Swamplandia!. Karen Russell

by Author unknown | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 9780701186029 Global Overview for this book
Registered by book-man-8 of Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg Germany on 5/18/2011
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10 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by book-man-8 from Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg Germany on Wednesday, May 18, 2011
This is a strange story, at times most funny, then again sad, but often also creepy.
I liked to read it, although at times it was just a bit longish...
"Swamplandia!" has really something that will keep your mind awake. A story built around alligators - but it is mostly a family story. A story, where this interwoven strands slowly start to fall apart...

I'm making a bookRAY with this one.

The following bookcrossers read along:


"kally93" from Brantford, Ontario, Canada (North America)
"cherryj" from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (North America)
"cinnycat" from Central Square, New York, USA (US only)
"vaashti" from College Park, Maryland, USA (US only)
"perryfran" from North Ogden, Utah, USA, (worldwide)
"klaradyn" from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa (worldwide)
"Cassandra2020" from Roslin, Midlothian, United Kingdom (UK, Europe)

Journal Entry 2 by book-man-8 at Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg Germany on Friday, July 08, 2011

Released 8 yrs ago (7/8/2011 UTC) at Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg Germany

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The postal strike in Canada is over, so the book can finally start it's travels. And as we got one more reader, all the bookcrossers interested in this book will get it - sooner or later...
Enjoy!

Journal Entry 3 by Kally93 at Brantford, Ontario Canada on Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Received book today! I will start it right away and send it to the next person on the list as soon as possible. Thanks book-man-8.

Journal Entry 4 by Kally93 at Brantford, Ontario Canada on Monday, August 08, 2011
This is a strange story for sure. Almost surreal and, yes, creepy. The author did an excellent job of giving you the feel and atmosphere of the swamp. The children live bizarre, somewhat sheltered lives. For example why hadn't the parents told their children they should never go off with strangers? I would like to go into more details about this but don't want to spoil it for the next readers. Let's just say for a lot of the book I felt like I was being lead in on a sort of drug induced ride. Like book-man-8 there were times when I felt the book dragged a bit and I had to slug through, but overall interesting and very different.

Journal Entry 5 by Kally93 at Bookring/Bookray, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- Canada on Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Released 8 yrs ago (8/9/2011 UTC) at Bookring/Bookray, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- Canada

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Sent to cherryj. Thanks for sharing book-man-8!
The time it says here for the release is incorrect. I actually mailed it a day earlier, but I'm unable to make the correction.

Journal Entry 6 by cherryj at Vancouver, British Columbia Canada on Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Received today! Thanks kally93. The postcard made me laugh. :)
I have a quiet evening planned, so I'll probably start reading it tonight.

Journal Entry 7 by cherryj at Vancouver, British Columbia Canada on Thursday, August 25, 2011
After I finished the book I had to sit for a bit and think on it. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. On the one hand, the beginning had so much potential with great characters. The middle was great! How could one go wrong with a story about a journey to the Underworld in a Florida swampland? But on the other hand, the end fell flat, and I realised I was disappointed. I felt that Russell didn't know what to do with the swamp mythology she'd created. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll end here.

Journal Entry 8 by cherryj at Vancouver, British Columbia Canada on Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Released 8 yrs ago (8/31/2011 UTC) at Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

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On it's way to cinnycat!

Journal Entry 9 by BookBirds at Central Square, New York USA on Wednesday, September 07, 2011
One of my most anticipated books for 2011 is here! thanks book-man-8 for giving me a chance to read it. I don't usually read books the year they are actually published. I have a book or two I have to read before this one though...

Journal Entry 10 by BookBirds at Central Square, New York USA on Friday, October 07, 2011
Swamplandia! takes the short story 'Ava Wrestles the Alligator' in Karen Russell's previous story collection and extends them to novel form, while tweaking the ages of the characters a bit, making Ava a bit less naive, and changing the specifics of some of the events. The Bigtree clan pretends to be an indigenous tribe, while alligator wrestling and operating a swampy park in Florida. The Bigtrees are superstars on their own island (they even have a Bigtree museum), but when older brother Kiwi goes to work at the mainland competition, an eerie hellish "amusement park" called World of Darkness, mainly taking place in a giant leviathan, he realizes that his family has remained relatively unknown. Chief Bigtree - a guy who is always wearing a feathery headdress -- loves to spew advice and wisdom, goes to the mainland to work on his plan of "Carnival Darwinism" to save Swamplandia, leaving his kids by themselves, though fully aware of the dangers of doing so. It seems he is very concerned with strangers, but that doesn't matter when the youngest, twelve year old Ava Bigtree, goes on a trip to the Underworld with a mysterious Bird Man, to find her sister Osceola that has been possessed by a ghost with an interesting story. I really could have done without a specific horrible situation a twelve year old has to go through. I think I would have liked the book better without it going there. Oddly enough, this isn't the first book with a massacre involving a gang of birds that I've read this year ('When the Killing's Done' by T.C. Boyle was the first.) I loved the idea of the library boat that just stayed anchored after the owner died, and anyone who knows about it visits it, takes books and returns them.

Swamplandia reminds me of Katherine Dunn's 'Geek Love' which is mentioned in the acknowledgements. Both books feature a family living in showbiz. It has the same impending doom at the end while including little details that give it a constant nightmare quality, though Swamplandia is a bit tamer than 'Geek Love'.

I think both the original story and the extended novel both have their positives. The story remains mysterious and it's easier to hold your breath until the end of a 20 page story. The novel gives more detail but less mystery. The ending of the book seemed abrupt and too easily tied together, and yes, it could have been better. The characters are great. But the writing is the winner here: gorgeous and amazing, vivid and descriptive. There are just little things that only a great writer would see to write about like "She tugged on her shoelaces like tiny reins, embarrassed." Russell sees details and describes them the way a perfect writer should. I love Russell's style and she will keep writing, I hope.

I think this will be a huge contender for the 2012 Morning News Tournament of Books if it makes the list, but I was saying that as soon as I heard about this book (the link here is for last year's ToB).... but there might be a couple more important books that will take the rooster (the prize of the ToB -- really if you don't follow the ToB, you should) instead of Swamplandia. There is also a good review of it here with my favorite magazine, you might read when you're done reading the book.

thanks so much again for giving me the chance to read this! It might be a bit before I can go to the post office, so I'll wait closer to mailing before I ask for an address.

Journal Entry 11 by BookBirds at Central Square, New York USA on Thursday, October 20, 2011

Released 8 yrs ago (10/19/2011 UTC) at Central Square, New York USA

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Vaashti asked to be skipped because they are in the middle of a move. So I sent this to perryfran. Sorry I had the book so long! And thanks again for sharing. One of the best books I've read so far this year...

Journal Entry 12 by wingperryfranwing at North Ogden, Utah USA on Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Received today - thanks! Will get to this as soon as I finish "Devil Colony" - another great ray from book-man-8.

Journal Entry 13 by wingperryfranwing at North Ogden, Utah USA on Friday, November 04, 2011
This one was quite a ride! It takes place in the world of Carl Hiaasen and in many ways, it reminded me of a Hiaasen novel with its quirky characters and the ecological problems in Florida, however, there the similarities end. This book was very murky and creepy and did not contain any of the humor of a Hiaasen story. It reminded me more of "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "Night of the Hunter" given that both of these novels were set in the South and told from the perspective of a young person. Overall, the story kept me interested -- especially Ava's sojourn in the swamp in search of Osceola and her adventures with the "Bird-man". In the last half of the book, the chapters alternated between Ava's story and Kiwi's life as a mainlander. Kiwi's story to me was less interesting and I was anxious to get on with Ava's adventure to the "underworld". One other picky comment was that I thought the author was a little wordy and pretentious -- I don't think a 12-year old girl who had not gone to school would be using some of the language that was used. But overall, I would recommend this one!

Journal Entry 14 by wingperryfranwing at Saldanha, Western Cape South Africa on Friday, November 04, 2011

Released 8 yrs ago (11/4/2011 UTC) at Saldanha, Western Cape South Africa

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Will be winging on to klaradyn in South Africa. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 15 by klaradyn at Cape Town, Western Cape South Africa on Monday, November 21, 2011
Arrived! Thanks for sharing this one, book-man-8, and for sending on, perryfran. I look forward to reading it.

Journal Entry 16 by klaradyn at Cape Town, Western Cape South Africa on Monday, December 26, 2011
Loved this book. Russell creates a surreal, atmospheric backdrop for her characters, with decay gradually taking hold of the island. Also enjoyed the voice of the precocious, yet naive Ava as narrator. If there is one thing about the novel to be singled out for criticism, it is the way Kiwi is handled. He doesn't really feature in the beginning of the novel, and then suddenly he goes off to the outside world and becomes a point-of-view character with his story told by an omniscient third-person narrator (as opposed to the Ava chapters that are in the first person). This didn't really work for me, but also didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

I've contacted the next person on the list and will send the book off when I've received her address.

Journal Entry 17 by klaradyn at Cape Town, Western Cape South Africa on Sunday, January 29, 2012

Released 8 yrs ago (1/28/2012 UTC) at Cape Town, Western Cape South Africa

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Sent on to the next reader via surface mail.

Journal Entry 18 by wingCassandra2020wing at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom on Tuesday, May 22, 2012
I'd totally forgotten this was on its way - what a wonderful surprise & just as I finished my last book too!

Journal Entry 19 by wingCassandra2020wing at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom on Monday, June 11, 2012
I'm desperately trying to remember what first attracted me to this book. I remember suggesting it as a book group read early last year (we didn't choose it) and also was keen enough to go and see Karen Russell at the BookFest and to sign up for this BookRay.

The main narrator/voice of this story is Ava Bigtree, a thirteen year old girl living on an island in the Florida Everglades. The family are Aligator Wrestlers and own a theme park: Swamplandia. Almost immediately in the story, Ava's Mother dies and the rest of the book charts the unravelling of the family without her. As the book progresses, the chapters start to alternate between Ava telling her story and the story of Kiwi, her brother, as he tries to make a new life on the mainland. Now I've read a few other's reviews and they all preferred reading Ava's chapters - strangely I prefered Kiwi's, maybe because his seemed more grounded in reality, whilst Ava's needed a bit of a 'suspension of belief'. Much as she had had a sheltered upbringing, living apart from the mainland, and had been home schooled, I found it hard to believe that a 13 year old would be quite so naive and trusting. Her voice didn't quite ring true to me - very adult language, but very childish character. Kiwi, on the other hand, did ring true. Also quite naive and trusting, but in a very different way. The story of how finds work and makes friends is light relief from everything else that goes on. I also found the ending a little abrupt and full of too much coincidence, but I guess that's the nature of tying up lose ends.

What I did love about this book was the beautiful, and loving, descriptions of the Florida wilderness. I've never been anywhere like it, but I could picture it from what was written, very evocative.

On the whole, whilst I found some of it hard going, I'm glad I read this, but I'm also glad we didn't choose it as a book group read as I would have felt guilty if folk hadn't enjoyed it.

Journal Entry 20 by wingCassandra2020wing at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom on Monday, October 08, 2012

Released 7 yrs ago (10/6/2012 UTC) at Roslin, Scotland United Kingdom

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Posted out to Fracula - happy reading!

Journal Entry 21 by fracula at Calgary, Alberta Canada on Friday, October 19, 2012
Book arrived safe and sound yesterday. Just finished another book today, so this will be my next read.

Journal Entry 22 by fracula at Calgary, Alberta Canada on Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Released 7 yrs ago (11/8/2012 UTC) at Calgary, Alberta Canada

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Every one before me added such thorough comments that I totally agree with!

While I was glad a read the book, with all its great literary images, I would have liked an epilouge to find out what happened to all the characters.

Thanks for sharing. This book is now on its way to lizzy-stardust.

Journal Entry 23 by Lizzy-stardust at Arbutus, Maryland USA on Friday, November 16, 2012
Received this in today's post. I have one other book ahead of it but very much look forward to reading this. Thanks for sharing it!

Journal Entry 24 by Lizzy-stardust at Arbutus, Maryland USA on Friday, December 14, 2012
I tried really hard tom get into this book, but it just seemed ridiculous and after page 68 I could read no further. Maybe I would have enjoyed the short story on which it was based more. Will contact the next in line and send it as soon as I can.

Journal Entry 25 by Lizzy-stardust at Salford, Greater Manchester United Kingdom on Sunday, January 27, 2013
I mailed this to babsdotter earlier this week.

Journal Entry 26 by babsdotter at Sparta, Missouri USA on Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Received in the mail from Lizzy-stardust. Thanks. I'm looking forward to reading this.

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