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Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
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Swamplandia! (edition 2012)

by Karen Russell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,4021702,590 (3.34)1 / 402
Member:ngoldfdf
Title:Swamplandia!
Authors:Karen Russell
Info:Vintage (2012), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

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Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
Took some time to get interested, but it's proving to be worth it. Great characters. Almost a Neil Gaiman feel to it. ( )
  ericmcherry | Sep 14, 2016 |
I feel tricked in the worst sort of way. This book starts out almost as a modern day Alice in Wonderland, but slowly falls apart once the narrative splits between Ava and her brother, Kiwi.

The first three quarters of the book lulled me into a false sense of safety and then it happens: a gross, slimy, middle-aged man rapes our thirteen year old narrator. Perhaps if I had known how dark this book was, I wouldn't have been caught off guard, but all I felt was disgust.

I don't shy away from uncomfortable topics, so this wasn't a scene that would lead me to dismiss an entire book based on one horrific event. This combined with oddly misogynistic undertones (vapid, irritating female characters and gender-specific comments connected to violence i.e ALL the stupid rap song lyrics quoted) and the ending itself (dad suddenly is back in the picture and everything is hunky dory?!) left me angry and disappointed. UGH. ( )
  PagesandPints | Sep 1, 2016 |
Well-written and original, but you have to be in the mood for gators. Not sure if I want to finish it. ( )
  AnnAnderson | Jun 25, 2016 |
It just didn't come together for me. It was unrelentingly depressing with haphazard insights. It ends without much being resolved or changed. I wanted to like it but it was a slog. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
I see that some folks I trust loved this, and that's why it was on my list. I believe them when they claim it worthy of their admiration & enchantment. There's some beautiful writing here; it's not only allegorical and elegiac and metaphorical and metaphysical, but it's simultaneously pretty like Hilola and ugly like decades old lemon drops. Even the Seths (all the captive alligators are named Seth) themselves are simultaneously beautiful and ugly. Even their jaws are.

But I land with the majority of GR and LM folks reading this - just can't make myself enjoy it, or even appreciate it enough to push through to the end. I got 1/3 through is all.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 169 (next | show all)
Karen Russell, one of the New Yorker's 20 best writers under 40, is certainly very talented. She received wide acclaim for her first book, the story collection St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which first introduced the Bigtree family in the story "Ava Wrestles the Alligator". This novel has already received great reviews in the US, and it's easy to see why. Many of her descriptions are quite dazzling. On the retirement boat, "The seniors got issued these pastel pajamas that made them look like Easter eggs in wheelchairs." In the swamp, "two black branches spooned out of the same wide trunk. They looked like mirror images, these branches, thin and papery and perfectly cupped, blue sky shining between them, and an egret sat on the scooped air like a pearl earring."

Over 300 pages, the density of the prose can become a bit exhausting, however, and Russell's ability to describe everything in minute and quirky detail is sometimes overwhelming.
 
Toward the end, the narrative takes an unexpected turn, finally unraveling its intricate balance between a child's stubborn imagination and the stark horrors of reality.
added by WeeklyAlibi | editWeekly Alibi, Sam Adams (Feb 24, 2011)
 
So Ms. Russell has quite a way with words. She begins with the alligators’ “icicle overbites,” the visiting tourists who “moved sproingingly from buttock to buttock in the stands,” the wild climate (“Our swamp got blown to green bits and reassembled, daily, hourly”), and the Bigtrees’ various thoughts about the theme park’s gators, or Seths. Leaving the origin of that nickname as one of this novel’s endless lovely surprises, let’s just say that Chief Bigtree holds the reptiles in low regard. “That creature is pure appetite in a leather case,” he warns Ava. But when Ava tenderly adopts a newborn bright-red creature as her secret pet, she says, “the rise and fall of the Seth’s belly scales could hypnotize me for an hour at a stretch.”
added by smasler | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Feb 16, 2011)
 
A debut novel from Russell (stories: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, 2006) about female alligator wrestlers, ghost boyfriends and a theme park called World of Darkness.
added by smasler | editKirkus Reivews (Oct 13, 2010)
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Russell, Karenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gall, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"I see nobody on the road," said Alice. "I only wish that I had such eyes," the King remarked in a fretful tone. "To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too! Why it's as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!" --Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
Dedication
For my family
First words
Our mother performed in starlight.
Quotations
The lake was planked with great gray and black bodies.  Hilola Bigtree had to hit the water with perfect precision, making incremental adjustments midair to avoid the gators.
The Chief blinked and blinked, as if he had momentarily blinded himself with his own silver lining.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
As their island home and alligator-wrestling theme park is threatened by a sophisticated competitor, twelve-year-old Ava struggles to cope with her mother's death while her sister, brother, and father all try to deal with their grief in their own unusual ways.
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This novel takes us to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine. The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator wrestling theme park, formerly no. 1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Ava's mother, the park's indomitable headliner, has just died; her sister, Ossie, has fallen in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, who may or may not be an actual ghost; and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, who dreams of becoming a scholar, has just defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their family business from going under. Ava's father, affectionately known as Chief Bigtree, is AWOL, and that leaves Ava, a resourceful but terrified thirteen, to manage ninety eight gators as well as her own grief. Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, the author has written a novel about a family's struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking.… (more)

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