Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

It kind of says something when I want to bounce ideas about the book I'm reading off my husband, and all I can think to say is, "meh, it's fine." (He's gotten quite used to having me talk about books he hasn't had a chance to read yet, and tends to have amazing insights anyway. And if he doesn't, I at least get to formulate my ideas out loud, which is always how I think best, and he listens patiently.)

Even more telling may be the part where I started this book, and then remembered that I'd read it before. But not in any way that anything had really stuck with me. There was no rush of "oh, yes, I remember that!" that I got when I was rereading David Copperfield, and bits I'd forgotten rushed back to welcome me like old friends. It was more "oh, yeah, I did read that. Huh."

And yet, it's not terrible. I just feel terribly neutral about it. It's fine. It really is.

It's just not anything more. I'd say maybe it's cultural, but I've read plenty of books, some about different cultures, where different generations fundamentally don't understand each other. Some of those have been freaking fantastic. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's not.

It's also that this genre exploded after The Joy Luck Club, with books about Chinese women's experiences in the United States, and so I also have some of the knowledge of the books this spawned, and it doesn't seem so unique anymore. It might have been at the time, but once novelty is taken away, it's just...fine.

Four Chinese women lament that their Americanized daughters don't understand them. Four daughters are annoyed that their mothers don't understand them. The writing is fine, the characters are fine, it just doesn't sparkle or leap off the page.

It's not bad. It's just not great. Hopefully this time I'll retain the memory of having read it.


  1. I read the Joy Luck Club and although I haven't read it twice, I'd feel similar sentiments about it as well. I just feel like in the end, by the time you're done you never felt like you really got to KNOW the characters. It was as personal as a coffee luncheon.

  2. It's too bad, because it feels like there's more under the surface. It just never gets brought out adequately. Ah well.