Sunday, November 02, 2008
Book Awards II Challenge: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Author: Junot Díaz
Published: September 2007
Rating: 7 / 10
Challenges: Book Awards II Challenge
Awards: Pulitzer Prize
Synopsis (from the back cover):
"Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú - a curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, following them on their epic journey from the Dominican Republic to the United States and back again."
My Review: I really wanted to love this book. I had read so many great reviews, it had such a promising premise, and I really love discovering allusions. Unfortunately, something about it just didn't grab me. I loved the beginning, I loved the references (I really would like to see an annotated edition, with all of the allusions explained), I loved the Spanish slang (I even learned a few new words) and I especially loved Oscar. But the way the book jumped around and changed characters really confused me. It helped to explain the idea of fukú and how it affected Oscar, but I found it disconcerting. The narrator was an interesting choice - "The Watcher" is Oscar's college roommate and his sister's ex-boyfriend - but he's just so easily distracted. He wanders off on tangents and I just kept thinking, "Okay, and...?" The footnotes were also helpful, most of the time, and I liked them because they were so Terry Pratchett. But on the whole, I just didn't "get" the book. I had to force myself to read the middle part, and it ended up taking me a few months to get through the whole thing. And it's not even that long! There are some funny parts (Oscar's idea of a great pick up line: "If you were in my game I would give you eighteen charisma!"), though, and I am glad I read it. Essentially, it's a book about a nerdy kid who wants to be loved. Who hasn't felt that way at some point in their life?
If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.