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Swamplandia! Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 1, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
Now that I'm done with this novel, I'm not sure I'm glad I read it. And it's as much my fault as it is that of its marketing.
First, I want to make it clear that author Karen Russell does indeed have prodigious talent. She writes with passion and energy, and there is not a page of this book that doesn't carry her florid stamp upon it.
It also has a great cover, and my paperback edition's dappled, textured surface makes it a pleasure to hold. And inside that cover are five pages of glowing reviews.
To be sure, one of the reasons I picked up this book was the teaser on the back cover: "As (the narrator) sets out on a mission through the magical swamps to save them all, we are drawn into a lush and bravely imagined debut that takes us to the shimmering edge of reality." So I should have been prepared for a "bravely imagined book." And, well, I got that...but I can't help but feel it has some major flaws.
First: as to her talent, there is much to applaud; there is an ethereal aura of fantasy to much of this. As her debut work it is remarkable...her words have a magic to them all of their own, an alluring quality that makes the words on the page seem more like ripples in a small sea, rushing by you as you read. She knows how to turn a phrase, and the florid, fecund swamp is a rich field for her to plumb, yielding a bounty of surreal images and dark magic.
Here is one remarkable passage out of a million: "What rolled through Louis' mind were like the shells of thoughts, a series of O!s, round and empty, like the discarded rinds of screams.Read more ›
After Hilola's death, Ava, the youngest, narrates the downward spiral of her family: oldest brother Kiwi goes to work at a rival theme park in a desperate attempt to alleviate the family's financial distress; middle sister Osceola discovers a book of spells and starts dating ghosts, and their father, Chief Bigtree, disappears to the mainland. Ava becomes determined to do something to save her family and especially her sister, who disappears on a journey to the Underworld to marry her ghost boyfriend. Ava ventures after her, into a journey that is more fraught with danger than she could have imagined. This journey is fraught with tension but it takes a sudden dark, disturbing turn that, without giving away any spoilers, felt like it had broken away from the original spirit of the book. The transition from magical realism to harsh, ugly reality was just too sudden to me.
The writing is very descriptive and quite lovely, but at times it almost feels like too much--or perhaps just feels misplaced, as sometimes it felt like you had to wade through a great deal of description to get to the plot.Read more ›
"Swamplandia!" is a novel infused with eccentricity. The quirks within the family itself are enough to populate a John Irving novel (and that's pretty quirky!). But like Irving, Russell has grounded her characters with an underlying sadness, yearning, and even hope that intimately connects the reader to their struggle. When a rival amusement park opens, everyone is desperate to keep the tourists rolling in. Kiwi sets off to the city and ends up working at the new attraction in an effort to raise funds for their diminishing empire.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderfully creative, touching and provocative. Ms Russell is such a skilled artist. I was captivated from beginning to end!Published 19 days ago by Mark Power
I begin, as usual, to annotate my copy of Swamplandia! because that’s what I do when reading a book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by RNJ
Ummm...not even sure what to say about this book. Passed it over several times until I saw it on a list of books written over the last 5 years that "all women should... Read morePublished 1 month ago by JudyPov
Amazon, if I purchased a book, why can’t I post a review of it without having to negotiate your asinine multiple-choice questions? Read morePublished 1 month ago by H. Williams
This was my favorite kind of book - weird and different and bordering closely to the supernatural - without actually crossing over. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Shan Leah
Intricate language (I had to look up multiple words, which is unusual and intriguing) and fantastical voyages for the three Bigtree children creates a vivid image in the reader's... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Natalie Downing
I liked the writing, but not always loved the story. I'm glad I didn't grow up in a swamp! I don't know that I would recommend this book but I'm glad I finished it.Published 2 months ago by amy