Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Forty Rooms" by Olga Grushin

So, I am going to be the minority here and say I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would. I am not sure I really even liked it. Let me explain...

I requested an eARC and was very excited when Netgalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnum approved my request. Full disclosure- I had so many books to read and review that I did not finish this book before it was released. The book was described like this:

Totally original in conception and magnificently executed, Forty Rooms is mysterious, withholding, and ultimately emotionally devastating. Olga Grushin is dealing with issues of women’s identity, of women’s choices, that no modern novel has explored so deeply. 

“Forty rooms” is a conceit: it proposes that a modern woman will inhabit forty rooms in her lifetime. They form her biography, from childhood to death. For our protagonist, the much-loved child of a late marriage, the first rooms she is aware of as she nears the age of five are those that make up her family’s Moscow apartment. We follow this child as she reaches adolescence, leaves home to study in America, and slowly discovers sexual happiness and love. But her hunger for adventure and her longing to be a great poet conspire to kill the affair. She seems to have made her choice. But one day she runs into a college classmate. He is sure of his path through life, and he is protective of her. (He is also a great cook.) They drift into an affair and marriage. What follows are the decades of births and deaths, the celebrations, material accumulations, and home comforts—until one day, her children grown and gone, her husband absent, she finds herself alone except for the ghosts of her youth, who have come back to haunt and even taunt her. 

Compelling and complex, Forty Rooms is also profoundly affecting, its ending shattering but true. We know that Mrs. Caldwell (for that is the only name by which we know her) has died. Was it a life well lived? Quite likely. Was it a life complete? Does such a life ever really exist? Life is, after all, full of trade-offs and choices. Who is to say her path was not well taken? It is this ambiguity that is at the heart of this provocative novel.

After reading the summary I was very interested in this book. However, after finishing, I was left with the feeling of just "meh". 

I think the biggest disappointment to me was the writing style. This book alternates between typical story telling and lyrical verse/poetry. There was also a lot of talk about poetry, which just doesn't appeal to me.  I think there are readers who will absolutely love the writing style though, so I don't mean to bash the style, it just simply wasn't for me.

Another element that left me confused was the alternating between 1st and 3rd person. It just made it confusing. It made reading disjointed. 

While this book did make me ponder about all the "rooms" of my life, it never really pulled me in. There were times I simply skimmed chapters, not fully understanding if the author was trying to show off her poetry writing skills, or if what I was reading was actually relevant to the story.

All in all, this book had an interesting premise and started out strong but fizzled quickly. Not at all what I was expecting and not my "cup of tea". 

I give this 3 stars. If poetry is something you are interested in I suggest buying and reading Forty Rooms and sharing with me how you feel about this book. 

Happy Reading!

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