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Brief Thoughts: The Psychopath Test, The Secret Life of Bees, The Interestings and Strange Bodies

 The Psychopath Test

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Five words from the blurb: insanity, compelling, adventure, madness, truths

Fascinating investigation into psychopathic behaviour. It was light, entertaining and raised many interesting questions. It didn’t quite go into enough scientific depth for me, but was the perfect introduction to the subject.

stars41

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 The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Five words from the blurb: forgiveness, racial, tension, sanctuary, mystery

Had a promising premise, but was surprisingly lacking in emotion. It didn’t give me any new insight into the racial tensions of the American South and I felt that the characters lacked depth. It was compelling enough to finish, but overall I was a bit disappointed.

 

The Interestings

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Five words from the blurb: American, tragicomedy, adolescence, friendships, fortunes

Fantastic writing and wonderful character development, but the plot failed to grab me. It all felt too ordinary and I’m afraid I didn’t care enough to want to find out what happened.

DNF

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Strange Bodies

Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux

Five words from the blurb: metaphysical, challenging, forgery, identity, literature

Great premise, but I was unable to suspend my disbelief. I abandoned it at the half way point because it became increasingly weird, but lacked the charm or enlightenment necessary to keep me engaged.

DNF

Have you read any of these books?

What did you think of them?

18 replies on “Brief Thoughts: The Psychopath Test, The Secret Life of Bees, The Interestings and Strange Bodies”

Ellie, Yes, I have a copy of her new one, but felt I should read Bees first. I was excited about ‘The Invention of Wings’ but having read Bees I’m now not sure she is an author for me :-(

I read and reviewed The Psychopath Test a while back and I think you liked it a lot more than I did. I remember being really dissatisfied with how broad a brush Ronson paints with, and I also felt like the title was misleading since he winds up talking about a lot of different personality and mood disorders rather than focusing on psychopaths alone. Given my background, however, it’s no surprising I would be a lot more critical of books like this!

I’ve also heard good things about The Interestings, but I was so unimpressed by Wolitzer’s last book, The Uncoupling, I just don’t know if I have it in me to give her another shot. The plot of that one was pretty rubbish and felt so simplistic, it really turned me off of her!

Steph, I’m not surprised that you didn’t enjoy The Psychopath Test – it was quite a basic introduction to the subject – entertaining for me, but disappointing for anyone who knows much about the subject.

I haven’t tried any of Wolitzer’s other books, but I don’t think she’s going to be an author for me. Sounds as though The Uncoupling is very similar to her new one :-(

Annabel, I’ve loved some of Theroux’s other books (especially Paperchase) so I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy this one as much. The writing was great but he didn’t immerse me in the world enough for me to believe. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

I really enjoyed The Interestings, but I did feel that the plot wandered. Granted, it was following the lives of a group of friends over a period of decades, so yes it would wander. I think she is a great storyteller and many of the dynamics between the friends hit home with me, but I think it could have been tightened up. The audio was really well-narrated.

Sandy, Glad to hear that you enjoyed it a bit more than I did. I can see how it might work well on audio (all the dialogue often works better in that format) but it sounds as though I did the right thing abandoning it – meandering stories aren’t normally for me.

I loved the Psyschopath test. Fascinating stuff. Though I found the opening chapter quite confusing and irrelevant.

I really enjoyed Ronson’s Lost at Sea this year also. I recommend the Audiobook, Ronson’s gentle effeminate voice put his personality into a completely differently light than what I expected. (Though it struck me as funny/odd that, in essence, I was paying a journalist to read me articles he had written).

I found the Interestings a bit annoying. The characters, and maybe the Author, just weren’t interesting enough to warrant that title. And for me it was way overhyped with a book site comparing it to Franzen and Eugenides. In your dreams girl! Otherwise, I found it ok. That title though. Shooting herself in the foot.

John, It’s good to hear that Ronson’s other books are worth checking out. I’m sure my library has a few of his audio books so I’ll keep my eye open for them.

It’s also nice to know I’m not alone in my thoughts on Wolitzer. I agree Franzen and Eugenides are in a league above her.

I don’t remember being that impressed by “Secret Life of Bees.” It was fine, but kind of your run-of-the-mill book club fare.

I enjoyed Ronson’s “Them: Adventures with Extremists.” My co-worker has told me to try “The Psychopath Test” and I’ll probably get around to it as I did enjoy his style.

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