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Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
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Under the Poppy

by Kathe Koja

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1591874,623 (3.15)12
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1/20, about 100 pages in: I'm having a weird reaction to this book which I don't get often, which is this: I love it, and I'm really enjoying it, and I want to know what happens next, but I can only read about ten pages at a time. Then it needs to...gel, I guess. The writing style is unique to my experience, very stream-of-consciousness but in third person, which makes the whole experience rather dreamlike. I was disappointed to see that the sequel was apparently only published as a Kindle book.

And 2/4, having finished the book - What I said earlier, basically. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Jan 20, 2014 |
3.75 out of 5
Review to come. ( )
  ames | Sep 30, 2013 |
3.75 out of 5
Review to come. ( )
  ames | Sep 30, 2013 |
Full disclosure: I only read just over half of Under the Poppy. What I did read was interesting, but I couldn't get into it -- I was reading to finish it, not to enjoy it, which is the point at which I'm trying to teach myself to stop reading (unless I need to read it for some academic purpose). Supposedly, according to reviews, the second half is great, but I am really not in the mood right now. I'm not going to donate my copy or give it away -- for one thing, it was a gift from my girlfriend -- but I'm not going to finish it for now, either. Maybe when I have more time and energy to devote to it.

What I did read of it was rich, detailed, slipping in and out of the minds of various characters. It's atmospheric, wonderfully so -- but to me it felt all atmosphere and no substance, and very little truly happening. I wanted to love Istvan and Rupert, but felt shut out by them -- I identified perhaps the most with Decca, in that respect! -- and didn't feel caught up in their world, at all. And it's not as though Decca is easy to love. The easiest ways in seem to be Lucy and Jonathan, but there isn't much of the latter...

The narration doesn't help: it isn't easy to read, the style, not quite conventional. It takes a while to pick up the signifiers, what is flashback and what is real, and sometimes what exactly is being said, and by whom. Parts of it are third person (omniscient?) and parts are first person, which gives it all sorts of different flavours, but... still. I don't feel closer to any one character, through that.

And, in the end, very little happens in that first half.

I am willing to give this book more of a chance -- I know there's something in here that will catch my full attention, I'm sure there must be -- but not when I'm so busy. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
In an unnamed 19thcentury European town teetering on the brink of war, madame Decca and brothel owner Rupert are astonished and not entirely pleased by the sudden reappearance of Istvan—Decca’s brother, Rupert’s estranged lover, and a master puppeteer. His appearance ignites jealousies old and new, placing Rupert in danger from the attentions of a volatile politician whose advances he’s rejected. At the same time, soldiers are filling the town and the whores and performers…the line between the two is blurred at Under the Poppy…are forced to entertain the rowdy soldiers and their corrupt general in more ways than one, just to survive intact.

Despite the melodrama inherent in the set-up, the storytelling is clear beneath the baroque trappings. Koje’s technique of alternating narration among the characters is effective, revealing secrets bit by bit and uncovering hidden depths. Deliberately paced, the story is nevertheless engrossing. Suggested for fans of “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters. ( )
  kmaziarz | Oct 6, 2011 |
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"From a wartime brothel to the intricate high society of 1870s Brussels, "Under the Poppy" is a breakout novel of childhood friends, a love triangle, puppet masters, and reluctant spies. Under the Poppy is a brothel owned by Decca and Rupert. Decca is in love with Rupert but he in turn is in love with her brother, Istvan. When Istvan comes to town, louche puppet troupe in tow, the lines of their age-old desires intersect against a backdrop of approaching war. Hearts are broken when old betrayals and new alliances - not just their own - take shape, as the townsmen seek refuge from the onslaught of history by watching the girls of the Poppy cavort onstage with Istvan's naughty puppets. With the war getting too close, Istvan and Rupert abandon the Poppy and find a place in high society where they try to avoid becoming more than puppets themselves in the hands of those they have helped before and who now want to use them again ..."--Jacket.… (more)

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Small Beer Press

An edition of this book was published by Small Beer Press.

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