Amy Reads Books

Super Sad True Love Story : A Novel

Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story is set in a near-future, where the world as we know it as changed dramatically. Money is now mainly concentrated in Scandinavia and China, and America-where the story is set-is almost totally bankrupt, has been fighting an unpopular war in Venezula and is seemingly run by the Defence Secretary, as opposed to the actual President. In this world is 39-year-old Lenny Abramov, who works for a company that allows rich people to essentially buy immortality. Whilst in Italy, he meets Eunice Park, a 24-year-old of Korean heritage who is pretty, but has a pretty tortured back history. The novel follows their relationship in relation to the events around them. I'm going to say right away that I was pretty disappointed with this book. I'd heard pretty good things about it, and thus went into it with pretty high expectations. Unfortunatly they weren't met. However, I'll deal with what I liked first. The world that Shteyngart has created is fascinating. The fact that it isn't totally removed from the way the world appears to be going makes it feel a lot more 'real' than some dystopian fiction. The idea of corporate control and the obsession with being young forever which dogs some of the older characters in the novel can be seen already, and Shteyngart's exploration of what could happen at the extremes of this was very interesting. I also liked how Shteyngart didn't draw huge attention to the changes that were going on, he just had Lenny or Eunice mention them without having them in massive capital letters. There were also times when Shteyngart's prose was really well-written and there were some really lovely phrases at certain points in the novel. These tended to be the more descriptive passages, setting up the scenes and scenarios. I also really liked how the book skipped between Lenny and Eunice's views; and the fact that Lenny writes his in an old-fashioned diary form, whereas Eunice's chapters are told in either email or a kind of MSN/IM layout; to further show the separation between them in regards to their understanding of the world around them. However, Shteyngart's writing was also something I ended up really disliking by the time I finished the novel. For a start, all the dialogue was incredibly annoying, and almost cringeworthy to read (the words 'pals', 'dudes' and for some reason 'Nee-gros' being banded around a lot), whilst this may have been the point, it made for some rather strained reading. Plus, there are numerous acroynms that meant nothign to me; at first this worked, because the reader and Lenny were both oblivious to what the other characters were talking about; but soon Lenny or Eunice would use a phrase and there would be no way for the reader to understand what on earth is going on. Shteyngart also frequently used pretty crude language to describe 'intimate' moments and details about Lenny and Eunice. This was further reflected in the continual useage of the words 'Ass' and 'Pussy' as prefixes or suffixes to women's clothing brands. This misogynistic language is reflected throughout the novel; and it irked me. Rather than being a character-driven feeling, like in Solar, it just seemed in there for the hell of it, as Shteyngart doesn't really go into why the world is like this. It just is. Another annoyance would be the characters. I didn't sympathise with Lenny until the final pages; he just seemed utterly naieve and very, very needy-he seems to spend half his time with Eunice on his knees begging her to not leave him. On the other hand, Eunice was an interesting enough character; her backstory seemed very strained and she was at least a deeper character than Lenny. I wanted to know more about her, and unfortunatly Shteyngart didn't really delve into her story enough. Other characters in the novels seemed pretty two-dimensinal; Joshie (which is a stupid name) Goldmann, Noah Greenberg; even the parents of Lenny and Eunice seemed to simply fulfill stereotypical migrant roles. The only characters I really wanted to know more about were only in the novel briefly-for instance, David the Venezulan War veteran turned protestor and Lenny's friend Grace. Super Sad True Love Story was, for me, a repeat of Brave New World. A brilliant premise and concept created, but I just didn't really care about or for any of the characters. The only interesting bit (The Rupture) happened about a third into the novel, and by that point I was just praying for it to speed up and end already. Disappointed.