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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Bottle Grove: A Novel by Daniel Handler (*NetGalley)

Bottle Grove: A Novel

Bottle Grove: A Novel
written by Daniel Handler
ISBN 10:  1632864274
ISBN 13: 978-1632864277
240 Pages
Bloomsbury Publishing
August 27th, 2019

 Bottle Grove by Daniel Handler



My Review:

If you have read even one of the Lemony Snicket books, then you know Daniel Handler is a talented writer with a quirky, unique style all his own. I loved those books, and I was anxious to read this one.

The story opens on Rebecca and Ben's wedding ceremony. Family and friends join the newlyweds for their reception in a park on the edge of San Francisco called Bottle Grove park. The celebration turns into an outrageous fiasco when Reynard, the officiating vicar, is caught in a compromising situation with someone other than his fiance' Nina. What follows is a huge blowout, leading to a questionable car accident where Reynard suspiciously goes missing.

We meet Padgett and Martin. They are a couple going in opposite directions. Martin owns the town's watering hole -- a bar Handler christened "the Bottle Grove." In financial trouble and sinking fast he thinks he has the perfect plan. He wants his to use his girlfriend as bait to siphon money out of a wealthy man and into his bar. The catch? His girlfriend is even sneakier and greedier. 

Unfortunately, Handler's style did not translate well when paired with the Bottle Grove narrative. There were sections where his true talent would shine through; then sadly it would be followed by slow, boring dialogue. This book was confusing. I found myself reading and re-reading sentences, passages, even entire chapters in an attempt to wrap my mind around what was going on. I often felt what the author was trying to convey through dark comedy and satirical dialogue was "lost in translation." A story set amid the tech boom. A time when the division between the haves and the have nots was deeper than ever. These characters are not very likable, making it difficult to care about or connect with them. It felt to me like a lot of ideas were thrown at the reader in hopes something would stick.  Love, marriage, cheating, money and how far people will go to have it. Plus a shape-shifter for good measure.

I love Daniel Handler, but I could not lose myself in Bottle Grove. For me, it was a jumbled mess that in no way represents this talented author's ability to entertain readers.

Happy Reading,

RJ



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Synopsis:

This is a story about two marriages. Or is it? It begins with a wedding, held in the small San Francisco forest of Bottle Grove--bestowed by a wealthy patron for the public good, back when people did such things. Here is a cross section of lives, a stretch of urban green where ritzy guests, lustful teenagers, drunken revelers, and forest creatures all wait for the sun to go down. The girl in the corner slugging vodka from a cough-syrup bottle is Padgett--she's keeping something secreted in the woods. The couple at the altar are the Nickels--the bride is emphatic about changing her name, as there is plenty about her old life she is ready to forget.

Set in San Francisco as the tech boom is exploding, Bottle Grove is a sexy, skewering dark comedy about two unions--one forged of love and the other of greed--and about the forces that can drive couples together, into dependence, and then into sinister, even supernatural realms. Add one sinister shape-shifter to the mix, and you get a delightful and strange spectacle: a story of scheming and yearning and foibles and love and what we end up doing for it--and everyone has a secret. Looming over it all is the income disparity between San Francisco's tech community and . . . Everyone else.





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