Monday, March 30, 2009

Review (with Ali of Worducopia): Etta by Gerald Kolpan

I put out a request on Twitter to do a co-review and Ali of Worducopia took me up on it...I'm so glad! We both read the book and then met in google chat (after some technical difficulties) to chat about it!

First though, here's some info about the book: Beautiful, elusive, and refined, Etta Place captivated the nation at the turn of the last century as she dodged the law with the Wild Bunch, led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Her true identity and fate have remained a mystery that has tantalized historians for decades. Now, for the first time, Gerald Kolpan envisions this remarkable woman’s life in a stunning debut novel.

Our Conversation:
Amy: So.....what did you think of Etta?
worducopia: Overall, I liked it. But I have to say, I was a little put off by the interview at the back of the ARC that said he'd made a bunch of stuff up to make it a better story.
It was an odd mix of historical fiction with real people as characters, and just plain fiction.
Amy: True. I guess I'm okay with them making stuff up, though some of it was pretty far out when she pretended to be Annie Oakley...wait, it that too spoilery?
worducopia: I don't think that's too spoilery. That's exactly the type of thing I mean. Or, her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt.I could never tell what was real and what was made up.
Amy: Yeah. What did you think of the format of the book? Articles, telegrams, diary entries, etc.?
worducopia: Normally, I love that, and in some instances I did. Some of the newspaper articles were distracting to me, though. I couldn't quite tell why they were there.
Amy: I have to admit, it was really obvious that this was written by a man!
I never felt like we got really deep into Etta's point of view...did you?
worducopia: The diary entries didn't read like a woman's diary.
No, I always felt like she was distant--even in the diary entries, which were in first person so should have been closer.
Amy: That's exactly how I felt! I was wondering..(sorry I'm all over the place) this was recommended to me several times for my try something new mini challenge in which I committed to reading a western. Have you read any other westerns? Is this how most westerns read?
worducopia: I have to admit, I have never read a western, or had any desire to! But this book got me curious about that era, more so than I had been.
Not that "western" is an era--but that time and setting, I mean.
Amy: It's kind of an era. :)
worducopia: So, that's my main praise of the book--it definitely piqued my interest!
Amy: It was fun in many ways and Etta was very likeable I thought...the way she rescued Little Snake and such
worducopia: I thought the Sundance Kid was likeable as well. Actually, Butch Cassidy kind of was, too.
Amy: Yes, I thought so too!
worducopia: Another thing I liked about the book was that, even though Etta did some crazy things I would never even consider doing, her character was always believable to me. Like, I "got" why she got involved in the Hole-in-the-wall gang.
Amy: Yeah, that's a good point. I thought that the dime store novel story was really funny.
worducopia: Gosh, I kind of skimmed that. I was ready to plow through to the end by that point.
Amy: LOL! I just thought it was funny because people wanted to like her, so they painted her circumstances as being very sympathetic.
worducopia: I liked the way she never was quite what people expected. She was so high-class, and then did things that didn't quite fit that persona.
So, who would you recommend this to?
Amy: Hmmm...anyone with an interest in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or that era. I wanted to read this book because I hoped to learn more them. I did, but I don't feel like I was ever fully transported to that time like some historical fiction can do.
worducopia: I didn't either. And because so much of it was made up, I didn't feel like I could "trust" the author to teach me more about the history--which is another thing I enjoy about historical fiction.
Amy: Also, I guess anyone who likes to read about mob chases might be interested. I got a little bit confused by all of that.
worducopia: Oh, true! Funny, I went from Etta to The Girl She Used to Be. I hadn't even made the connection that they are both about women running from the mob!
Amy: Ha! Are you enjoying The Girl She Used to Be? I started that but haven't finished it yet.
worducopia: I'm loving it, actually.


So, in case it wasn't entirely clear from our chat, we both felt the book was decent though the format didn't work for us one hundred percent of the time and we weren't transported to this time period in history. We liked the characters, but never felt we got deeply into their point of view.

While this is considered a western, it's not the western I'm reading for my Try Something New Challenge.

Rating: 3.25/5



Lisa said...

I've requested this book from my library and look forward to reading it to see if I feel the same as y'all do. I do enjoy western-themed books. I love the co-review format! Very cool.

Jen - devourer of books said...

What a fun way to do a review! I think I'll skip the book, though. I'm not huge on historical fiction that is really fictiony, particularly when I can't be sure what is and what is not made up.

Wendi B. - Wendi's Book Corner ~ Rainy Day Reads in Seattle said...

What a great review - I just love the Co-Review idea. How did you come up with this idea? I might just have to give this a try in the near future. :)

~ Wendi

Ruth said...

Loved this review format! Lots of fun to read!

Just curious, have you read any of Stephanie Grace Whitson's novels? She can spin a good western yarn. :) I also grew up devouring Louis L'Amour, the original Hopalong Cassidy novels, and the Saga of the Sierras by Brock and Bodie Thoene.

Gwendolyn B. said...

Nice review - I like this Co-Reviewer format! I read ETTA recently and approached it as straight fiction as opposed to historical fiction. That worked for me, because I don't know much of the actual history from that period. I'd probably rate it much the same as you did -- I liked it, but not as much as I wanted to!
I've got THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE next up on my TBR list. Looking forward to hearing what you think of that one!

bermudaonion said...

A book review done on Twitter - I absolutely love it! It's groundbreaking stuff.

kalea_kane said...

What a great duo review! LOVED it. You two did a great job, and not too spoilery. ;)

Ali said...

This was so fun to do, thanks for bringing up the idea of a co-review, Amy! I just put my post up a few minutes ago.


Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Fun format! I'm doing something similar with Jessi for the try-something-different mini-challenge at Dewey's books.

Did you have the whole conversation on Twitter ... maybe they'll archive it for the Smithsonian :)

and I learned a new word, spoilery!

Jenny Girl said...

Great job you two! You were both honest with your thoughts. It's a shame that the author felt he had to make up a lot of stuff. I know there is some fiction, but it at least has to be believable fiction!

Elizabeth said...

Hey - if you are still looking for a western, try So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger - I just read it and was surprised by how much I liked it!

Nymeth said...

A chat review! I love love love this idea. I've done mutual interviews and discussion questions, but never an actual chat. Mind if I borrow the idea sometime?

Beth F said...

A Google Talk review! Very cool!

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