Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Orion
Original Publication Date: April 12, 2012
Pages: 325

Sad stories make for good books. The better statement would be that sad stories are treasure troves for writers to make books about.

At least this statement holds true for Eleanor and Park as it does for most YA Romance books, in the likes of John Green's, Daniel Handler's or the other various books in this genre. I read this book after reading a number of Saramago's books which are laden with sentences paragraphs long, Eleanor & Park, was, as one would say it, a welcome break. As it would turn out, the reading itself was not however a welcoming experience.

There was a sense of familiarity with this book, which is sadly, not of the good kind you experience reading coveted stories of childhood like that of Atticus Finch, or of even of the fictional world of Le Guin's where deliverance from nostalgia is an unwelcomed visitor. No. Unlike the desire to embrace and revel in this book's familiarity, one tends to get tired and exhausted. The first romance between two teens, both with familial problems and issues of their own is lifted straight out of cliche and hackneyed themes. I've read it a number of times and in every case, the essential struggle, if not the sole aim, is to find something new the book, the story, the characters, the author is offering. Sadly, the book was not able to discharge this burden.

I'm not a pundit but it doesn't need one to see that the story development and the social and factual setting of this story, in 1986, is in conflict and inconsistent. Discrimination and preferential treatment in those days were not as subtle as it is of this age. I simply felt that there was a lot of potential in Park as this half Korean kid whose mother was directly taken from Korea right after the American perversion, sorry, assertion of capitalistic designs disguised through its affirmation of its unilaterally defined democratic principles in the Vietnam War. The point is, I think Park would have been more interesting if he wasn't defined by the traditional sibling rivalry which to some extent Rowell did endeavor on, only she did not expound on it.

As standard YA Romance novels go, the book falls under the stream of consciousness thought, albeit the narrative is directed by the alternating POVs of the male and female protagonist. The narrative is interlaced with conversations that are direct and crisp, which makes this book really an easy read and hastily contributes to that well neglected reading challenge. The problem with the alternating POVs is that sometimes it borders repetitiveness, though it may also stand for recognition of the emphasis and weight of the moment in the book.

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