- Unknown Binding
- ISBN-10: 1588365182
- ISBN-13: 978-1588365187
- Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Queen of the Underworld: A Novel
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Top Customer Reviews
1950's. But somewhere in there, Godwin seems to have completely bypassed the plot. She gets the nitty gritty of a newsroom right, and then does very little with it.
There was, I felt, an element of "Mary Sue-ishness" in it. Except for the evil stepfather (a minor character without the rich extensive history given most of the others), everyone seems to be standing in line to tell Emma (protagonist) how clever, pretty, stylish, bold, talented writer/reporter, she is. This got annoying. Except for a streak of perfectionism, she was perfect! That makes for a boring heroine no matter how "grirry" her job.
Also, the title is misleading. Emma, through sheer coincidence, manages to make contact with a young woman who gained notoriety by running a charm school for call girls. I expected much more of her story, which was dropped for pages before being brought up again at the end. This was frustrating because the "Queen of the Underworld" was a truly fascinating character, even more so than the heroine.
In addition for someone who has been extensively physically and sexually abused as a girl, Emma's adult relationships were amazingly stress free and wholesome. How can she possibly trust men as partners wholeheartedly after being beaten and raped by her stepfather? This rang false.
After completing around 100 pages, I was still waiting for anything to happen, other than the introduction of characters, the writing of a few newspaper stories by Emma, and several meals. I determined that I would finish the book regardless, and it was a disappointment that by the end, I still felt that essentially very little of interest had happened.
Many plot threads were introduced and never resolved. These dead ends were distracting, because I had noted them and imbued them with future significance, which never happened. For example, Emma's aunt Tess is involved in a plot with her employer, a Cuban expatriate dentist, to smuggle weapons into Cuba. We never learn how either of them became involved in this, what eventually happened with the weapons, or the significance of their involvement. The plot, if you can call it that, was thin and aimless. With such rich potential - the Miami of the late 50s, during the early days of Castro's regime - the plot could have been incredibly meaningful and complex - but unfortunately it's almost as if we see it through the eyes of an uninformed person who doesn't understand what she is seeing.
Most of the characters are rather flat and undeveloped. I hate to say it, but they seem like caricatures. An example is Lydia, the Cuban mother of Alex, the manager of Emma's hotel. From statements that Alex makes, we realize that he feels manipulated and used by his mother, but this is never explored or explained. She's just a self-centered fashion plate who likes to throw parties.Read more ›
This book is a definite NOT!
In 1959, no woman directly out of college would have been hired as a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper. I was a journalism major in the mid-60s and the best I could hope for was a job on the society pages on a small paper or copy editor (if I were lucky) on a large one. All the job offers I received were for secretarial positions with the possibility of free lancing and maybe "working my way up." (And, yes, I had experience, had been published in Sunday magazine supplements, worked on several college publications, and done co-op work on a local weekly paper.) I went to grad school instead in an unrelated field.
But I decided to suspend my disbelief and plod on. I'm sorry I did. Nothing else about the plot was in any way realistic.
And then everything just stopped. There were no resolutions to any of the plot lines. Why was the book called "Queen of the Underworld" when she's a minor character barely mentioned? Why was the main character crazy about her married lover, but then not upset when he was no longer coming to Miami? Did the Cubans she helped leave the US get arrested in Cuba? The book ended and I kept checking to make sure the last 50-100 pages (it would have taken that many to have resolved all the subplots) hadn't been torn out.
I'm not sure if I'm more frustrated, disappointed, or angry. I'm glad that I borrowed the book from the library and didn't waste money on it.
Emma joins the Star's reporting staff at a tumultuous time, shortly after Fidel Castro enacted his First Agrarian Reform. Living in a hotel run by Cuban émigrés for Cuban émigrés makes the upheavals of Castro's revolución more than just news to Emma. Placing her in this context, the author seems to be drawing a comparison between Emma's situation and that of the Cubans. As Emma is struggling to figure out her place in the world and gauge her future success, so are her newly exiled neighbors.
The more one reads into the life history of the author, the more Queen of the Underworld begins to seem like a semi-autobiographical novel. Godwin herself graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1959 and spent a year on the staff of the Miami Herald before embarking on the world travels that sparked her literary career.
What is most curious about the novel is that it takes place over such a short period of time. The story of Emma's coming into her own, Queen of the Underworld is a window into what seems to be a key moment in Emma's development, one that may affect her entire career. Godwin, however, manages to squeeze an unbelievable amount of action into less than two weeks.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This portrait of a writer as a young woman in the 1950s is now one of my favorite. Both romantic and sharp, it's a needed addition to the male canon.Published 1 month ago by E. Brunn
I've liked some of Gail Godwin's other books--especially "A Mother and Two Daughters." This one drags. Read morePublished 5 months ago by pangur
I was very disappointed in this book. Like others have said, it started out with what a lot of promise and interesting characters, then fizzled out. Read morePublished 6 months ago by K. Mitchell
Read this book based on Godwin's other fine writing. BIG DISAPPOINTMENT.....90% of the book takes places in a ten day span.....VERY unrealistic. And then the book STOPS ! Read morePublished 6 months ago by Treasure Hunter
One has to ask : "what happen here?".
This is really not good at all.
Underdeveloped characters, implausible story lines. Read more
This book did not do it for me. I waited and waited for a plot.
It was exactly like reading the diary of a recent college graduate. Read more
Great depiction of 1960s Miami and all the drama unfolding with the Cuban exiles. Funny and very literary! Loved it! Was sad to say goodbye.Published 20 months ago by susan Nefzger