CC Book Club: “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra

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BookClub-Anthony Marra

Well, it’s finally happened. I picked a book that I couldn’t finish. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra has been on my radar since it was published, and I was super excited to dig in. It had received great reviews and seemed like a really interesting story. It’s set in a variety of time periods between 1994 and 2004 in Chechnya, Russia. I think part of the reason why I couldn’t get into this book is the references to the Chechen wars, which I didn’t understand. I thought some of the war references would be explained, but that wasn’t the case and I didn’t realize that you needed some background knowledge before starting the book. I think a few trips to Wikipedia would have made it much more enjoyable.

I feel a bit sad that Marra’s novel got some many 5-star ratings on GoodReads.com and I just didn’t agree; usually I enjoy popular books. But, I felt like this was a really good opportunity to get a conversation on book likes and dislikes going.

So what do you like in a novel? Me, I’m all about character development and thrilling, exciting stories. Basically, lots of dialogue and lots of exciting things surrounding this dialogue. I think that’s one reason why I enjoy young adult fiction so much; the characters spend a lot of times figuring themselves out while chatting with other each other.

And, the flip side: what can’t you stand? My two pet peeves when it comes to books are overuse of verbose language and unnecessarily long explanations. Therefore, I can’t stand novels like the Lord of the Rings series where they take up 4 pages to describe a blade of grass. As for the verbosity, I’m a student; I basically read for a living. When I pick up a book for enjoyment, I don’t want to work at it. Maybe once I’m settled in my career I’ll turn to fun reading for some mental stimulation, but right now I read to relax and keeping my iPhone within arm’s reach so I can define words is not relaxing.

I’m really interested in your thoughts on this! It will definitely help shape my picks from hereon in. And in the interest of forever avoiding another bust, I’ve read ahead in our February pick to ensure enjoyment. Please join me back here in a month’s time for a discussion of my February pick, Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden!

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