Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Review: Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert

Stern Men Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert

My review

Here is fair warning: If you are looking for a book to fill the hole left by Eat, Pray, Love, reading Stern Men is like trying to shove a square lobster trap into that round hole. It doesn't quite fit the bill.

I really wanted to like this book. After reading Eat, Pray, Love last summer I was eager to read some of Elizabeth Gilbert's earlier works so my first pick was Gilbert's first novel, Stern Men set on two fictional islands off the coast of Maine. I thought it would be a pretty sure bet that I would love almost anything the Elizabeth Gilbert set down on paper, a bet I was disappointed to lose with myself with my mixed feelings on her debut novel.

What this book does well:

You can almost smell the salt air and you can definitely feel the boredom and the generations of animosity between the people of Fort Niles and Courne Haven Islands. Gilbert knows how to paint a gritty and lively picture of the backdrop for her heroine Ruth and the cast of characters around her.

Where it falters:

Descriptions of the history of the islands and the families living there seem to go on for days. They overwhelm the brief pockets of action in the story. It plot ekes forward at a painfully slow pace.

When I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert speak last year at the Book Group Expo in San Jose she cited Charles Dickens as one of her favorite authors and a big influence on her work. His influence was apparent in her stylistic choices for Stern Men. If you like sweeping prose descriptions that go on for fistfulls of pages filling you in on on every detail of backstory, this book may win you over. However, if you are looking forward to something actually happening, you might want to settle in and get comfortable because you might have to wait for a while.

The book does seem to pick up and redeem itself in the last 40 - 50 pages or so, Elizabeth Gilbert's confident and original voice that I'd been waiting for seemed to resurface and shine through to bring the story home.

View all my reviews.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I have this book. Although I haven't read it yet. And I got it at the Book Expo in San Jose after I heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak!

Jessica said...

Small world! Wasn't she a great speaker? I really liked listening to Po Bronson too.

Designed by Lena