Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Forrests by Emily Perkins

The Forrests by Emily Perkins is definitely a novel that has me divided. Can you love the writing while failing to love the book? Because in certain moments, this was pure genius, but in others in left me grasping for something to hold onto, something to make me understand, and mostly for something to keep my attention.

It's the story of Dorothy Forrest, and despite being about 350 pages it manages to cover her entire life– and it's not a short one. But it's not just Dorothy's story, it's the entire Forrest family, transplanted from New York to New Zealand, and their complex and passionate relationships.

But because the story covers so much time, it means that a lot has to be skipped to fit it all in. Perkins' writing isn't vague, quite the opposite actually. It is flashes, snapshots, vivid and bright, but surrounded by empty space. The gap between photos– where the reader can only guess what happens. The Forrests flutters from one event to another without being clear on the passing of time, or what happened in between, and that made it difficult to follow and not the kind of book I was eager to return to once I set it down.

And that's where my conflict is. Even though there were many moments of brilliance, sometimes even an entire chapter or vignette, The Forrests is not the kind of book that left me craving more. It is definitely not a novel I would reread (though there are very few that fall into that category anyway). It's not even about the lack of plot, though readers should be prepared for that as well, and has much more to do with the lack of clarity. It wasn't just the story that puzzled me, but often the characters too. Many characters had only brief appearances but even those that were around more often weren't ones whose thoughts or motivations I could clearly grasp. The result was a book that was difficult to follow, no matter how many pages I read or how long I waited.

For the right reader, The Forrests will be breathtaking. Perkins is incredibly adept at beautiful phrases and moments, and if she wrote one, I think I'd fall in love with a short story by her because that's basically what many of the chapters were. But unfortunately lovely writing alone cannot sustain an entire novel, and as a result The Forrests left me wanting more from the characters and the story than Perkins provided.

Release Date: August 7th 2012  Pages: 352  Format: ARC 
Source: TLC Book Tours Publisher: Bloomsbury USA  Buy It: Book Depository

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