Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
I thought I would be through with this book a week ago, and have it neatly reviewed and happily housed on one of my bookshelves. Unfortunately, I have had some trouble reading this one, and have decided to take a break. I am a native born Floridian. No, really. I am. Just me and that guy up in the Panhandle. 🙂 And as a native-born Floridian, I have always been partial to good books set in my state. They are hard to come by, even though you would think the state would really lend itself to adventuresome tales of every kind. Maybe it does, actually. Just not always GOOD ones. Of course, I compare many of them to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling or Cross Creek, and most suffer by that comparison. Swamplandia! got such glowing reviews, and the blurbs sounded so quirky and offbeat, I just KNEW I was going to love it. Perhaps my expectations were too high, because for the last ten days, I’ve felt like I was slogging through an actual mosquito-infested Florida swamp while reading this one.
I would like to point out that I think Karen Russell’s writing style is first-rate. She handles words in a very interesting manner, especially when she uses them in unique ways. Like saying the wind “silked” in through a window. Instantly, you know the wind felt like silk against the skin, but the use of silk as a verb was inspired. So I just want to be clear that Russell’s prose is often beautiful. My problem is that the story moved very slowly, in odd fits and starts, and worse than that, it was unrelentingly depressing. I admit, I was forewarned about the latter. Several reviews I read used the actual word “depressing” liberally and often. But I find that frequently, people use that word when they just mean “sad.” A book or movie can be sad and even make me cry, without being depressing to me. I think the difference lies in whether or not the overall sense of the work is one of hope and redemption. I can handle sad events in a book, but I don’t want the message of the book to be that there is no hope, and therefore no point in going on. Now THAT’S depressing.
I stuck with Swamplandia! to about the halfway mark, and finally realized I was getting the sense that everything and everyone was sinking into a quagmire deeper than the muck at the bottom of an Everglades slough. I would like to think I’m wrong, and somewhere the story takes a turn for the better. Or at least for the less GRIM. But I just don’t have the strength to keep going for right now. I suspect I will return to the book at some point in the future. I would like to see how the very, very weird Bigtree family sorts itself out, and what happens to their family attraction, Swamplandia! It’s an engaging idea, and the people are interesting. But the slow dragging down of my emotions just wore me out!
When I get back to this to finish it, I’ll update my review.
I’d love to know how anyone else feels about it. If you’ve read it (and managed to make it all the way through), please let me know if you felt the journey was worth it. There are a LOT of 5 star reviews out there, cheek to jowl with the not so glowing ones. So there must be something redeeming in the end. Surely??? All opinions are welcome.
If you decide to place an order with amazon, clicking through from my links will give me credit. If you are enjoying my reviews on Bookin’ It, it’s a great way to let me know! Thanks!