Book info

A Crime In The Neighborhood (1998)

A Crime in the Neighborhood (1998)
Author
Rating
3.39 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0805055800 (ISBN13: 9780805055801)
languge
English
genre
publisher
henry holt
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A Crime In The Neighborhood (1998)
A Crime In The Neighborhood (1998)

About book: In the summer of '72, in the D.C. suburbs, 10 year old Marsha tires to make sense of a word that is becoming increasingly uncertain. On a national level, and in her neighborhood, a boy is molested and murdered. Throughout the summer Marsha watches the building hysteria in the neighborhood, and record. There are so many great things about this book that I wish I could rave about it, but it left me lukewarm. What's right with it? The author has a good ear for dialogue. Her character development of both her minor and major characters is excellent, especially in the case of the protagonist's mother,perhaps the most likable character in the book. The story is set in the early '70s in the Washington, D. C. suburb near Bethesda, MD. I spent the latter '70s in the suburbs of D. C., but in Virginia. In truth, I did not even live in the States until the mid '70's. However, from living among Americans abroad, and later, living in the general area Berne is describing, she hits the right tone and paints a vivid setting that captures the era. The main thing that is wrong with the book is it is too long to have a real sock in the jaw impact. Part of that is because of the protagonist. She is an observant child, watching everything in the neighborhood. "Rear Window"-like she is rendered partly immobile because of a broken ankle. She spends most of the summer watching and recording the goings on of her neighborhood into her journal. Fine, if this was an interesting child, but she isn't. One blurb compares her to Scout Finch. No way! I think she is more like Frankie from A Member of the Wedding, perhaps one of the most annoying characters in my reading history. Marsha describes herself as a child who was rarely seen, but always on the edge watching any tense or emotional situation. In her home she spends her time eavesdropping, spying on her siblings and searching their rooms. Spying & prying. I can't get over a real dislike for the girl who was not at all interesting, but a creepy, morbid little ghoul. I generally like creepy characters, but this kid is a creepy bore. As for the other children, they aren't much better. Granted Marsha is dealing with some difficult times. First, her father has left her mother, for her mother's younger sister, no less. Mom is trying to figure out how to go it alone, and actually making fine work of it. Her siblings don't care for her and exclude her. Her neighbor who is the closest in age to her is maybe more of a creepy kid than she is. So virtually friendless and dealing with the break-up of her family and a broken ankle, you can have some sympathy for her. Still, when it comes to the heart of the book, I just kept thinking of other authors who have tapped this same well with more chilling impact, Lillian Hellman & Ian McEwan come first to mind.

This book looked just right for the semi zonked out state I arrived home in after a twenty six hour flight so started reading it right away. It was a gripping read and a worthy winner of the Orange Prize; quite remarkable for a first novel although the author was an experienced writer of shorter items.Marsha was an interesting narrator - although at times a very unlikeable one, as she sneaks around the neighbourhood, twisting the truth, making up blatant lies and never thinking of the consequences of her perceptions on the life of another human being.The ambience in the village was palpable, and typical of the times I thought even though the US is far from our location. I don't have Berne's skill with words so shall simply quote from her description of family life in the ‘70s:"Of course, for many people who grew up in the ‘70s, childhood was spent between parents, rather than with them. If parents didn’t actually divorce, they certainly thought about it, often out loud, and sometimes requested their children’s advice. I’ve heard horror stories about Christmases spent in airports, scenes at high school graduations, photo albums with one parent or the other scissored out. I’ve heard so many of these stories that they’re no longer remarkable – in fact, they have stopped being stories at all and turned into clichés …"One wonders what has changed in village life in the last 40 years. Maybe nowadays the perpetrator of the crime would have a You Tube feature bragging about the crime. And there'd be a Face Book page arguing the rights and wrongs of Marsha's actions.Improvements? Who knows?
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Reviews
JJ Aitken
At first I was not drawn to write anything about this novel straight after finishing. I really enjoyed it a lot. Very clear and exceptionally realised but for some reason I thought I would just shelve it and move on. Then time away created room for reflection. There are so many great books centered around a coming of age story and for good reason. They are the most unfathomable experiences we may ever have. Not only are they the first of their kind for us but they also act as a major catalyst for the rest of our lives. The people they involve - although they may never be directly in our lives again they stay with us forever shaping our hearts and minds. In some regards more like a life partner than the one we may choose.
Matthew
What's great about this book is the way it plays around with an unreliable narrator, something that's signalled right at the beginning of the novel. However I think that, although short, the book is too long for the story it contains and has to be padded out. This seems to be a result of the limitations the narrative perspective imposes-- if we can't know any more than the child, and she isn't well informed, then there isn't too much to tell. Also, the Nixon/family breakdown parallels are done in quite an obvious way. Still, good fun to read, and a challenge for the old brain.
Kathryn
Meh. I went into this book wanting to disagree with the people who criticized this book and for the first 70 pages I did. I liked that the focus was no the crime itself, but the the developments that motivated her to do the things she did. By page 143, I found myself saying, "Enough, get on with it". Had this been a short story rather than a full length book I think it would have been better. I get that the slow monotony of the summer had a lot to do with the boredom and restlessness and maybe e
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