07 February 2012
Swamplandia! ~ Karen Russell
Been on best seller lists, Nominated for Orange Award
But not for me
This book is inhabited by screwball characters a la Garp or almost anything by John Irving (replace bears+wrestlers with alligators+ghosts). It has larger-than-life characters with complex family relationships (Franzen style). It has a wonderful exotic setting ... "Swamplandia!" is an alligator theme park beset by financial difficulties. The author has a lyrical, descriptive, writing style.
But for me ... I just didn't get it. I just didn't engage.
While it is all vividly brought to life, it was too much of a scatter gun approach, too much jam packed into the narrative. This made it like a rich brocade that was threadbare in places. And one of those places was the climax of the narrative, so having stuck with it, I didn't even feel rewarded at the end (the ethereal rape scene lacked poignancy because it was so surreal).
Too many characters. Not enough depth to the separate narratives that followed either Kiwi or Ava. And enough with the ghost story (how did that barge story add anything but more pages???).