|Publisher||:||Alfaguara Ediciones, S.A Spain April 2003|
|Number of Pages||:||309 Pages|
|File Size||:||668 KB|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
En America Reviews
Reading this book is like having someone snatch a particularly juicy feast out from under your nose before you've had the chance to enjoy it properly. "In America" is a rich tale to savor, but slices of it are underdone and it comes to such an abrupt end that the reader is left wondering what happened to the final course.Starting the novel with an awkward Zero chapter--meant, I think, to better explain the characters--Susan Sontag tells of Maryna Zalezowska, the leading Polish actress of the 1870s, who comes to California to open a utopian commune near Anaheim. The commune quickly fails, and Zalezowska begins the task of reinventing herself as an American actress. She does this brilliantly, and begins a new career traveling across the United States in a private train car performing everything from Shakespeare to the 19th century's favorite sob-fest, "East Lynne."The sections on how an actress of that age learned and prepared roles, and the insight into nuts-and-bolts workings of 19th century American theater are marvelous, as are the stunning monologue chapters expressing the three main characters' internal and external struggles (the book ends with a devastating monologue by Edwin Booth that is one terrific piece of writing). On the other hand some of the characters are barely sketched and "In America" simply ends. There's no resolution, no sense that the last page of the book should be the last page-in fact, you'll probably turn that page expecting a concluding chapter. And you'll feel cheated.There's something mean about allowing readers such access to characters' minds and emotions and then chopping the narrative when there is obviously so much to come. Is it that Sontag can't sustain the narrative? The novel reads that way.It is hard to know how many stars to give "In America." I found much of it fascinating, but felt slighted by the lack of resolution. Yes, even though I know that the real-life model for Maryna, Helena Modjeska, had a long and successful career before retiring to the remote Southern California canyon that still bears her name, I feel robbed of the chance to follow her there, guided by Sontag's masterly hand.
In 1876, a group of Polish immigrants flee the Russian authorities that control their native land. They establish a commune in Southern California. The person behind the journey is Poland's leading actress, Maryna Zalewska who has given up the stage to be with her husband and son IN AMERICA. She persuades several individuals and families to join her on her quest for freedom.However, political and social freedom does not necessarily mean economic freedom. The commune fails, leaving its bankrupt members wary and disillusioned with their taste of freedom. Maryna, not one to sit around and mope, returns to the stage where she becomes the "American" rival to Sara Bernhardt. She wonders about her future IN AMERICA and the dreams that died with the collapse of the commune. With novels like THE VOLCANO LOVER and IN AMERICA, Susan Sontag has become the novelist of choice for historiographers and anyone who enjoys a well-researched period piece. The story line is filled with the abject lessons of American history that is not covered in American classroom settings. Maryna is an intriguing character and her ability to adapt to circumstances is admirable. She fails to gain reader empathy because nothing really disturbs her except her own ennui. Fans who enjoy a well-written historical novel will find Ms. Sontag's tale enchanting and entertaining.Harriet Klausner
Sontag had fun recreating all this history and I enjoyed reading it, to a point. What was that long monologue by Edwin Booth - a character who did not appear in the book until nearly the end - doing as a conclusion to a book that was about Maryna? I skipped it. Why not conclude as she began with the conceit of the writer being drawn in by the characters, at the end drawing away and telling the reader how their lives went on?
In a long and very public career, Susan Sontag has made a great many pronouncements, and inevitably some have come back to haunt her. Certainly her characterization of the white race as the cancer of history seens like a grandiose bit of breast-beating. But hey, there's no point in beating up on her new novel for a statement she made nearly 25 years ago. "In America" is by no means a perfect work of fiction--to call it a novel of ideas is in fact the highest compliment AND the lowest blow you could aim at it. Yet it's packed with strange and cerebral wonders that only Sontag could dream up. And the protagonist is a truly memorable, realistically erratic diva, who cuts a dramatic (in every sense of the word) swathe across late Victorian America.
What a disappointing bore! Our reading group expected an interesting and vibrant story about the utopian communities that formed in California in the 1870s. What we got was a long-winded diatribe without enlightnment of the supposed subject matter. Where was the plot? Where was the character development? In terms of both style and content, our book club all agreed that this was the most poorly written book we've read. Some of the books we've thought had interesting, thought-provoking stories include: Tales of Genji, White Oleander, Yellow Raft on Blue Water, and The Poisonwood Bible. We didn't feel that there was any beauty to the writing in Sontag's book. We agreed that we would have been interested in discovering more about the characters and their lives. However, it elicited no emotions or insights for us. It didn't capture the beauty of California or inform the reader about early California life. It was just rambling blah, blah, blah!
It was great experience to read this book. Yeah! it's great.