NYRB Classics collector. Reads anything, so long as it's good. Sometimes historian. Frequently grumpy: you've been warned. Also at aliceunderskies.tumblr.com.
This book was, disappointingly, only okay. I love the premise--a life reconstructed through folktales, through the stories we tell and don't tell?--and, often, liked the stories themselves, but didn't feel that they ever came together grandly as they should have. The content was strong but, aside from a few scenes, the writing never really stunned me. My biggest problem: I felt a kind of hollowness at the center where the character of the grandfather should have been but never emerged despite Obreht's best efforts. And that's not even beginning to touch the disappointment of Natalia, the narrator, who barely existed, she was so flimsy. I almost rated this 2 stars only but then I worried that I was just suffering disappointment and backlash from all of the hype. While it really is a better-than-many first novel, I do feel there was a lot of lost potential in this one. It could have been a really stupendous elegy, a very powerful interweaving of grief & story. Alas! I did not find it so.