Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arcadia; Lauren Groff

Title: Arcadia
Author:  Lauren Groff
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Recorded Books
Edition: audiobook and eGalley
Readers: Andrew Garman
Setting: NY
Source: Library and NetGalley
Date Completed: June/2012
Rating: 3/5
Recommend: not sure

In a nutshell, Arcadia is a story about commune life in upstate new York in the early 70's, and most baby boomers like me know that kind of life rarely goes well long term.  The "Free People" of Arcadia, to insure success of their community believe in: "Equality, Love, Work, and Openness to the needs of Everyone."  The commune is built on a rundown farm and mansion which was acquired by one of the commune's members and later sold to Handy, the commune's cult-like leader and his wife Astra for $1.00. The name found above the door, Arcadia lived on.

The story itself has several parts to it, and begins when "Bit", AKA Ridley Stone was about five years old. Bit was the first child living at the commune was born to Hannah and Abe.  In the final part of the novel we see Bit some 50 years later. Along the way the reader gets a glimpse of commune living as seen through a young child who witnesses much more than any child of that age should have witness, much of which he doesn't understand because of his age.  He loves and cares about his huge extended family.

When the great big family grows too too large, a lack of housing, poor sanitary conditions, lack of food, drugs and laziness on the part of some members become real issues. Eventually members leave the commune life and suddenly children who never experienced life outside of this commune are experiencing something foreign.

What may sound to some as a relatively simplistic story is really not all that simple.  The fact that it covers a period of 50 years of Bit's life from commune child, to adolescence, marriage, fatherhood and life as a university instructor and even caregiver to a sick parent kept the story moving.  Other commune dweller's lives are followed as well, but not to the same extent.

Did I like the book? It was an okay read/listen for me, because I was curious what later life would be like for the characters, especially Bit. 

This book took me forever to review, having completed it in mid-June.  Why? It was hard to get my thoughts sorted out, because the writing is good and the audio book was well done, but something didn't work well for me, and I'm still not totally sure what it was --perhaps the ending.

I'm curious to hear what other readers thought of this book.


15 comments:

  1. The premise of this book intrigues me so I'm disappointed that you didn't love it.

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  2. Did you just listen to the audiobook? I wonder would reading the book offer you a better experience? Because often it depends on the narrative to do justice to the written words.

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    1. Actually I enjoyed the audio more than the eBook, and I still wasn't thrilled with the book overall.

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  3. I've read wavering reviews of this one too. Not sure if I will read it or not. I have to say that your 4 and 5 books instantly go on my list but when you give out a 3 or lower I'm pretty confident that I would feel the same way!

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  4. Interesting... I was planning on reading this very soon, but saw a comment on another blog that suggest I begin with The Monsters of Templeton (an earlier work)... just picked up a copy. Will read this afterwards.

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    1. I listened to the Monsters of Templeton when it was first realized and thought it was pretty good.

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  5. I had issues with the end, too, even though I loved the book as a whole. I just wasn't prepared to go into the future like that.

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    1. Yes, didn't care for the return to Arcadia and what was going on with Hannah.

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  6. I had this from Net Galley but the Kindle version was totally corrupted and had strange symbols between every couple of words. Made it impossible to read. I gave up after reading just a few pages.

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  7. I couldn't quite get into this book, for some reason. I am hoping to give it a try some time, but I don't feel the pull anymore though.

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  8. I read the Monsters of Templeton and thought it was an okay read BUT it needed a big dose of the red pencil; too much digression. Then I read her short stories collection (can't remember title, had something to do with birds) which I couldn't stand. Upshot: Groff is not an author I am willing to spend any time on. There are too many fabulous books out there. Sorry this one didn't thrill you, DIane.

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  9. I have this in print but haven't read it yet. I suppose someday, but it doesn't sound like I need to hurry!

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  10. I didn't really like a previous book by this author (The Monsters of Templeton). It too lacked something that I can't quite define. I'm not going to be reading this one.

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  11. I loved Monsters of Templeton (on audio) but I've seen most people be a little less enthusiastic about her. Not sure that this one is really for me....

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  12. I've always been fascinated by the idea of communal living. Having grown up the youngest of 9 children I know that living with large groups of people is not my preference but I've always wondered how people do in these commune situations. Too bad the book didn't work out better for you.

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