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

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 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.




 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.



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.


Have you read any of these books?

What did you think of them?

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  1. Ellie says:

    I felt the same as you about The Secret Life of Bees, but I do think her new one sounds interesting (and I have a copy so will give it a whirl).

    1. Jackie says:

      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 :-(

  2. Steph says:

    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!

    1. Jackie says:

      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 :-(

  3. Annabel says:

    I agree too re the Secret Life of Bees. Interesting re Marcel Theroux – I have that on my shelves – Mind you I like weird usually ….

    1. Jackie says:

      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.

  4. tanya says:

    Maybe I wish I hadn’t read what you have to say about The Interestings. I’m 100 pages in and it is starting to lag. I was hoping it was just a temporary thing.

    1. Jackie says:

      tanya, Glad to hear I’m not alone in my thoughts. I gave up after around 150 pages so I don’t know if it picks up after then – let me know if it does!

  5. Sandy says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      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.

  6. I like your brief thoughts on these books. I thought about reading The Interestings, but her previous book wasn’t a favorite so I passed.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, Sounds as though Wolitzer isn’t for us – I’ll give her earlier books a pass too :-)

  7. John Braine says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      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.

  8. Christy says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christy, Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll keep an eye out for ‘Them’ in my library :-)

  9. I wasn’t crazy about Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, The Invention of Wings. It was okay, but I was disappointed. Hearing your thoughts on Bees makes me even less excited at the prospect of reading it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Carrie, I think I might give her new one a miss. No one seems to be that excited about it :-(

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