Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sorry for being absent of late, but I've been suffering from the flu. The one good thing about it is I caught up on reading! Here's the first of my reviews:


 BITTERSWEET by COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH

I have to give Bittersweet 5 stars because it ranks so highly among all the books I've read this year. It is not without flaws though.  Despite this, I enjoyed reading it so much I was sorry to reach the end. It is a fascinating sweeping epic set in a fictional Australian country town during the depression years. Four sisters, two sets of twins all with different dreams. McCullough brings to this her own medical knowledge having trained to be a doctor but foiled by an allergy to disinfectant. She creates a wonderfully authentic world into which she sets this story of four sisters who become trainee nurses at the country hospital. Tufts wants to bring order to the world she inhabits, Edda wants to be a doctor, a seemingly impossible dream in those times, Kitty hates her beauty and yearns to be seen as something more. The fourth sister, Grace's character didn't work so well for me. I found her confusing and less approachable than the others.
Great that these women weren't fading violets who merely suffered the constraints of their times, but I would have liked them to be a bit more forgiving. They were very tough on Charles who did invoke my sympathy. As Australians they had difficulty understanding the English stiff upper lip, and while I don't think the outcome should have been different, they might have made some allowances. Perhaps McCullough failed to make him unpleasant enough, I was often on his side.
Same again with the woman's mother/step-mother, who was a silly misguided woman, but she didn't come across as quite as unforgivable as McCullough painted her and might have in the end engendered more sympathy too.
Perhaps the familial ties which bind this book just didn't seem to  go deep enough for me.   
But what joy to be found in the writing! McCullough's descriptive prose borders on the poetic at times and her intelligent observations and chronicling of the depression years, the medical profession and Australian political history, make this a must read for those who like sagas of this sort.

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