I've had this book on my kindle for a couple of years, and finally got around to reading it. It kept popping up when I was buying other books (even though I'd already bought it), so I took that as a hint from the universe that I really should get around to reading it. And I'm glad I did.
First, about the author. I didn't do any extensive research about her, but I did enough to know that this is the only book she has written up till now, and it's been translated into several languages and is a best-seller. Given how difficult it is for authors to ever become known, even with a complete body of work, the fact that this book is so popular is pretty remarkable. So it must be good, right?
One of the first things that struck me about this book was the storytelling structure. It seems to bounce around in time and place in a way that should be jarring, but somehow it hangs together to advance the story in a very unique and magical way, which also serves to strengthen the ethereal tone of the book.
The characters have a magic about them (literally and figuratively), and this feeds into the narrative in a way that builds complexity and wonder. I zipped through the first half of this book, turning every page with excitement about what was going to come next.
However, that was where things started to break down. As amazing and wondrous as the first half was, that was how frustrating and slow and complicated the second half was. The narrative stalled, the characters' motivations became unclear, and there was such a cast of characters, it was difficult to keep up with them and care about what they were doing.
I'm not going to say this book was awful. It was interesting. And it illustrates how difficult a first book is to write. Starting is easy, finishing is hard. I think this book could have been a lot shorter than it was, and with some clever and ruthless editing, would have been a page turner from beginning to end. It does maintain its sense of wonder throughout the narrative, but I want to care the entire way through. So if it had about 100 pages cut out of it, I think it would have been great. I don't know if this writer is going to write another book, but I sincerely hope that she does. She's got the things that make me want to read a book. The next one, if it ever comes, will surely be amazing. Give it a shot.