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Chatter: A Novel by Perrin Ireland

Chatter: A Novel

by Perrin Ireland

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Chatter, by Perrin Ireland, was a fast read or else I would not have finished it. I neither loved nor hated it, was just ambivalent. Skip this until you've read every other book on your TBR list.
  boblinfortino | Nov 2, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received Chatter, by Perrin Ireland as an ARC and I really fought to get through it. It was an interesting story, just not my style. Sarah's life is turned upside-down when she finds that her husband has a grown daughter. Throughout the story, Sarah tries to find out about the other women in her husband's life. The style is very interesting - filled with news reports and partial conversations, much like our current society. We're bombarded with information and we have to decide what is true and what is false.
  piper0110 | Oct 2, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
“Chatter: to talk rapidly, incessantly, and on a trivial subject” (The American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd college edition). The title of this novel is most appropriate for the random, staccato form of writing. Conversations make abrupt changes from “We have eggplant parmesan.” in one sentence to “Did your ancestors own slaves?” two sentences later. The blurb on the back of the book tells us it is a book about a marriage, secrecy and the world around us. After 50 pages, I just didn’t care. ( )
  punxsygal | Jul 29, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I got this via the Early Reviewers Program some time ago, and delayed writing a review because I can't actually force myself to read it. One of the very first sentences is so painfully awkward that it's still like nails on a chalkboard when I read it now: "She got dizzy when she thought about when you're looking at your right side in the mirror it's your left side." Alright, it's an advance reading copy -- maybe it was edited before the final release -- but I only have what's in front of me, and what's in front of me doesn't get much better from there. On the next page, the two main characters have an incredibly irritating and inane conversation, in which the wife seems not to be listening to the husband at all, completely ignoring everything he says, including direct questions, and instead just blurting out whatever random thoughts pop in to her head. I do assume this was an intentional choice by the author, intended to illustrate something about the character, but I just find it irritating to read. Add in the too-short sentences, and the overall effect is just so unpleasant to me that I just can't get past page 11 or so. There may be a good story in here, but I dislike the writing style too much to find out. ( )
  somegirl | Jul 21, 2009 |
i loved Perrin Ireland's Chatter and was struck by its similarity to Paula Fox's masterpiece, Desperate Characters (which i just read). The premises are the same: A middle-aged, unemployed, childless, anxious woman isn't connecting well with her financially successful husband. She struggles as an artist and hasn't produced for awhile. Beset by class and age angst, she feels adrift and is drawn into a rendevous with another man.

Another reader described Chatter as lapidary, as i did Desperate Characters. But were it not for his description, i would have put Chatter down after the first 25 pages ironically because Ireland captures the controlling, neurotic thought rhythms of her main character, Sarah, so well that i felt claustrophobic. Self-absorbed Sarah muses over dress sizes, feels status guilt, makes judgments of male attractiveness based on testosterone and bounciness in the step, etc. Trained in disinterest by her mother, she listens without listening to her husband, Michael, while criticizing him and waiting for episodes of passion. The first 25 pp. were cringe-inducing and i was ready to quit. But then the novel opens up to the world and other characters. Ireland brilliantly captures an NPR-listening, New Yorker/literary fiction-reading milieu bombarded by TV's constant stream of war, poverty, and cruelty. Sarah helps a friend with cancer and Ireland's writing brings to mind Thom Jones's depths. Ireland knows her stuff and gets it down right from an ex-soldier who won't ever get over killing other people, to the motivations of guerillas, to the flight of global bankers, to the escapism of adventure travel, to the despair of ex-Peace Corps volunteers who know they didn't accomplish a damn thing beyond experiencing life in a slum.

Ireland's also playful; the thoughts of the ex-soldier bring to mind Tim O'Brien and then, voilà, a character muses on the seminality of The Things They Carried. i appreciate her playful intertextuality; it fits and she doesn't bang on trying to convince me she's a genius. i know i'm not saying this well, but with about 75 pp. to go, the anxious chatter recedes and becomes just one piece in an overall effect that is wise and kaleidoscopic. ( )
1 vote NativeRoses | Aug 29, 2008 |
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"Michael and Sarah's marriage is already in trouble, held together mostly by routine and by the small comforts of domesticity. But with Sarah's discovery that Michael has a grown daughter he's never mentioned - and only just met - their relationship is pushed to the breaking point. His sudden need to visit his ex-lover and the constant, needling presence of his beautiful daughter drive Sarah to figure out why so much of her husband's past is a mystery. Trying to ferret out the truth, she begins to keep secrets of her own as she embarks on a fact-finding mission that will take her from Washington, D.C., to Latin America." "Chatter is a portrait of a marriage taken against the landscape of our frenetic culture, where invasive news reports, overheard conversations, and screaming headlines punctuate our days. Its dead-on dialogue captures our lives: the fractured sense of communication, the unfinished conversations, the questions somehow never answered."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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