- Fizzy Thoughts: The Monsters of Templeton

The Monsters of Templeton

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The Monsters of Templeton
Lauren Groff
February 2008
384 pages

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of Groff's lyrical debut, 28-year-old Wilhelmina "Willie" Upton returns to her picturesque hometown of Templeton, N.Y., after a disastrous affair with her graduate school professor during an archaeological dig in Alaska. In Templeton, Willie's shocked to find that her once-bohemian mother, Vi, has found religion. Vi also reveals to Willie that her father wasn't a nameless hippie from Vi's commune days, but a man living in Templeton. With only the scantiest of clues from Vi, Willie is determined to untangle the roots of the town's greatest families and discover her father's identity. Brilliantly incorporating accounts from generations of Templetonians—as well as characters borrowed from the works of James Fenimore Cooper, who named an upstate New York town Templeton in The Pioneers—Groff paints a rich picture of Willie's current predicaments and those of her ancestors. Readers will delight in Willie's sharp wit and Groff's creation of an entire world, complete with a lake monster and illegitimate children.

I have to say, that is a most excellent synopsis. Short, and to the point.

I've never read any of James Fenimore Cooper's works, and I think that makes the book a little inaccessible in parts. Because there are some pretty important characters later in the book that I know came from Cooper, but I didn't know how. So color me clueless. I generally don't like books that incorporate aspects of older novels...and this is why.

I thought the story got off to a rough start, but once Willie started investigating her family's past, it smoothed out and picked up. But then, about 3/4 of the way through, I was ready for the end. This was about the time some of Cooper's characters started cluttering up the pages. I know this book was (is?) pretty popular, and I can see why, but I think it's suffering in comparison to some really wonderful books that I've read lately. And plus, there's that whole Cooper thing...I don't think I can get past that.

10 comment(s):

Beth F said...

Hummm. I've been thinking about this one because I can get it on audio from the library. I've read Cooper, but I'm not sure I'd get all the references. I heard that it's difficult to follow without a copy of the family tree (which I can get from the library).

farmlanebooks said...

There were certain parts of this book that were really good, but other bits were confusing and poorly written.

I'm glad I read it for the monster bit alone though!

I'm listening to her book of short stories at the moment. It is quite good, but most of it seems very similar to this book.

Ti said...

This one has been on my list for awhile but you make a good point on the Cooper references. I've never read his works so I would probably be a bit lost. Hmmmm.

heatherlo said...

Hmm. I've had this one on my TBR shelf for a way too long and I keep meaning to get to it. I've seen such a range of reviews, too, some excellent, some so-so like yours, and some awful. I think that huge range makes me want to read it even MORE, lol. So, yeah, I think I'll read this one soon... thanks for the review!

Tara said...

I've had this in the TBR stack for ages, and like heatherlo I've also seen a great range of reviews. I think the Cooper thing would throw me a bit. Thanks for the review.

bermudaonion said...

Sorry this wasn't great for you. I have Delicate Edible Birds in my pile to be read.

Literate Housewife said...

I absolutely loved this novel and I hadn't read Cooper before. The first sentence hooked me right away. There was just something about it that pulled me in and I stayed there the entire time.

There are sometimes when literary links unfamiliar to me work and times when they don't. There's no rhyme or reason. To each her own, right? :)

Wrighty said...

I got the ARC for the Barnes & Noble First Look club last year. I didn't get very far into it and I couldn't finish it. I've always meant to give it another try but haven't had the chance. I have too many other good ones right now. I guess it just wasn't for me but a lot of people did like it.

softdrink said...

Beth - yes...you should definitely have the family tree on hand! In fact, there are multiple family trees...it changes whenever Willie learns more about her family.

farmlane - The cover of the new book was tempting me...until I read Monsters!

Ti - well, Lit Housewife liked it! :-D So there's still hope.

Heather - I feel like my review was the equivalent of a double dog dare. ;-)

Kathy - I just love that title (and the cover, as I already mentioned).

Lit HW - I know what you mean. I must not have been in the right mood.

Wrighty - Always good to hear from a fellow apathetic reader. :-D

Joanne said...

I read her collection of stories 'Delicate Edible Birds' and it was pretty good. This one is sitting in my TBR but I'm thinking that not knowing about Cooper is going to be distracting.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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