Tuesday, August 15, 2006
"All Loves Excelling" by Josiah Bunting III
A few months ago I came across this book while our library was in the midst of rebarcoding everthing to get ready for a system change. I loved the title and front cover. It sounded exactly like something I'd want to read, a lovely little story about a girl attending a prestigious boarding school in the hopes of bettering her grades and SAT scores to get into an Ivy League college.
Plus, the quote on the front said "Should stand on the same shelf [as] A Separate Peace...and The Catcher in the Rye."
So finally, I had a chance to read the book. The entire first half of the book is filled with nothing. I mean, nothing happens. It's mostly about the main character, Amanda, studying nonstop, being pressured by her overbearing mother to be the best, and a very strict exercise schedule. She makes only two friends, but they are so rarely part of the story that it's a wonder they were created at all.
The second half starts to make up for the slow beginning. The prose is beautiful throughout, slowly taking Amanda from earnest and dedicated to an addiction to drugs and an eating disorder. The stiff but well-meaning story seeks to warn parents about the pressures put upon their children. My problem with it is the lack of warmth. At the end of the book, I should feel more than a slight disappointment for poor Amanda. It's a shame because I could tell the story meant a lot to the writer. I just wish it meant more to me.
One plus, for me, was the many references to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, whom I also studied in college. But given the weightiness of the material and lovely prose, despite its stiffness and lack of fully realized characters, I give this book 3.5 stars.