Skip to main content

The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger

This book was on The NY Times list for 2010's most notable books and I thought that it was a good book, but maybe not one that should have been on the list.

It is obvious that Ms. Freudenberger was heavily inspired by the Chinese art of the early nineties because that is the crux of her novel.  Her story actually focuses on a group of artists that comprised the East Village art consortium of Beijing. One of them travels to Southern California to teach art at a prestigious, private all girls academy and lives with a family of one of his students. Yuan Zhao is the fictitious member who lives with a somewhat disfunctional family - the Travers family. The four family members barely interact with each other and have no interest in their supposedly famous guest.

i didn't feel that the Travers family and the sections that focussed on them were very well developed at all.  Perhaps Fruedenberger did this intentionally to make it obvious to us that this family is super shallow, but I wasn't interested in reading those sections at all.  The more intriguing sections were the sections that discussed Yuan Zhao's time in Beijing with the other members of the East Village.  They were fascinating, as were their motivations.  These were people that I wanted to watch, listen to and get to know because they were very interesting, deep and passionate people.

Generally, this book was all right - there was nothing fantastic about it but nothing overtly horrible either.  This may be good as an audio book for a long drive. 


Popular posts from this blog

In Memoriam

One of my most favorite bookish podcasts, Books on the Nightstand, has ended its tremendously successful run.  It has been around seemingly forever and was one of my staples in book recommendations. It will be sorely missed and leaves a space in my podcast listening zone that I'm striving to fill.  While I understand that the podcast em-cees, Michael and Anne, have their own lives that they probably want to continue with (and podcasting takes a lot of time, particularly when you're as popular as they are and, for example, as popular as the Manic Mommies are/were), they will be sorely missed.  However you can find them on both Goodreads and on Twitter.

In anticipation of their ultimate decision to end the podcast, I found a number of other really awesome podcasts to fill the void, some of which are bookish and some of which aren't.  For your listening pleasure:

BookRiot - more of a news in the publishing industry podcast but still pretty awesome;All the Books - a weekly po…

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

You may recognize the author's name - Krakauer is perhaps most famous for the book Into the Wild about a young man that goes to Alaska (and which was made into a movie).  I enjoyed that book and when I heard on a podcast that I listen to that Krakuer had written a new book, I decided to get it and read it.  In this book, which is non fiction - he focuses on the University of Montana, the local police department and at the local prosecutor's office and analyzes their job performances through the eyes of five young women who were sexually assaulted. During this same period, the Department of Justice investigated how those same parties handled 80 rape cases and that investigation yielded dismaying results. In one instance, a detective re assured a male suspect during an interrogation that she didn't believe he committed a rape (despite evidence to the contrary) because they got a lot of false accusations. Similarly, the Chief of Police (!!!) sent an article to a victim citin…

City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

I was hesitant to pick up Justin Cronin's trilogy, which began with The Passage, because I was vampired out.  But it's different. It combines science fiction and westerns and spans about 1500 pages and 1000 years and generations, upon generations of people.  It's dystopian and hopeful all at the same time! The vampires don't sparkle, thankfully, and the story isn't just told in prose - it's told via letters, journals, scientific journals, flashback, the whole nine yards.
As the book opens, we find our beloved characters in a time of peace and relative prosperity.  There have been no viral attacks for twenty years. The main characters are all struggling with something that has broken them and they each struggle. And there was also Zero, the ultimate bad guy, that wants his say and his ultimate revenge. This book is wonderful in the sense that it is Cronin at his absolute best - he is a storyteller on par with perhaps the best of the fantasy writers - of any w…