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cover of Chime featuring a pale, blonde girl with dark eyes on a root-filled sepia toned background


I purchased Chime last year after I read Ana and Thea's review. Immediately after, meaning I closed my browser and we went to the bookstore and I bought it right off the New Young Adult shelf. Their review is wonderfully concise. I agreed with them for the most part, although in different ways. To orient myself, a few things that pinged me from their review. The rest of this post is vaguely spoilerish if you want to go into the book knowing very little:

1. The cover is gorgeous. It has a wonderful texture. It's just unfortunate that out of all the ways they could have gone with a book with such rich imagery and secrets, they chose to feature Briony. I love Briony! But there were such a plethora of other ways to talk about this book artistically. Oh, YA publishers! Try harder.

2. The sense of place in this book is fascinating. I never felt like I was in England even though the book told me several times. I do agree with Thea that this felt like the United States, but to me it felt more like the South. I admit I may be biased. For example, I was convinced it was set in Louisiana or somewhere else in the Gulf for the first fifty pages. The hanging witches thing didn't throw me. Hanging witches is not only an American tradition. Hanging witches happened across the ocean before the United States of America was a thing. 1692 was a busy year in the colonies, that's for sure, but poor baby US, we can't pin everything on it considering the nature of those hangings is vastly different from the nature of some of the hangings in the book. Those jerk Massachusetts colonists came from somewhere! What threw me was the swamp and the way Briony spoke of it, reverent, terrified, and needy and to me that screams Louisiana and/or Florida. She yearned for the swamp and this is true literary magic, the swamp yearned back and did so in such a specific way that I thought for sure this story was set anywhere but England. Fantastic and otherworldly, much like the young wilderness of North America was often framed in some of the readings I did last term.

3. I thought the "twists" weren't supposed to be twists. The more I read about the book it feels like the twists were meant to be the reader meeting Briony and recognizing quickly what was happening. Then came learning how it had happened and wondering why in the world Briony was blaming herself, and being as concerned and worried for her when she didn't get it as she became concerned for Eldric. I didn't consider this book a mystery. I thought the book was blatantly showing what was going on and the whole point was for me to figure it out.

This is how the book starts and this is how it hooked me when I plucked it off the shelf:
I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged.

Now, if you please.

I don't mean to be difficult, but I can't bear to tell my story. I can't relive those memories—the touch of the Dead Hand, the smell of eel, the gulp and swallow of the swamp.

How can you possibly think me innocent? Don't let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart.
I really loved this book and this story. Everything about it, from the romance to the world-building to the seductive writing, was lovely. It was both subdued when necessarily and also marvelously over the top and it was so good for me. I love romances that are uplifting the best and this book delivered on that score, and kept delivering, until the very final scene that made my heart ache. Ana talked about how it's infinitely more complex than it seems: "It was quite moving to see Briony slowly come to the realization that she’s a human being and as worthy of love and acceptance as anyone else. But that’s the tip of the iceberg, really. What’s going on here is far more complex than Girls Regains Her Self-Esteem." I agree with this! This is a gorgeously realized character study, an examination of blame and guilt, a fascinating but careful and unspoken thesis on the nature of creativity and pleasure and how we assign importance to creativity. Every time Briony talked about her stories, I winced. How much different is the journey of Briony and her writing different from how the larger culture conditions women writers? Not that much, I would argue. There is a plot, but it is small, and ultimately, the plot isn't the point (or wasn't for me).

Also, I loved Rose. Rose was my favorite character. Am I alone here?

The only complaint I have about this book concerns the amount of patience you have to have. Events, because of Briony's perspective, refuse to coalesce until far past the first chapter. I am not a patient person! It took me four days of pick-up-read-a-page behavior to get far enough into the book to want to figure out why this girl didn't get what was obvious to me. I am not great with unreliable narrators, because I often don't realize when someone is an unreliable narrator. Normally I spoil the hell out of books as I review them, but promised myself that when I read a book and didn't have 4000 word of thoughts about it, I wouldn't force words. Instead I will say that I loved the book wholeheartedly, and thank Ana, Thea and Ana for reading and reviewing it and allowing me to find it. It was wonderful and interesting and I have thoughts I don't know how to express, about unreliable narrators and gender roles and secrets and favorite characters and kissing. Ah oh, do I ever have thoughts about the kissing let me show you them. My rating of this book is best represented in image form:

stick figure lying face down on a rainbow sprinkled with multicolored stars


Ana, I meant to read and review this for your birthday, and managed it a month late (still counting that as a success). There aren't any concrete thoughts here, but I would love it if, as I've seen done you do before when others have had trouble finding their voices about a book, you would join me in the comments and ask me all the questions and we can have a long chat and it will be exciting and illuminating (everyone else can come, too!). ♥ I will preemptively warn for rampant spoilers in comments.

Other reviews:
things mean a lot, The Book Smugglers, books i done read, Janicu’s Book Blog, skygiants, yours?

Date: 2012-01-29 08:34 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
SO glad you loved this. It was my favouritest book of 2011 *love*

Ana (Book Smugglers. I am sure i have a password SOMEWHERE *HEADDESK*)

Date: 2012-01-29 10:07 pm (UTC)
chrisa511: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chrisa511
Holy shit this sounds good!!! And yes, I've heard good stuff about this before, but I'm kind of tempted to leave my house right now and go get this like you did >>

Date: 2012-01-30 04:07 am (UTC)
chrisa511: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chrisa511
Ummm...you should totally go read my latest post and see what I did >>

Date: 2012-01-30 08:04 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
SO MUCH TO SAY!

I can definitely see what you mean about the book requiring patience, but to me that worked as a hook in a strange sort of way. For the first few chapters I kept thinking, "Hmmm, I have no idea what's going on, or even if I care, but I MUST READ MORE to find out". I think that already trusting the author really contributed to that.

The final scene! <3 I loved it so much. I also loved, loved, loved what Billingsley was saying about how masculinity is constructed, and the impact that it has not only on someone like Eldric, but also on women's lives. I definitely don't think stories about how patriarchy hurts men are not legitimate, and I generally AM interested in them. But sometimes they can lose track of the bigger picture, particularly concerning the huge power imbalance between men and women. I thought Billingsley struck a perfect balance, though - what do you think? (That and the language were the two aspects of this novel that reminded me of Tender Morsels.)

Also, I love the point you make about the way women writers are conditioned to think of their writing as inferior. One of my favourite things about the book was the fact that it invited readers to think of women solely as muses, never as creators, only to then confront them with that assumption and all the ways in which it's hugely problematic. Oh, just thinking about it again fills me with love for this book.

Briony was my favourite, but yes, Rose was a wonderful character too <3

PS: This is definitely a success! I sill have a SEKRIT SURPRISE POST for you that will at this rate be posted towards the end of February. #sekrits

Spoilerific!

Date: 2012-02-13 11:36 am (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
I might be misremembering, since it's been a while since I read it, but I thought that the recognised mythology Briony first tells readers about specifically states was that the lamia (is that what they're even called in the book? Argh, my memory sucks) would only prey on men - and this was why no one initially suspected what was happening to Rose and to Briony herself, and part of why the story of the fire got so distorted. I thought this was a really interesting way to comment on who gets to take on creative roles rather than passive inspirational ones - or, more accurately, whose creativity is recognised as being real and important. Of course Rose's collages and Briony's writing are just as creative as what their father and Eldric do, but they're not recognised as such, and so the two of them are not widely perceived as potential victims. And this blindness to the reality of women's creative roles has a cost.

Date: 2012-01-30 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] myreadingbooks.blogspot.com
It took me a while to get into this book, but I enjoyed it immensely! It makes me happy to see that you enjoyed it so much!

Date: 2012-02-02 09:57 am (UTC)
catherine: Labyrinth sparked my obssession with puffy dresses and older men (Labyrinth // Puffy Dresses and Older Men)
From: [personal profile] catherine
I have yet to read Chime but I recently read (or rather listen to) The Folk Keeper. You should read The Folk Keeper too. Crossdressing heroine!

Date: 2012-02-13 11:36 am (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
Good ;)

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