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Perfume River: A Novel por Robert Olen…
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Perfume River: A Novel (edición 2016)

por Robert Olen Butler (Autor)

MiembrosReseñasPopularidadValoración promediaMenciones
1149187,842 (3.82)6
Robert Quinlan is a seventy-year-old historian teaching at Florida State University, where his wife Darla is also tenured. Their marriage, forged in the fervor of anti-Vietnam War protests, now bears the fractures of time, both personal and historical, with the couple trapped in an existence of morning coffee and solitary jogging and separate offices. For Robert and Darla, the cracks remain under the surface, whereas the divisions in Robert's own family are more apparent: he has almost no relationship with his brother Jimmy, who became estranged from the family as the Vietnam War intensified. Robert and Jimmy's father, a veteran of WWII, is coming to the end of his life, and aftershocks of war ripple across their lives once again when Jimmy refuses to appear at his father's bedside. And an unstable homeless man whom Robert at first takes to be a fellow Vietnam veteran turns out to have a deep impact not just on Robert, but on his entire family.… (más)
Miembro:muddy21
Título:Perfume River: A Novel
Autores:Robert Olen Butler (Autor)
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2016), Edition: 1st, 272 pages
Colecciones:PEA Library, Lo he leído pero no lo tengo
Valoración:****
Etiquetas:fathers and sons, reconciliation, wartime memories

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Perfume River por Robert Olen Butler

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» Ver también 6 menciones

Mostrando 1-5 de 9 (siguiente | mostrar todos)
Such a shallow book, this. A better title might have been The Unbearable Lightness of Being Quinlans. For the novel is so earnest and attempts to be so very deep but only gets around to posing cliched questions of old age.

And age is another matter. This book is populated by geriatrics acting like they are 19 years old. There appears to be only two stages in life, old age and unrelenting memories of Vietnam, war protests, and the 1960s. It's all so tiresome. These people never reflect on anything that occurred in the intervening 46 years between their youth and their aged existence in 2015. But they are good at endlessly eating, sipping tea, and drinking coffee, especially Robert with his damned gourmet Ethiopian beans he obsesses over. And they are excellent at moaning over their comfortable middle class existence. It's as if that 1970 film, Getting Straight, with Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen, was suddenly brought to the 21st century, with all the humor and comedy sucked out of it.

Of the writing style? It pretends. It attempts. And it fails to reflect the fracturing and fragmentation of contemporary life. Instead, it becomes an oafish, hamfisted play in shifting narrative.

One thing this novel did convince me of is that we should abolish academic tenure. That would have rid us all of the insipid Robert and Darla. And perhaps the tedium of being faced with the work of the author of this work of low end academic fiction. ( )
1 vota PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
I read this because my husband and I have planned a trip to Vietnam and his earlier book, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, was recommended as reading. So I was a bit disappointed more of this wasn't set in Vietnam - my problem not his!

My husband is a Vietnam vet, so it was interesting to read accounts of how that now distant war affected the various characters.

Very good writing; however his style, to me, grew a bit monotonous toward the end. ( )
  bobbieharv | Jan 23, 2018 |
Perfume River, Robert Olen Butler, author and narrator

When the book opens, an older couple, Robert and Darla Quinlan are having dinner in the New Leaf Co-op. They are engaged in conversation and are quite comfortable in each other’s company. When a strange man enters who seems disheveled and obviously homeless, Robert Quinlan, aged 70, notices him. He thinks he might be a Vietnam War veteran, like himself, but he is not old enough. Coincidentally, this man and Robert, share the shortened version of the name Robert. The “out of place” man, Bob Weber, is not a veteran, but is the son of one. It was his father Calvin who served during the Vietnam War. Calvin was a stern, demanding man who had expected a certain kind of aggressive behavior from his son. His idea of what made a real man was not compatible with Bob’s personality. What made him most proud and happy about his son, was his prowess with a weapon. Bob’s interaction with his father had been conflicted and Bob was now quite disturbed. Because of therapy, Bob is sometimes able to cover up his difficulty in processing information properly. If he tries very hard and listens to the right voices in his head, the voices that calm him down, he sees reality and does not hear his angry father. His father’s voice incites him. For some reason, Robert finds himself drawn to Bob, and he wants to help him.

Robert, 70, and his brother Jimmy, 68, had a fraught relationship with their father, too. Jimmy is a draft dodger who escaped to Canada with his girlfriend Linda when he was 21. He remains in Canada, the safe haven for those who wanted to avoid the much contested Vietnam War and has been estranged from his family ever since. He and his wife Linda have an open marriage which has gone through many stages. He has recently become involved with a girlfriend named Heather and Linda is involved with the husband of a friend, causing a crisis in that marriage. Heather is very young and seems more like his grandchild than his mate.

Robert, in an effort to gain his father’s love and approval, enlisted in the service, but he intended to avoid the fighting with a desk job. He was sent to Vietnam where he became involved with Lien, a young Vietnamese woman. Their relationship had an enormous effect on him, and it has remained a secret for decades. Bob’s father William is 88 years old. He served during World War II and he, like Calvin, has particular ideas about how men should behave. He doesn’t give his love freely. He is disappointed with both of his son’s actions. Peggy, his wife, never shows outward disagreement with her husband, as was the custom of the times; she voices no reproach to him or her sons and does not defy William even when he causes his son Jimmy to abandon all of them. He demands courage from his sons. Although his mannerisms and expectations made it difficult for either of his sons to feel either approved of or well loved by him, the grandchildren and great grandchildren see him differently. Robert’s son Kevin loves his grandfather, as does Kevin’s 20 year old son Jake, William’s great grandchild. Jake brings the story to a conclusion that takes the story full circle back to its beginning in its theme of war.

William has been injured very badly in a terrible fall. He is in the hospital in grave condition. Their mother Peggy thinks it is now time to reconcile the family, and she asks Robert to try and contact Jimmy. She has tried but has been unsuccessful in convincing him to return. Will Robert be able to find the courage to reach out to him across the years and miles? Will Jimmy be able to overlook the family’s history? Will he be able to forgive his father?

As the story unravels, it revolves largely around the lives of Robert, Bob and Jimmy as they try to come to terms with their memories of their family life, the effects of war on their soldier fathers, and their relationship with others because of that upbringing. The difficulties they experienced are revealed through their memories of events and conversations with their spouses and others who interact with them. Each one’s life had been deeply affected by the politics of the times.

Is war ever good? Is it sometimes necessary? What kind of person makes war possible? The effects of war on these men altered them so much. Those that returned were no longer the same person that left. It was difficult for them to acclimate to normal life. They are hardened and became secretive about what took place, sometimes ashamed of their behavior, sometimes confused by it. Some of the things they witnessed and or participated in were too difficult for them to discuss honestly with anyone, and continued to haunt them long after they returned home. The memories went on to have an often detrimental effect on their behavior and family relationships. In turn, their “sins” were then visited upon their children. Should a child please a parent or himself? Should a child become something else entirely to simply please a parent in order to feel loved by that parent?

The relationship between father and son and sibling to sibling is deftly explored and contrasted through their thoughts and introspection as they try to solve their problems. Because there are so many underlying secrets slowly revealed, the behavior of a character is often misinterpreted. Incomplete information causes others to sometimes jump to uninformed conclusions and incorrect judgments. Only Bob, however, makes judgments that are completely irrational, at times, but all make faulty judgments at times. Bob is simply the compilation of all of the ideas the author presents. He expresses the results of those ideas in their most extreme form.

The tale is dark and sometimes depressing, but it is very well written, and it inspires deep thought about war, military service and parental relationships. While it seems to be somewhat of an apology to the soldiers of the Vietnam War, on the one hand, those who were very much maligned for their service, it also obviously is a condemnation of war, since it illustrates the terrible effect it had on those involved and on those future generations that followed them, as well, even long after the war has ended.

The novel has no chapter breaks and sometimes one characters voice fades into another’s. The narrative builds slowly to a crescendo at various points in the story but then descends again when the tension quickly eases. Each character suffers from conflicting emotions, some more intense than others. Each character seems to have unhealed, invisible wounds because of their paternal relationships. The old pain and grievances still have tremendous power over them. Each has a need to confess their perceived sins to someone, in order to be forgiven. Each wanted to be accepted and loved. Each has shut out painful thoughts or people from their lives. The war and military service, or lack thereof, has had a dark effect on each of them. Each has felt betrayed at some point. Although each of the main male characters questions his judgment, and often suffers from self-doubt and occasionally has mood swings, it is only Bob is noticeably disturbed and permanently damaged. Bob hears voices. Bob, who was the most indirectly involved in any war, is the one most injured by it. Bob is homeless, alone and somewhat lost as he tries to navigate down the road of his life in his deranged mental state.

Each character experiences similar emotions but handles them uniquely. The book makes you think about the nature of war, what makes a hero and what makes a coward and even makes you consider whether or not a war is ever necessary. It makes you wonder how the negative effects of that kind of traumatic experience can be handled far better so it does not revisit future generations. Perhaps it is better to avoid war altogether, if ever possible.
In the end, everyone discovers that unresolved issues remain unresolved after death. Can this premise bring them all back together again and reconcile their family relationships as their war wounds, emotional and physical, that have remained hidden for decades are now revealed? Secrets have separated them, will the truth reunite them? Is forgiveness possible? ( )
  thewanderingjew | Dec 23, 2017 |
An affecting novel that works its way gently along the fault lines between fathers and sons; between those who serve their country and those who choose not to; between the members of one generation and the ones that follow and the ones who came before. About learning new ways to reach each other and ways to resolve and reconcile, within ourselves and between ourselves and others. A touching read. ( )
  muddy21 | Apr 27, 2017 |
Perfume River is a completely different kettle of fish to the other Robert Olen Butler novels that I have read; namely the Christopher Marlowe Cobb thrillers. It took me a while to get comfortable with the rhythm and style of writing of this book which flits back and forth between thoughts and memories and deals with the issues of guilt and failure.

The main theme of The Perfume River surrounds the Vietnam War and how its legacy still affects the leading Protagonist Robert Quinlan’s life, even after almost 50 years. It’s a book about familial relationships, the threads that link through generations, and also madness.

Robert Quinlan is haunted by his experience in the Vietnam War and he mistakenly believes a homeless man he meets in a diner is a veteran soldier. Their lives interweave throughout the novel, both focusing strongly on their relationships with their fathers.

The novel is well written and I feel that the author has captured the essence of the characters but I can’t altogether say that I actually enjoyed the book as such, although any book that makes you think has got to be a worthwhile read.

Curiously at the end of the book (my copy was provided to review by Real Readers powered by Nudge) I thought the novel had ended as the last facing page was ‘About Us’ (the publishers) but when I turned this page over there was another three paragraphs of the story! I presume that the page has just been affixed the wrong way round but I have to admit I preferred the ending finishing where I had first thought it had! ( )
  lesleystyles | Oct 24, 2016 |
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Robert Quinlan is a seventy-year-old historian teaching at Florida State University, where his wife Darla is also tenured. Their marriage, forged in the fervor of anti-Vietnam War protests, now bears the fractures of time, both personal and historical, with the couple trapped in an existence of morning coffee and solitary jogging and separate offices. For Robert and Darla, the cracks remain under the surface, whereas the divisions in Robert's own family are more apparent: he has almost no relationship with his brother Jimmy, who became estranged from the family as the Vietnam War intensified. Robert and Jimmy's father, a veteran of WWII, is coming to the end of his life, and aftershocks of war ripple across their lives once again when Jimmy refuses to appear at his father's bedside. And an unstable homeless man whom Robert at first takes to be a fellow Vietnam veteran turns out to have a deep impact not just on Robert, but on his entire family.

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