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Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones *spoilers*

Discussion in 'Fiction Books' started by Alicia, Aug 27, 2003.

  1. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm a guy also and not too many of us have answered the question that was asked and said why some of us are not attracted to the book, so I'll try at least that much. Speaking strictly for my self, I am simply put off by the idea of reading a story of the brutal rape and murder of a young girl. But apparently many people see something different about it, even though that is the way I usually see the book described. Perhaps someone could describe the kind of story about a rape-murder that they would not like, and then say some words about how this one differs from the unappealing kind. Or don't rape-murders bother us that much to read about?
    :confused:
    Peder
     
  2. Ell

    Ell Well-Known Member

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    Peder, I can understand why you would be put off by reading about rape/murders, but this book isn't really about the murder as much as it's about the effect it has on the surviving friends and family. I'ts been awhile since I read it and I don't have a copy, so can't quite remember how graphic the description of the murder was. It was not the primary focus of the book and I found it much better than I anticipated.

    ell
     
  3. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Ell,
    Thanks for your reply.
    I'm still not sure that quite gets it up to where I'd like to read it, but now I'll at least browse it the next time I'm at the bookstore.
    Mne tnx :D
    Peder
     
  4. MonkeyCatcher

    MonkeyCatcher New Member

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    Peder, I really do think that you have the wrong impression of the book. As Ell has already pointed out, it is more about the aftermath of her killing rather than the actual thing. They never actually describe her murder or rape, just how he lured her to the spot where it happened, and even then not in a gruesome/unappealing way.

    I would not be put off by a book that desribed the murder, but I would think twice about buying a book that went into detail of a young girl being raped. Nothing like that happens in this book, though. I think that the closest thing to a description of what happened was her saying what she was thinking of to take her mind off what was happening.

    It's really not gruesome at all, but a very beautiful, uplifting book. I really recommend that you read it.
     
  5. G4G

    G4G New Member

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    As a 'bloke,' I would recommend you read give it a go. It's not at all gruesome, as people say, and it's a quick and easy read. There is one bit that spoils it, IMO, and seems a bit tacked on, and it's not really needed.

    I would also recommend Lucky, however, it's a bit more gritty. Hell, it's a lot more so.
     
  6. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    MC and others

    I plead completely guilty to having the wrong impression of the book.

    My impression was only based on the reviews I had seen and what I have heard. Checking just now, I found that the amazon editorial review opens its review with a very first sentence that uses the words "rape and murder." About 5 of 6 customer reviews also mention at least murder and, some, both rape and murder. And I am pretty sure that the NY Times review, the first one I read, also began by mentioning the rape and murder of the young girl by her neighbor.

    So guess what impression I formed?!

    As all of you have said, the book emphasizes the aftermath of that event. I guess reviewers and people are just attracted to the words rape and murder and can't even think of opening a book review with words like, say, "This book is about the aftermath of a rape and murder and how the family copes with that event." Or perhaps "This book shows how a family copes with the devastating loss of one of their children." Or..... but you get the idea.

    Did any of you think that the book was about (or 'involved', if you willl) the rape and murder of a young girl before you read it? Or was I the only one who got the wrong impression?

    So guilty as charged, your Honor, but with an explanation.

    Peder
     
  7. G4G

    G4G New Member

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    I don't think I thought it was a 'rape and murder' book, no. It was a while ago now, so I can't remember. I think it was a case of seeing it in the library, actually, and having read about it in some sunday newspaper.
     
  8. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Well,
    I'm back, from the bookstore that is. :D
    I went over to Borders to look at Lovely Bones in view of all the favorable comment here. It wasn't hard to find at all, being on their popular/recommended shelves. So I took a copy and wandered over to the cafe to have coffee and a sandwich for lunch and to delve more deeply into the book.

    I read all the blurb quotes, three pages of them, found they were all glowing recommendations (no surprise) including the highest of all, "luminous." :D Curmudgeon me, I also noticed, that not a single recommendation mentioned murder or rape. No fools they! A turnoff, might you guess?

    Anyway, I concluded the book sounded much more interesting than I originally thought, so I sat down with renewed curiosity about it and started reading. Page 1, "My name is Salmon. Just like the fish" plus more details about herself and school. Page 2, Some details about the somewhat odd next-door neighbor. And she decides to take a shortcut through the neighbor's cornfield to get home. Encounters the next door neighbor there in the dark and in the falling snow. Pages 2-3. Two sentences of small talk from the neighbor follow, and then "I built something back here that I'd like to show you." (Uh-oh, says I) "I have to get home, my mother wants me home before dark." "But it's already after dark."

    And at exactly that point this loud and clear voice from inside my brain clicked in: "No! I don't want to read this!"

    So I shut the book and finished my coffe with the book sitting there staring at me saying "But you got me all wrong, mister. I'm really a good book. I really am!" Mean, old, cruel, hard-hearted me marched the book back to the shelf and put it back. And went over to another shelf to check for a book there that I had been looking for. It was on the shelf so I bought it (and you can read about it in Recently Purchased if you are curious.)

    I'm not arguing that mine is the correct opinion or decision, but that was not the question. The question was why more guys don't seem to like the book, and now I have offered two answers from one guy for your consideration.

    Maybe another time,
    Because the blurbs did sound intriguing,
    But not today,
    Peder
     
  9. Doug Johnson

    Doug Johnson kickbox

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    Shakespeare killed off many characters, some violently. (And lots of people seem to think that Shakespeare was pretty good. ;)) I can't imagine a more gruesome death than cruxification and the Bible has sold a few copies.

    Why do you find murder so troubling?
     
  10. dreamseeker

    dreamseeker New Member

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    I found The Secret Life of Bees to be a touching read...if you loved that try The Mirmaid Chair, by the same author.
     
  11. G4G

    G4G New Member

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    Looking forward to your response to this one, Peder!
     
  12. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Doug
    I'll answer your two questions and then offer some other thoughts.

    With respect to Shakespeare I can suspend disbelief and still regard those events as fictional.

    With respect to the Crucifixion I do actually find that story very disturbing, that people can and did do such a thing to another person. I find the Easter story in the Bible very difficult to read.

    With respect to Lovely Bones, the few sentences I read and quoted are not capable of disbelief because, as far as I have read elsewhere, they are very true to life in the enticement of innocent victims. And children strike me as the most innocent and powerless of all.

    The few factual stories of serial killers that I have read have impressed me with how cold-blooded they are and how ruthlessly they kill. And, in a sense, how easily they find prey. The facts of murder are not pretty when they are real.

    So those are four specific reactions to your question that immediately come to my mind, without trying to get too philosophical or to psycho-analytical about it.

    All just my own feelings of course,
    But I hope that helps,
    Peder
     
  13. G4G

    G4G New Member

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    Peder,

    Your posts always give me loads to think about, even if i don't respond or comment.

    I see what you're saying with your points, but it doesn't - or wouldn't - put me off reading a book like that. Could this all be down to de-sensitisation?

    It's interesting that you say that what you read strikes you as perfectly possible. Could it be that Sebold's experiences have also had an effect here in her writing? This is just me mulling things over in my head and it's probably rubbish, but i just thought I'd stick my oar in, as they say.
     
  14. Doug Johnson

    Doug Johnson kickbox

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    With most people "suspension of disbelief" means they stop believing it's fiction. Almost magically, the story becomes real. They feel like Hogwarts really exists. They wonder if Jesus really was married. (Sorry Stewart.)

    Do you not like books that give you that feeling?

    To me, the power of The Lovely Bones is that you could easily imagine this happening to your own kid. Don't you want to know what happens to her in Heaven?
     
  15. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    CDA,
    No, what you are wondering about is absolutely not rubbish!
    And I wouldn't exactly use the word de-sensitization, either, although it was one of the first to cross my mind. That word suggests that it is the readers who are insensitive to murder, which I really doubt.

    I have wondered why people have been able to react to Lovely Bones differently than I would have expected, and my thoughts run along the lines of attributing it to the author, and to the manner in which the author tells the story. And deliberate 'distancing' by the author is the technique I guessed might be at work, and the word I would use.

    Before I looked at the book I speculated that the author might have played down the personality of the girl, and presented relatively little information about her, in order to prevent the reader becoming too attached to her. In addition, in a very neat plot touch, the girl isn't really gone. The reader sees her right there in Heaven, I gather, so she really hasn't been killed dead, so to speak, especially if details of the murder are sparse and down-played.

    Conversely, I speculated that the surviving family members were probably presented in much greater detail and with more rounded sympathetic characters, which were written to arouse the reader's empathy and engage the reader in that part of the story. So it didn't strike me as impossible that people could enjoy the book. I put that down to the author's skill in telling the story and controlling the reader's reactions by the skillful manner and sequence in which she presented information about the events of the story.

    And I didn't think it was impossible that I too could see the story that way and enjoy it.

    But it was the utter reality of the early sentences I described that were the roadblock for me. Her own experience no doubt has everything to do with that! Maybe if I just skipped the first x pages I would find myself able to enjoy it also, because the idea of the girl in Heaven seeing how things are going down here on Earth, and interacting if I read one recommendation correctly, sounds like an interesting story.

    Thanks for your post,
    It makes me think also,
    Peder

    PS Please ask more questions any time you wish :)
     
  16. G4G

    G4G New Member

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    What if you don't believe in Heaven?
     
  17. G4G

    G4G New Member

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    Peder,

    Thanks for your post. As usual, there's a lot there for me to mull over. I know that I need to think it over, and be more awake than I am now to fully take it in! However, for now, i see your point when you say: "And I didn't think it was impossible that I too could see the story that way and enjoy it."
    I have had similar conversations with people in the past, about being able to just see that different point of view some how. Hmmm. Not just about books, but about things like knowing what's going on in the world i.e. news that's hard to take and the like (i.e. Iraq - occupation or deliverance?). Not that I'm accusing you of burying your head in the sand or anything! Oh, i think I'll have to reply tomorrow. And oh yes - de-sensitiZation (US spelling for you lol!) - well, this brings up the notion of some difference in the humanity of those who read, and of those who don't. Er - probably not making much sense. lol.
     
  18. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Doug,
    Yes I do like fiction that causes me to believe it is real and to get immersed in it. With Shakespeare, when Hamlet stabs through the curtain I still regard that as a fictional event however. Or maybe I just don't feel the victim's pain, to borrow a phrase. :) With respect to Jesus really being married, I don't want to start a prohibited war in here, so I'll pass on that one. But that part of DVC didn't bother me.

    The rub with Lovely Bones is exactly that I can too easily imagine it having happened to one of my own (four) children. Fortunately they are grown now without incident. /knocks on wood/

    And about Heaven I do definitely have my own understanding, not especially skeptical at all, but we all probably have different ideas of that. Again I'll pass.

    Peder
     
  19. MonkeyCatcher

    MonkeyCatcher New Member

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    Ah, sorry. I thought that I had explained that the way that Susie was lured to her place of murder was included in the book well enough, but I guess not. I didn't think that it would be too much of an issue with readers, and for that I'm truely sorry. I guess I had better explain myself next time :eek:

    I think that I was able to handle it because I was able to realise throughout the book that it /was/ fiction and I guess the fact that Susie was now in heaven and not just gone also helped a bit.

    Plus, I have an interest in serial killers. I don't know why, I just like to read about them, their crimes, but mostly about how their mind works and their reasons for theur crimes. A bit morbid, I know, but I guess what i read in that book didn't really match in atrocity to some of the crimes that I have read about, and therefore didn;t affect me as badly.
     
  20. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    MC
    I have read about serial killers also, mainly out of curiosity. There's a book on the world's champion among them, the guy in Russsia with perhaps 500 murders who they caught, eventually.
    I haven't seen so much on how their mind works, or doesn't work, but I am appalled at the dispassionate way that BTK, for example, described how he proceeded with his crimes. Not a single trace of sorrow or remorse. I doubt that he even knows the words.
    And you are definitely correct that the events of the book cannot possibly come close to the crimes of serial killers. That would definitely make a gruesome thread for TBF, crimes of serial killers. j/k j/k j/k :D

    BTW there is an encyclopedic site devoted to fact crime which I can scare up and post in case you are interested.

    Peder
     

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