27. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet, 416 pages, read by Angie, on 04/23/2012

This is a multi-generational story about one family covering WWI through modern day. This book is told through the viewpoint of Clem as he tells his story and the story of his grandmother, mother and father this telling is interrupted with historical asides about the Cuban Missile Crisis which coincides to the tales of Clem’s teen years.

As I was reading this I kept questioning the placement of this book in the teen section; it reads more like an adult book then teen. Not that teens can’t read and enjoy it, but most of the characters are adults and the situations they deal with are more adult. They only teen storyline is Clem’s teen years and that doesn’t even read as a major plot point. I don’t think adults would read it and think they were reading a teen book.

I like multi-generational historical fiction. I like knowing what happens to an entire family. It makes the family more real to me and helps really set their place in a historical sense. Clem and his family all have very similar experiences…disappointment, lovelessness, loneliness, wanting more but not getting it, not being happy. I think their lives are interesting in their mediocrity. Unfortunately, Peet breaks up this story of the family with constant back and forths through time and asides about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The back and forths through time are not really the problem. They do break up the flow of the narrative but you can deal with them. The historical information however is dry, boring and reads like a textbook at times. You wonder about the authenticity and accuracy of the information. I think the book would have been better served without this information.

Then there is the end…I understand what Peet was trying to do here. He wanted to show the similarities between the Cuban Missile Crisis and 9/11. Unfortunately, it just comes off as too coincidental and too much of a set up. I didn’t buy it and I didn’t like it. This book is getting great reviews and lots of people love it. So don’t take my word for it…read it for yourself and decide.

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