are still getting titles out before your audience, you are still giving those books a chance to attract a reader. It can't happen if you say nothing at all.

12:36 PM  
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2:00 AM  

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