Official Review: Goodbye, Marlene by John Devaney

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Kelebogile Mbangi
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Official Review: Goodbye, Marlene by John Devaney

Post by Kelebogile Mbangi »

[Following is an official review of "Goodbye, Marlene" by John Devaney.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Goodbye, Marlene: A Tale of Unrequited Love is a fiction book by John Devaney. The book has the feel of a non-fiction book, and I read the book thinking it was the author relating events that transpired in his childhood. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that it is in fact a fiction book. In that regard, I believe it has been very well written; it is very believable.

Albert Langley and his family move from England to Australia in the year 1963. Leaving the city of Liverpool was a daunting undertaking; as put by Albert himself, “Australia was much further away in those days. It was halfway around the endless, slowly turning world.” Albert soon falls in love with his new Australian home. He appreciates the warm hues of yellow and brown offered by the scorched Australian landscape – unique in its beauty. Goodbye, Marlene: A Tale of Unrequited Love tells of young Albert’s years in Australia, transitioning from careless childhood to puberty.

I mentioned earlier that the book is believable. It has a real-life quality to it. And so, the characters, as seen from Albert’s eyes, are convincing. An excellent example of the depth of the characters is Mother Christopher, the head mistress of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Primary School. Albert deciphers her character and reveals to us her greatest fear – insanity. Mother Christopher has let this fear shape her entire life. To her, madness is the result of non-conformity and of disobedience. In a desperate bid to preserve her sanity, she kills off every ounce of her individuality and independence. It is a desperate need. She must conform. She must obey. In the end, years of desires and appetites denied, turn her into a very disappointed being.

Although I thought the character development was brilliant, I felt there were just too many characters. It was hard to keep track of them all and remember who is who. Albert’s narration moved from the brainless school bully, to his temperamental friend, to his friend’s OCD mother, to his new-born sister and so forth. What made it worse is that the book occasionally moved back and forth between time periods (though generally it moved forward chronologically), making it even harder to keep track of the vast array of characters.

I believe a male audience would be in the best position to enjoy this book. They could relate to Albert’s childhood antics and mischief. They would enjoy his telling of victories and losses in various sports activities. It could bring up memories of their own childhood crushes and unrequited loves. On the other hand, Christians might shy away from this book as Albert proudly shares his strong agnostic views throughout the book.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Despite its realism, and certain portions which I found highly entertaining, as a whole, it was not exciting nor engrossing. As a result, it took me a while to complete. However, I would readily recommend it to readers who enjoy life-like books.

Goodbye, Marlene
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Michelle Fred
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Post by Michelle Fred »

It takes a lot of expertise for an author to feature many characters in a book and still maintain a compelling story.

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Post by esp1975 »

I think the "not exciting nor engrossing" part is what would also make me wonder if this were a memoir instead of fiction. I do like slice of life books, but I like there to be some excitement in that slice, so I think I'll skip this one.

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Post by kdstrack »

I know you recommended this book for men, but I would be interested in reading about Mother Christopher. Her struggles and perspective on life are intriguing. Interesting interview. Thanks.

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Post by Laila_Hashem »

It's too bad that the plotline wasn't captivating, es[pecially since the topic could've been explored through many interesting angles. Great review though!

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Post by LauraLeeWasHere »

Dead KM,
This the first official review I've read by you and I'm actually pleased you didn't give it the full amount of stars. I was beginning to wonder with so many 4-star reviews around if things were a little too "slanted" (biased)around here. But what I've discovered is that this site is jam packed and running over with book lovers that you all read with a deep intensity to LOVE the story. So if you feel you have to hold back even just one star I can sense your reluctance. You really want to love it all the way.
So I wanted to thank you for doing such a good job, even during the times when it can be uncomfortable. You give us lots of information, examples from the book and your opinion (which is also very valuable) which allows us to make a decision which is best for us.
Some people think I make too big of an issue over "just a book review". But both time and how we chose to spend it is extremely valuable. Perhaps priceless beyond my ability to measure, so I want to chose my books wisely, just like I would chose wisely (I hope) the people I spend the majority of my time with, because I will become like them. That seems pretty important to me and I'm glad you're helping
us to stand guard at our hearts and minds. Very well done!
Sincerely, Laura-Lee :tiphat:
And they sang a new song saying,
"You are worthy to take the book,
and to open its to seals,
for You were slain and have redeemed us to God,
by your blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and Nation." Rev. 5:9

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