Penny Book Review: BUtterfield 8

BUtterfield 8
A note: the white is supposed to line up with the blue, but that’s a printing error. I think it gives the book character. Makes it unique, in a way.

I’m back! Sorry guys, last week was just…just an ambiguous sort of failure for me. And that’s okay. I can’t control my life 100%, after all. As long as I’m picking up and moving on after these sorts of weeks, I figure that’s steady forward progress.

Anyway. Onto today’s topic at hand: my tipsy book review of BUtterfield 8*.

First, a word about the cocktail. It’s 2:30 p.m. here and I’m day drinking a shaken gin martini. There are so many things wrong about that statement. Okay, just two things wrong. The day drinking seems like an homage to the book, though, which takes place two years after the crash of ’29 but still has that Roaring 20’s feel. It’s actually very interesting–characters are worried about the looming financial depression on the horizon, but they don’t know the full extent of what’s about to hit them. Anyway, there’s a lot of day drinking that happens. Because, Roaring Twenties.

As for the shaken martini–yes, it’s made with gin, and so that’s good, but martinis are not supposed to be shaken. It bruises the gin. Whatever that means. But amid all the alcoholic beverages I could have chosen in the book, one of the characters goes on a rant so wonderful about why martinis ought to be shaken that I couldn’t resist trying it for myself. Here’s the Google Books excerpt, complete with yellow highlighting:

shaken martini

Unfortunately, my martini didn’t come out foamy. Alas!

Onward to the book review, though. After last month’s Five Children and It failure, I was delighted to discover that I was taken by John O’Hara’s novel almost immediately. The way he writes is incredibly refreshing and modern. And the dialogue is almost colloquial–for example, at one point, one of the characters is skimming a newspaper and chatting about the headlines with her friend. He asks for a clarification on something.  Her response: “‘No. The Sullivan Law. That’s uh, buzz buzz buzz buzz. Weapons. Deadly weapons in his possession. By Joel Sayre. This is an interesting article…'”

Do you see what I mean? And let me tell you something else. (Sorry, these things are never formatted point-by-point. They follow the wanderings of my mind.) The character that’s reading the newspaper so endearingly–Gloria Wandous? She’s the most conflicting character in the book. She’s no older than 20 and sleeps around a whole, whole lot. Including with a married man, which is sort of what this book revolves around. And you want to hate her for that, except that O’Hara fleshes her out beautifully. She was molested at a young age by a family friend, and then taken advantage of later by a judge or city councilman or something. She’s smart. She just makes terrible decisions. And the whole book, you’re wishing she would come to her senses and change.

I also love that O’Hara jumps around between characters. He doesn’t even close plot threads, which I think is good, because the main thing driving the story forward is Gloria and her doomed affair with Weston Liggett.

My mind has turned to mush now, so I won’t say anymore about this book, except this one last thing, just to close the discussion: if you like F. Scott Fitzgerald, go ahead and pick this one up. O’Hara’s writing style is different for sure, but it’s engaging. You won’t be disappointed. At least, I hope not.

*Nope, that’s not an “Emily’s been drinking” typo. Somehow it’s supposed to represent the number that one of the characters can be reached at? BU8? It literally doesn’t show up in the book at all, though.

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