I gave in and read this, although I was wary; too much fuss. It turns out this is one of those hugely successful books I can’t explain to myself. But then I suppose tornados are exciting too. A tornado may be formidable and awe-inspiring, but mostly they are brash, messy affairs.
This novel certainly gets your attention, but then it’s mostly sound and fury. Lots of interesting bits of history flying around, gone before you can get a good look at them, and then disappearing into the general chaos. The premise is intriguing, but it plays out in a most disappointing way at the end. Wise old woman scolds men for running after the wrong things, and the reader is left feeling scolded too. Good trick if you can pull it off: set the reader up for something big and them make them feel guilty for wanting it. Except not every reader will fall for it.
Finally, in this novel at least, Brown is (and I’ve thought about this for a while before decided on this word) stylistically clumsy. There’s no rhythm in the prose, and every other sentence is built on the same diagram, ala: Putting her pen down, the reviewer contemplated what to say next. Scanning the dictionary, she found no better way to put it. Contemplating why this novel frustrated her, she finally went to bed.