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Swamplandia!

por Karen Russell

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaDiscussões / Menções
3,6212383,547 (3.35)1 / 454
Twelve year old Ava must travel into the Underworld part of the smamp in order to save her family's dynasty of Bigtree alligator wresting. 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.… (mais)
Adicionado recentemente porkategjstone, Library_Guard, fawneileen, ghneumann, biblioteca privada, Shannonb8, petervdzwaag, likelyghost, atraweek, SJC12345
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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Replete with eccentric families and mythic overtones, these larger-than-life novels are exuberantly offbeat. Big Fish depicts a son's quest to know his dying (and lying!) father better, while Swamplandia! relates the struggle of two pre-teens to protect their family's alligator-wrestling theme park.… (mais)
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    Utilizador anónimo: Coming-of-age growing up in a weird little Florida theme park. Except it's dogs rather than alligators, and the fantastic elements are actually present rather than hinted at and then snatched away.
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Inglês (237)  Francês (1)  Todas as línguas (238)
Mostrando 1-5 de 238 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Every summary or review that I saw about this book in the run up to reading it (which, admittedly, wasn't many) cast it as a "Florida is weird, battle of the amusement parks" book. While those elements are certainly present, they are little more than a backdrop to a character-driven novel of grief and confusion, with some Southern Gothic overtones. Russell's writing is lyric and beautiful throughout, often infused with a twinge of dark humor, all of which makes it a pleasure to read.

The story revolves around the Bigtree family, a self-styled "native tribe" who runs the titular alligator park on an island in the last bit of Florida's great swamp. The mother, Hilola, is the star of the show, and when she dies of cancer, both the park and family begin to fall apart. There is something inescapable about the parallel paths of slow degradation. Just as the cancer wasted a once vivacious woman into nothingness, so too does her absence bleed the life and cohesion out of Swamplandia! and the remaining Bigtrees. Chief Sam Bigtree (dad) and his pseudo-intellectual son Kiwi both leave the island in a pitiable and desperate search for income which will save the park. They do so separately, hiding from one another, but are nevertheless walking the same road. Meanwhile daughters Osceola and Ava, left alone on the island, stumble their way into searching for love in all the wrong the wrong places (to paraphrase the '80s). While their searching goes in very different, very strange, directions, they are both casting about for answers and affection without the guidance of their parents.

More than anything else, this book is about loss and lack and the misguided lengths people will go to deal with their grief. While Russell focuses mainly on Ava (who narrates in first person) and Kiwi (whose story is told in 3rd), some sort of decline is as present in all the main characters as it is in the park itself. Notably, if there had been a strong guiding hand in the Bigtree family, each character could have been easily brought back to center. I suppose Hilola was that force, but the reader doesn't really get the chance to see that influence in action.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, the ending was simply too pat to be satisfying. Without going into spoilers, I'll just say that it was entirely too convenient for the story which had preceded it. I couldn't help but wonder whether the various narrative threads and gone too far in different directions for Russell to swiftly weave them back together. It wouldn't have been an easy task, writing a more complex conclusion, but the entire novel would have been strengthened as a result. ( )
  Library_Guard | Jun 17, 2024 |
The people who love this book really love it, but I’d been a little hesitant on it because it just didn’t seem like it was going to be for me. It was picked for my book club, which meant I got to confirm yet again that I’ve developed a pretty good sense of what I’m going to enjoy. The writing was vivid, but I just don’t get anything out of the Southern Gothic style and I felt like the plot didn’t really go anywhere. ( )
  ghneumann | Jun 14, 2024 |
(I believe the only things resembling spoilers I have put in this review are also in all the explanatory blurbs, and so are presumably not really spoilers. I will also say, as a warning, I suppose . . . I had some emotional upheaval that was not the book's fault due to reading it, and I found it impossible to distance myself from that when writing this review, which certainly makes it rather less subjective as a result.)

In thinking about this book, what to say about it, how to describe it, one of the only things that sticks in my mind is pretty much the only thing that made me finish reading it: my mother pressed it upon me, having not read it herself but heard about it and investigated it.

So I supposed I rather felt like I had to finish it, coupled with the fact that I could not simply abandon Ava and Kiwi and Osceola without finding out where Karen Russell left them.

In a way that made the entry into the story a little harder and a little easier for me - this was a book my mother wanted me to read and had spoken to me about before she became ill and later passed away. Following Ava's feelings on her own mother's time in the hospital and later death were a poignantly strange entry to her mindset that perhaps made it harder for me to countenance her later choices, after sinking into her so well early on.

There were moments in this book that were intriguing, and certainly the premise of the family that live at and run Swamplandia! is in itself intriguing - particularly for someone like me, perhaps. (I have worked at a zoo and a wildlife park; the idea of it being your family's home, life, legacy is fascinating.)

There were far more moments in this book that, all credit to Russell as an author, made me genuinely gut-wrenchingly disgusted or ill. I am not entirely sure if they were supposed to, some of them, but I definitely had those feelings. (One of the reasons I really wanted to put this book down.)

Reading this book, and the 'adventures' of the teenagers in it, left me feeling like I was halfway between a young adult, or juvenile, book - adventures that should end poorly, but never quite go as badly as they could - and an adult book - adventures that can end as badly as it is possible to go.

It felt almost as though Russell didn't know which the story was - which feeling also came into play, for me, in several other of the sub-plots throughout the novel.

I will probably never pick this book up again, and at this point . . . despite Russell's few moments that touched me in the story, I'm not even sure I'm glad I picked it up to begin with.

This is not an uplifting book - that in itself doesn't bother me. Some of the most incredible books I've ever read are horrendously depressing.

Something about this story, however . . . I can't put my finger on it, but it is not a feeling that leaves me in a good place, mentally.

The novel was interesting, at the least, and the writing was not poor - the indecision I sensed is almost certainly a stylistic issue, and might not bother some readers - but it wasn't my cup of tea. ( )
  Kalira | May 15, 2024 |
This book was thoroughly imaginative with fully realized characters and beautiful prose. That said, if there were a way to pluck a story out of my mind to make it as though I had never read it, I'd probably choose this story.

I think part of the problem is the way this was marketed, as though it were a quirky , fun story with a cutesy cover and a side show title. The next thing you know you are reading about a child being raped, a family losing their home and identity aproud old man wasting away in a nursing home- an adolescent boy losing his virginity in a meaningless way a teenage girl being medicated into zombiehood-the lsit goes on. I know that not all books have to have a happy ending and I do not dispute this writer's talent, if she weren't so talaented, I'd not feel so bad. ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
This is an odd book. It has an air of unreality, yet I can't call it magical realism, and in the end it collapses into prosaic convention. It is humorous, yet harshly treats two-thirds of its main characters, and can you call a book that includes the rape of a child humorous? I think not. Then there's the setting in the swamps of Florida, inherently an odd and unusual place.

The story is about the Bigtree family of tourist attraction Swamplandia! fame, where they run an alligator-wrestling themed park on their own little island in the swamp. The adults are quickly removed from the scene: the mother dies shortly before the novel opens, and the father soon moves to the mainland to "raise money".

The book is then split in half. One half follows older brother Kiwi, 16, who moves to the mainland and takes a low paying grunt job with competing theme park World of Darkness. Kiwi is treated much better than any other character. He is endearingly painted as a type of sheltered, naive home-schooled kid too smart for his own good. Picked on and called gay by a bully, he thinks to recite poetry to him on the idea that its inherent beauty will be recognized and appreciated. Ha ha. He says something is "ominous", but only having seen the word in books, pronounces it like "dominoes".

Despite his serious lack of preparedness for dealing with mainland life and other people, he finds friends who look out for him, a beautiful girl to relieve him of his virginity, and the great luck to be recruited as a trainee pilot for the park, a skill he seems to learn with ease. Kiwi's chapters are generally funny, and he does well.

His younger sisters are a completely different story. Left behind on the island by Kiwi and their father, Osceola (14 or 15) is either dangerously mentally ill or a spirit medium capable of interacting with ghosts, whom she "dates". She runs off on an abandoned dredge barge to marry one of these ghosts, an adventure which will not end well.

That leaves Ava, 12 or 13, who takes over the other half of the narrative. At the same time her sister leaves her all by herself on the island, a strange older man appears. He convinces Ava that her sister likely is indeed in communication with the dead and on the way to the Underworld, and only he can help guide Ava to the Underworld in pursuit of her sister to rescue her. Ava, smart but all too credulous, goes off through the swamps with this man, and the outcome is that of a dark after-school special. Or it would be if there were any exploration of the aftermath, which there is not - Ava escapes, is eventually rescued and reunited with her family, and there it ends. This pisses off a lot of readers, apparently, which I can understand.

So Karen Russell puts these two girls through hell, not literally as it turns out but certainly figuratively. We have the alternating chapters of their brother as the amusing counterweight, I suppose, yet their suffering cannot be said to be redeemed in any way.

I'm not sure therefore that I would recommend this book to many people, though I did enjoy the reading experience it gave me and was always interested to pick it up again and resume reading. Russell's writing style is accurately described somewhere I saw as "thick"; it is very descriptive. I had to make note of this once sentence: rather than say something as mundane as "she saw him walking towards her", she writes, "Across the room, the Bird Man's antique boots were coming toward me, the toes addressing the air like sniffing noses, and slowly I gathered up the long length of him: trousered legs, brace of feathers, face, hat." ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 238 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
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.
adicionada por souloftherose | editarThe Guardian, Scarlett Thomas (Apr 9, 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.”
adicionada por smasler | editarNew 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.
adicionada por smasler | editarKirkus Reivews (Oct 13, 2010)
 

» Adicionar outros autores (6 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Russell, Karenautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Gall, JohnDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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"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
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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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Twelve year old Ava must travel into the Underworld part of the smamp in order to save her family's dynasty of Bigtree alligator wresting. 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.

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