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Second Glance - Jodi Picoult

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Author: Jodi Picoult / Genre: Fiction

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    10 Reviews
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      10.11.2012 10:53
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      Not my favourite JP book

      This is a review of the 2003 book Second Glance - Jodi Picoult. My copy is actually a 2008 reprint with a note from the author that states (at the time of writing) it was still her favourite book she'd written. I was quite surprised at this as I found it really quite complex to read and I have read plenty of Picoult's books now and wouldn't rank it as one of my top five even. Having said that, I still enjoyed reading and guessing as the storyline progressed what was going to happen.

      About
      The book is clearly marketed as a ghost story and begins with a disillusioned paranormal investigator Ross who really wants to see a ghost to prove they exist. He lost his wife in a car accident and hopes to see her one day as a ghost. Travelling to Comtosook in Vermont, Ross visits his sister Shelby and her son Ethan who is suffering from XP, a condition which makes him so sensitive to daylight it could kill him. Ross is drawn into a local Native American Indian site which is rumoured to be a burial site and is thus protected. The would-be developed hires Ross to investigate to help him proceed with the shopping centre he wants to build on the site.

      Issues
      Spencer Pike is an old man dying in a home and he is happy to sell the land to the developer. Az Thompson is an old security guard on the granite mines in the village who has links to the old Abenaki Indian tribe and a very philosophical view on life that makes him someone people are drawn to for counsel. Eli Rochert, the local police cop reopens an old case concerning the murder of Spencer's wife (Cissy) in the 1930s and during this time lots of mysterious things are happening in the town that nobody can explain.

      Characters
      In addition to the aforementioned, are Meredith the genetic scientist who helps parents who are struggling to have healthy children and want to rule out hereditary illness. She is having problems with her daughter Lucy and doesn't know what to do with her and relies heavily on grandmother Ruby to be the family matriarch.
      As you can see there are a lot of characters involved in the book which jumps between the time line of now and back in 1930. This makes it quite complex reading in my opinion but also adds a lot of the meat to the bones of the book.

      My opinion
      Whilst I found the generations of Cissy's family difficult to follow, it was obvious that there was going to be some links with all the different parties involved despite the gaps of the years. There were some interesting themes covered in the book about when love goes beyond the graves, do ghosts really exist and also into the medical issues behind Ethan's XP condition which I would have been interested to know more about.

      Favourite bits
      Cissy visits a 1930s women's mental institution with her husband's colleague from the University and is shocked at what she sees there. Her father and husband are working on a Eugenics project which looks at family trees and hereditary conditions of mental illness and in some cases, the argument for sterilisation of 'unsuitable' people before they become parents. It is quite shocking that this really happened in the 1930s and was only ruled out when Hitler's wish for a pure race highlighted the wrong side of Eugenics. Cissy feels that she has underlying mental illness problems and has made suicide attempts which her husband covers up and she feels she has a lot in common with the women at the institution she visits.

      Final word
      Writing the review has confirmed how complex this book is and there are so many elements you could choose to cover that are included in the book you really could continue forever on the themes and outcomes of the book. It certainly kept me guessing and as a ghost story it still remained believable and you could connect with the characters in the book. It's really a book that you have to concentrate whilst reading and there is an element of repetition in the book when the past is visited and then the people in the future are working out what happened when you as the reader already know but in the true spirit of Picoult, she does hold back a few key details which make the book more of a reveal at the end.

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      29.05.2010 17:44
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      Ghost story combined with murder mystery story

      As you can probably tell from some of my recent reviews, I've been reading quite a few books by Jodi Picoult lately. This is the latest one that I've borrowed from the library, although I don't think it's a particularly recent publication.

      ***THE PLOT***
      The plot is quite complicated and there is a lot involved so my description will be more detailed than it would be for most books.

      Ross was devestated when his fiancee Aimee was killed in a car crash. The accident wasn't his fault but he blames himself for failing to save her. Ever since she died, he was gone out of his way to kill himself but has never been able to manage it. Instead, he turns to ghost hunting in the hope of finding her spirit and reconnecting with her in that way. Ross' ghost hunting takes him to the town of Comosook, where a Native Indian burial ground is reported to be located on the ground which has been earmarked for property development and strange, inexplicable things begin to happen. While this is going on, he meets Lia, a mysterious young woman who seems to be hiding secrets. Is Lia really who he thinks she is?

      Ross' sister Shelby is a single mother struggling to cope with the fact that her son Ethan has a genetic condition that means he can't go out into sunlight and is unlikely to live much beyond his early to mid teens. She's also worried about her brother, who she suspects is too consumed in his search for firstly, Aimee's ghost and then Lia's circumstances.

      Eli is a police detective in Comosook who takes it upon himself to investigate a long-standing unsolved murder/homicide case from the past in a bid to make sense of the strange goings-on in the town.

      Meredith's daughter Lucy keeps experiencing strange delusions involving a ghostly woman. Most people assume that she is going through a phase or attention-seeking, but is there more to her sightings than meets the eye?

      ***THE NARRATIVE***
      The book is loosely split into three parts, which slightly complicates the narrative. Part One is set in the present day of 2001, in which most of the plot events in the previous section of this review take place.

      At an appropriate cliffhanger (which obviously I won't reveal as it's a big plot spoiler), the narrative skips to Part Two, which jumps back in time to give the background story of a specific character in the book. This part of the book was a bit long-winded at times but it was also really fascinating to get the 'inside scoop' on a good chunk of what had happened, rather than having to piece absolutely everything together from the other characters.

      After this, Part Three sees the narrative move back to the present day again to pick up the story, with the reader knowing more about some circumstances than the characters do.

      ***MY THOUGHTS***
      At first, I found the book quite slow and struggled to get into it as I wasn't quite sure where it was heading. When Ross meets Lia, it starts to come together and from this point, I became really interested in the book. I found it quite fascinating to see how things are pieced together bit by bit, especially in Part Three. By this time, I was really enjoying the book and kept picking it up again to read a bit more.

      In terms of how I'd describe the book, that's not particularly easy either. From the blurb on the back cover, you could be forgiven for thinking that it's little more than a ghost story but it's much more than this as there are strong elements of a murder mystery story thrown in with the case that Eli decides to look into. All of these elements combine for a riveting read that has quite a few twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. I've read quite a few of the author's books now and I'd say that this one has taken over as my favourite so far.

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        15.05.2009 13:58
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        Paranormal investigator damaged by loss comes to Vermont to try and contact his dead finacee

        This is the most convuluted Picoult book I have yet read and although a little slow to start due to the complexity of the narrative this is a book that keeps coming back into my head and I would definately read again, it moved me deeply and gripped me. A sad, moving book quite different from Picoult's usual gripping courtroom dramas. Second Glance has as its lynchpin a house in the idyllic town of Comtosook, Vermont which becomes the subject of a land dispute when it is sold to developers. When the deeply unhappy Ross is hired by the purchasers as a paranormal investigator he comes to a town that appears to be haunted by love. Tied into this house are: a professor that founded the American eugenics movement, the movement that gave Hitler ideas about ethnic cleansing; geneticist Meredith who has the ability to eliminate embryos that are carriers of genetic diseases; Ethan, a child unable to go out in the sunlight and his mother Shelby; and a host of adults haunted by their own pasts. A bit like Shymalan's Unbreakable in that superheroes, the people who cannot be hurt, are not always like Superman, and that the past does not let go of the present. About love that crosses 'normal' divides and nature of suicide not as an escape but as a running to..

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          10.02.2009 15:08
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          Eugenics, abortion, rare Indian tribe, ghosts its all in there and much more

          Yes Second Glance is most definately a ghost story. In that aspect there was much that I enjoyed, but some bits too that were a bit obvious to put in a ghost novel. I enjoyed the storyline a great deal but Picoult does over-complicate in parts that I found not ideal for this type of novel. It is this aspect that works very well in her other books but Second Glance is not of the usual line and some of the deep, thought provoking events thrown in may not work. If you have read any of Picoult's books then definately give this one a read, it could surprise or disapoint depending on what you like about her books. All in all I think its a terrific story line, great idea for a novel but probably a little over complicated by Picoult's usual way of writing.
          Saying that if she writes another I'll be the first to buy it!!.
          Maybe they will develop with her experience of this type of work. Certainly I found that in terms of her previous novels this one moves slightly away from the medical/courtroom type drama I am used to. The scientific aspect is very good and Picoult is again deeply researched, I think I would have prefered it to go more towards the eugenics issues and that would tie in with modern day ethics regarding stem cell research, which is a hot topic at present and would have made a greater thought provoking novel, the ghost story side then would be a separate book altogether.

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            22.12.2008 20:47
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            An enjoyable ghost story

            A piece of land has been assigned for development into a shopping mall, much to the chagrin of local Abenaki Indians, who claim it is an ancient burial ground. At the same time, the inhabitants of the nearby town of Comtosook in Vermont begin to notice some very strange happenings - ground frost in the middle of summer, rose petals falling from the sky, food not tasting as it should do. A ghost hunter who has never seen a ghost, Ross Wakeman, is called in by the development's foreman, in the hope that he can call up the ghosts and get rid of them. Ross finds more than he bargained for when he really does meet a ghost, helping him to forget the death of his fiancee in a car crash. But who is the ghost, and what does she want? Will the Abenaki Indians get their land back? And what is the connection with the eugenics movement in Vermont in the early twentieth century?

            This is the first Jodi Picoult book I have read. Despite having read numerous good reviews of her work, I was concerned that I would be disappointed, and so steered well clear, until a friend persuaded me to read this one. I was very surprised, and rather delighted, to discover that it seemed to be a ghost story - I enjoy the odd read about the supernatural a la Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert. Obviously, I cannot compare it to Jodi Picoult's other work, but I understand that this is quite different, and many reviews I have read have slammed it for this difference. Personally, I found it a very interesting read and totally not what I expected.

            There are three parts to the book. The first tells the story from the point of view of several people, all of whom have an involvement in the story, although it is not immediately obvious what that involvement is. The second part goes back several years and tells the story of the 'ghost' and how she came to die. Then the third part returns to the several characters of the first part. This is slightly confusing to begin with. So many characters are thrown into the mix that it becomes difficult to remember who is who, and I found myself having to skip backwards several times just to work out who I was reading about and how they fitted in. This wasn't helped by the fact that two of the characters are called Ross and Rod. I can imagine that this may put some people off - but it is worth sticking with the book, because it does eventually all make sense.

            Ross Wakeman, the ghost hunter, is probably the most important character. His fiancee died in a car accident several years before, and Ross blames himself for her death. So much so, that he has tried to commit suicide several times, all to no avail. Yet, he still cannot move on. I did find this quite hard to take in. I have suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies myself, yet Ross' inability to move on after several years didn't somehow ring true, and by the middle of the book I found myself getting annoyed with him. Apart from that though, he is a well-drawn character, and thankfully does start working out the answers to some of his questions, Perhaps strangely, I found myself more able to identify with his sister, Shelby, who has to put up with the constant worry of her brother's potential death, as well as looking after her son, who has a life-threatening illness. I am the first to admit that depression can make a person selfish, but Ross' selfishness somehow pushed boundaries a bit too far for me.

            Another important character in the book is the ghost, who makes contact with Ross, thus reopening the investigation into her death. As she tells her part of the story in the first person, she is much more approachable as a character and despite the differences in age, time, social standing and country, I found myself really able to understand what she was feeling and why she behaved in the way that she did. It took a while for me to work out why she felt the need to come back and 'haunt' the locals after so many years, but again, stick with it, because it does eventually make sense.

            The whole story revolves around eugenics, and the goal to rid Vermont society of the undesirables by forced sterilisation in the early twentieth century. This is based on a true story - some of the characters are fictitious, but the movement to sterilise certain people is apparently true. I found this fascinating, and Jodi Picoult has used the opportunity to raise topics that many of us would rather not think about. It is nowadays generally believed that social problems such as mental illness, poverty and crime are not hereditary, but it is easy to see why some believe that there are links, and, after all, we do breed animals to ensure the best of breed. I liked the angle that Picoult took - I thought it was intelligently done.

            A ghost story is not everyone's cup of tea, and whereas I enjoy the odd foray into the supernatural, it is easy for it to turn into a farce if the author is not good enough. On the whole though, I think Picoult managed it well. There were times when I found it hard to connect the rather flowery story of a ghost and the hard and realistic story of forced sterilisation, but generally, she managed to pull it off. What let the book down a little bit is that towards the end, the story really does begin to drag. Answers to the main threads of the story are given, yet still the book goes on. Had this been better thought out, I think this book would have been much better than it is.

            Despite reservations about the length of the book, I did enjoy it. I'm not sure that fans of Picoult's other work will like it, but I thought it was intelligently written, without being pretentious, and brought up some really interesting issues. Obviously if you don't like reading about the supernatural, then this is not for you, but if you do, this is well worth a read. Just be prepared for the rather long, drawn-out ending, then you shouldn't be too disappointed. Recommended.

            The book is available from play.com for £5.99. Published by Hodder & Stoughton General Division, it has 416 pages. ISBN: 9780340897263

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              18.12.2008 11:21
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              The second two thirds of the book make the first third worth while!

              Whilst normally in a Jodi Picoult book review, it would be the norm to say how it is a crime based or court room based drama, but with the emphasis firmly on drama, on people and on emotions, here this is not the case. This is I guess somewhat of a supernatural book, focusing on ghosts, which normally would put me right off, but the thing that remains the same here, is that if this is a supernatural drama, the emphasis is firmly on drama, on people and on emotions. It's a very different story for Jodi to have done, but retains all the quality of her usual works when it comes to making you feel for and relate to the characters, and to grow to truly care about them - which is what makes her books work so well.

              This book is said to be about Ross Wakeman, who loses his wife in a car crash, and torments himself with the fact that she was alone as she died, while he was trying to save the person in the car they had crashed into. Due to his torments he takes up ghost hunting in the hopes of finding his late wife Aimee. Aimee isn't who he ends up finding though, instead he meets a woman called Lea, whose own life leads Ross along a very different journey. I said that this is "said to be about" that, as whilst the story does essentially follow this, it's about so much more than that. There's more to it than I ever could or ever would put in a review, so all I will say is that you should definitely read it to see what I mean!

              The book is definitely about love and human relationships. Not just love in a relationship sense or a romantic sense but love between various people, of all different kinds. It shows the good and bad that can come from love, and from the things you do for love or in the name of love. It also deals a lot with regret of things that have already happened, and fear of thing that are to come. It also takes a good look at life, from life already lost, to those not appreciating living, to those who haven't got as much life left as they would like. The stories in this book are so intertwined and bound together and yet cover so many different aspects of love and life, it works perfectly, showing so many different perspectives dependent on circumstance.

              This is the first Jodi Picoult book that I came very close to giving up on but ultimately I was glad that I didn't. It was a strange one for me as there were reasons I would both like it and not like it. The very tag line "The love of your life is dead, in that moment you lost every reason to live" reached out to me a lot. Call me morbid but I like stories of love lost and the idea of him still loving this woman who had died I found to be something I'd be interested in. I don't however believe in ghosts, so I thought I may find that element of the story a bit to unrealistic and stupid.

              The book is set into three sections and I really really struggled with the first. There were so many times I thought, I'm going to stop reading this now, as it didn't click with me, and more than that, I thought I had it all figured out already. When reading part one, it is likely like me, that you will think, hang on, I can see exactly what's going on, what sort of a twist is this, it's stupid, it's blatantly obvious already. The twist however, is that that isn't the twist at all! I struggled on to part two and I was so glad I did as the story takes a complete turn here. I maybe enjoyed part two most of all, it was very gripping and utterly enthralling, although this is hard to say, because then by part three you are so gripped and wanting to know what happens that this is perhaps the best section. By the end of the book I guarantee you won't be disappointed, and your initial thoughts in part one will be almost forgotten, as there is no way anyone in the world could predict this ending, it definitely delivers.

              I do think however that the first section, if not eliminated entirely could have been cut down significantly. Not only did I find it a bit boring but also quite confusing. There were simply so many characters introduced, all playing such small parts of the story in part one, that I found myself forgetting who was who, so when reading about someone was thinking who is this and what has it got to do with anything? I have since read on the Jodi Picoult forum that everyone that has read this has found it hard to get into, and someone even recommended jotting down who is who as you are reading at the start so you don't get confused. Good to know it's not just me then. The first part was definitely not up to Jodi's normal writing style, but the fact that the last two thirds of the book are so good more than make up for it. I think the first part in a way was needed to set up the characters for the final part, but as it was hard to care about any of them from the snippets we were given in the first half, it just didn't make for good reading.

              In the end I loved this book, I felt it was a very clever, and ultimately (if we forget that the first part didn't read well) well put together story. Whilst initially it's the sort of thing that may only seem to appeal so a select few - those interested in ghosts, or love - by the end I felt that if this was a film, it would have a broad audience. I could actually imagine it playing out well, perhaps better even (which is rare), in a film as the story itself is nothing short of fantastic and would certainly take you by surprise, and it would be perhaps easier to follow visually, than with all the confusion of who is who that ruined the first part for me.

              As always with Jodi Picoult she describes human emotion perfectly. It never fails to amaze me how she can portray such different characters and perspectives so well. There are people who are complete opposites, and all variations in between, in this book, yet everyone of them feels real, believable and has at least a part of them you can identify with. This isn't one that made me cry (like some Picoult books do) but there were definitely some bits that were sad, but it felt much more action based this time. Something was always going on, the story was always running forward and showing you more and more. Once I got into the second part I found it hard to stop reading until I reached the very end.

              After the first part, which as mentioned several times was boring, the book was enthralling throughout, it was so interesting and multilayered and just when you stop and think about it after reading a fantastically clever piece of work. It definitely took a while to get going but it was worth trawling through the first part, and I do understand the first parts relevance to the book, I just almost wish it could be re-written to make that part more engaging, while still giving us the relevant set up and back story. What it all leads up to though is a more than satisfactory ending. I've become somewhat accustomed to Jodi Picoult's work, and there are elements that you start to figure out a little when you've read so many of her books, this isn't the case with this one though. It's a world away from her other works and I doubt I would have ever guessed the ending had I thought through every possibility I could think of - it's just brilliant. It wasn't one to make me think to seriously about my life or reflect on things, like some of her books can make you do, but it is one that I have still been thinking about, a week after finishing it, just because I enjoyed it so much. I don't think I would re read it, as I tend not to, but it is one that perhaps could be enjoyed a second time around but in a very different way, okay there would be no element of surprise so that wouldn't be as good, but I think starting again once familiar with all the characters and story lines there would probably be a lot to pick up on in the first half and make you think "aahhhh" and appreciate it more than when the characters were unknown and you thought the story was going somewhere completely different. I do believe if I was to read the first half again in hindsight, it would no doubt be quite clever and relevant but at the time I was very distracted by my disappointment of what I thought the twist was and where the story would be going, and also by the lack of distinction between key characters.

              The characters in the story are all very believable, it could very well be made up of a group of people that you would know in real life - there are things you will like and dislike about each character, but ultimately you will be able to relate to and understand them all in some way. The realness of her characters, and the way she makes the reader care for them, is what makes Jodi Picoult's books work, no matter what subject she is dealing with.

              Ignoring the first part, the book is actually written very well. The structure of the book being in three parts also actually is perfect for this style of story: the setup, the turning point, and the big reveal! It's easy enough to read and easy to stop and start reading due to lost of small sections based from different characters view points.

              The book definitely isn't preaching, nor religious in anyway, although it does rely on either believing in ghosts, or allowing yourself to abandon the fact that you don't for the duration of the book. It shouldn't be offensive to anyone though.

              In some senses the audience for this book seem very narrow, but when thinking about it more it would appeal to quite a wide range of people. Obviously for anyone interested in ghosts and the like this would be very interesting. It also has elements of Native American background so anyone interested in this may also find it interesting. If you aren't interested in either of the previous mentioned things though (like me) it doesn't spoil the enjoyment of the book. It will also appeal to anyone interested in love, yet it won't be too mushy for the blokes. Finally, it will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed Jodi's previous work, as it retains the quality, but could appeal to people who normally do not like her work, as it is a world away from the crime or court room based atmosphere's of her other works. It will also appeal to anyone who likes a very clever, intertwined story which will leave you guessing right up until the last page.

              All in all, I got off to a rocky start with this book, and I would recommend reading the first section as quickly as you can to get it over with and so it stays fresh in your mind, but once I got beyond this, it was an utterly fantastic book!

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                18.11.2008 12:02
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                Not like the usual Picoult stories but definitely worth a read!

                The first book I read by Jodi Picoult was "My Sisters Keeper" which really made me think (and made me exclaim out loud in the middle of a packed train carriage!!!) Picoult has a habit of writing stories with the most horrendous moral dilemmas that we can only hope and pray we will never have to deal with, and most of them centre around a court room drama. I've since read five other books and while I found them gripping, I found that the basic plots at the centre of each book are essentially the same.

                Except for "Second Glance" which is very very different.

                It reads like any other Picoult book; well rounded characters that I found myself empathising with even if I didn't like them much, beautiful prose that brings the setting to life, and a plot with so many twists and turns that the book is near impossible to put down. But Picoult has broken away from the usual drama-courtroom battle-outcome format to create a very different kind of story.


                PLOT
                If I had not read anything by Picoult prior to this, I would have bought this book anyway as I just love stories about ghosts and how the past can overlap with the present, both of which are core themes in this book, and it doesn't disappoint.

                The story is set in Comtosook, Virginia, where developers want to turn an ancient Indian Burial ground into a strip mall. However as soon as work starts, some very strange happenings begin occurring around the town and ghost hunter Ross Wakeman is called in to investigate. Ross, however has never seen a ghost although he is always searching for one in particular - his late girlfriend Aimee who died on a car accident. After years of attempting suicide and never able to succeed, he feels that this is the only other way he can get close to Aimee again.

                Ross stays with his sister Shelby and his nephew Ethan while in Comtosook, and takes to ghost hunting at night with Ethan. Ethan has a condition in which he cannot be exposed to sun which means Shelby devotes her nights to enjoying life with him as he is not expected to live to be more than 15.

                While out ghost-hunting Ross meets the mysterious Lia, who might just be the person to heal his heart and help him get over Aimee. But Lia is not all she seems, and what results is a multi-layered story dealt with in flashbacks.

                The story largely follows Ross as he continues to deal with his grief for Aimee as well as his developing feelings for Lia. The flashbacks deal with the backstory for some of the other characters, as well as paint a disturbing picture of the eugenics of the time (Eugenics - trying to improve the gene pool by preventing those who might pollute it from breeding. E.g. lower social classes, those with hereditary disease etc, but in this story, people who aren't white).

                There are many twists in this book (as with any Picoult book) and many of the characters find themselves linked in ways they could never have imagined.

                I found the ending a bit naff and disappointing, although it did tie the loose ends up.



                CHARACTERS
                I wouldn't say any of the characters were particularly likeable although I found them easy to empathise with. Plus there are a lot of them! If I remember rightly, nine of them are introduced in the first chapter. They appear a bit disjointed and its hard to know how they will connect with each other, but this is the beauty of this book, and as it progresses the connections are slowly revealed.

                Interestingly, all the main characters are haunted in their own way, not neccesarily by the supernatural but by themselves or by their past.

                Ross is clearly a troubled soul and as awful as it must have been to lose Aimee, it's hard not to want to shake him and tell him to get a grip of himself. The irony of course is that although he has never sen a ghost, he is haunted by Aimee anyway. I found him to be on a parallel with Ethan - who focuses so much on what he can't do due to his skin condition rather than what he can do, although his ghost hunting trips with Ross help him overcome this. I wasn't sure of the significance of Ethan's skin condition when I read the book but on hindsight he is a living ghost in that he can only come out at night. He is a haunted soul too, haunted by the skin condition that is governing his life.

                I didn't find the characters of Shelby or Merideth likeable either as they both seemed to have the weight of the world on their shoulders; Shelby with Ethan's condition and Merideth possibly with her unknown past weighing down on her.

                Lia was perhaps likeable because she was so enigmatic and my heart broke for her when I read about her past. This part of the story is a real tear-jerker.

                Even Spencer Pike, who is essentially the "baddie" in the tale, had me feeling sorry for him. Not so much in the flashbacks to his youth but to the haunted person in the nursing home that he has become. His situation shows how one snap decision can alter the course of your entire life.



                STYLE
                The style is classic Picoult in that it jumps from different points of view, and as I mentioned already, introduces you to what feels like a million characters in one go! I can imagine people starting this book then giving up as there seems to be so much to it. And I agree, it packs in lot of characters, sub plots and themes. However I would urge them to persevere because this is a wonderfully written, compelling story which eventually becomes easier to get to grips with.

                The book is written in a flowing, delicate style that is relevant to the themes explored, which adds to the haunted feel.

                The book deals with a lot of interesting questions and parallels; as the cover of the books states - do we love across time or in sprite of it? How much are we dictated by our past or our family's past? Do ghosts exist? Also, the character Spencer Pike was at the head of the eugenics movement in the 1920s/30s and in the present day Merideth performs abortions on "defective" foetuses. Has science really advanced at all or is history just repeating itself?

                This book will make you question what is right and what is wrong when it comes to genetics. Who should decide what is perfect and what isn't? And what right does anyone have to make that decision about another human being?

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                  05.10.2008 12:30
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                  a novel that i just didn't feel connected to

                  Second glance by Jodi Picoult...............

                  I am an avid reader and since finding Jodi Picoult I have enjoyed ever single one of her books. Her stories are often of subjects which occur in peoples lives and are often quite tricky to deal with. She sets a lot of her books in court rooms and the stories lead up to particular court cases. This book "Second Glance" however is a lot different to her usual books and I can say I don't think she has done herself proud.

                  The story is set in a small town in Vermont, America and is bases around the lives of several people including that of Ross Wakeman a ghost hunter who is trying to find the spirit of his lost love. Instead of coming across his old girlfriend, Ross is drawn into the life of one particular ghost who died back in the 30's. The whole story of her death is a mystery and as Ross begins to unravel the clues, he finds answers to the questions so many people are asking.

                  Several storylines run alongside one another until they all seem to meet up and make utter sense at the end. Half way through the book however there are chapters and chapters that are set back in the 30's telling the story of Mrs Pike and her abusive husband. I found that I was really bored as these chapters went on and I was wishing the story to come back to the present day.

                  I have never before felt that I just wanted to finish a Picoult novel but this one made me feel exactly that. I did not enjoy it and found the whole book pretty predictable and obvious. The characters were not the sorts that I felt connected to and are quite forgettable once the book is over.

                  It is such a shame that I was so disappointed because I was expecting the usual Picoult suspense writing of her previous works. The back of the book sounds wonderful and when I read it before buying it I was sure that it would be one of her best yet. This was not the case however and instead of rushing through the book like I usually do with her novels it seemed to take me forever to finish and when I finally did I was glad I could move on to another book.

                  It is certainly not the worse book I have read and it does say something for the fact that I read it till the end. Often if a book is so bad, I will not finish it for fear of wasting time but this book I managed to struggle to the end. I would give this book a mere 2 star rating. I do still love the way Picoult writes and even though this book did not capture me the way her others have I do not think it has put me off Picoult as a writer.

                  I am looking forward to her next book to be released, which is "sounds of the Humpback whale". I do not think I will recommend this book particularly as I found it a struggle to the end. However, I would recommend Picoult as a writer as her previous works are well worth taking a look at.

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                    03.10.2008 13:52
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                    I was surprised how much I liked it.

                    I've been getting through a lot of books recently, as I've just started commuting. Well, I've just started to accept that I'm commuting and trying to deal with it in the best way - for me, that's reading. I listen to music all day at my desk, so I don't quite fancy plugging into the ipod on the train. I picked this book up as it was on offer in Morrissons, so I didn't have particularly high hopes for it, especially as the book I got in tandem was one of the worst reads of my life.

                    I've never read any Jodi Picoult before, and I'm not sure that after reading this I'd rush out with the sole purpose of reading another of her novels, but at the same time, this was a perfectly readable book, and not like something I'd normally read.

                    Ross, our central character, is difficult to like at first. His fiancé died in a car crash years ago and ever since then he has been trying to kill himself so that he can be with her again. When he realises his suicide bids were systematically failing, he decides to become a paranormal investigator, in the hope that he can find proof that somewhere, his fiancé is still alive. When he discovers that his boss is a crook, he loses his belief in ghosts and an afterlife, and goes to stay with his sister Shelby to get away from it all for a while.

                    Shelby is another sad character. Her son, Ethan, has a genetic disorder which means he is allergic to sunlight - to the extent that his skin will become pre-cancerous at the slightest exposure, and his life expectancy is around 15 years. This has made Shelby live two lives - her day-to-day working life and a second life where she cares for Ethan after dark - allowing him outside to play and showing him places while the sun is down.

                    Once Ross is staying with Shelby, he starts to regain his interest in the paranormal as there are rumours of a haunting in the area. A construction company, breaking ground for a strip mall, seem to have unsettled a spirit from the Abenaki Native American tribe. The spirit is blamed for all manner of strange goings on, from rose petals falling from the skies like rain to things moving around locals' houses without any human intervention. Encouraged by these events, Ross decides to start ghost hunting without his crooked boss, but with his nephew Ethan instead.

                    On his first ghost hunting expedition he meets Lia, a softly spoken and troubled woman who he is immediately drawn to. He soon finds himself seeking her out and hoping he bumps into her on his ghost hunts. Unfortunately for Ross, Lia holds a few secrets of her own: she is married and in love with her husband. And, probably more importantly, she's been dead for 70 years...

                    The book follows Ross as he tries to find something for live for when both the women he's loved are dead. Along the way we take in an element of mystery as we struggle to find out how Lia died; a bit of historical background about Eugenics in Vermont in the 1920's; some ethical dilemmas about designer babies; and a couple of love stories to boot.

                    The novel is expertly crafted - Picoult's plan for this book must have been pretty long - with inter-weaving plotlines and characters throughout. Because so much happens in the denouement, though, it is a little difficult to grasp who everyone is, where they live, what they do and what they have to do with the story at first. This is often the risk an author will run when dealing with such a complex set of sub-plots and large number of characters, and it isn't quite perfect here - although, thankfully, everything begins to become clear towards the end. Picoult's writing style is very descriptive and compelling, and shows a real feeling of warmth towards her story.

                    I really enjoyed reading this, but it wasn't quite a barrel of laughs. I loved the twists and turns of the plot, and the pace of the book, but not one of the characters had a sense of humour or, seemingly, any interests. Ross likes trying to commit suicide and looking for his dead fiancé; Shelby likes looking after her son; Ethan likes getting angry that he's not allowed outside; Lia is a tortured soul... it can get quite wearing on the emotions, and also it can make it tough to see what they all see in each other. Each character has a few admirable qualities, and it is fairly easy to understand their motives, but because of the sheer number of characters we are introduced to in the novel, some of them appear half-baked and one-dimensional. Despite the horrible things that have happened to these people, I still thought there was some room to make most of the characters more likeable. I finished reading this without really liking anyone.

                    Also, without wanting to drop in any spoilers, I found the ending a little corny. There is a bit of action at the end which jarred a little with the rest of the book and felt like a little bit of a cheap way of finishing the book with a bang.

                    All in all, I would recommend this book - it's like something to move on to when you've had enough chick-lit to last a lifetime - but don't expect something light-hearted, and don't expect to like the central character. It is, however, interesting, readable, very well written and a real one-of-a-kind story which is definitely worth more than a second glance.

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                      24.08.2008 18:26
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                      A story about lost love and ghosts by Jodi Picoult.

                      Second Glance is a very different novel from Jodi Picoult's usual stories. As a best-selling author she normally tackles complicated topics, moral dilemmas and difficult issues which might arise in real life. Second Glance takes a slightly different turn however as it is to do with the topic of ghosts. However despite this there is still Picoult's trademark style with her wonderfully descriptive characters experiencing the stresses and dilemmas of life and in this case love.

                      The story is set in Vermont, USA in the little town of Comtosook. Here a developer is planning to build a new shopping mall on a piece of land which is said to be an ancient Native American burial ground. As soon as work begins strange, unexplainable things begin to happen in Comtosook and people start to believe that something supernatural is going on.

                      Then we meet Ross, a ghost hunter but not a very good one as he has never actually seen a ghost! However he is haunted by ghosts of his past following his fiancées death in a car crash for which he blames himself. He hopes to meet her just one last time to tell her he is sorry and that is the reason he became a ghost hunter in the hope of finding that one special ghost. But then to complicate matters he meets Lia, a mysterious woman who is also searching for something or someone. Is she all she seems? Do you believe in ghosts? This is a book that will leave you asking this very question?

                      I really enjoyed this book. I have read quite a few of Jodi Picoults books and found them to be well written, interesting and emotional. As I said at the start this book was quite different to her other novels as the subject matter was ghosts. She tackles the story in a very good way and makes it very believable and you are drawn into the story. I like the way she really describes her characters and you really feel you get to know them. There are also several smaller stories running alongside the main plot and this makes the book even more interesting. As some of the book is set in the past it is also an interesting look into life in the 1930s and the prejudices that existed at that time. Jodi Picoult as always researches her books very well and her notes at the back of the book make interesting reading.

                      If you have read any of Jodi Picoults books in the past and enjoyed them then I can thoroughly recommend this book. If you haven't read any then you should give her a try they are well worth a read.

                      Pages - 467 (mine was the hardback version)
                      ISBN - 978-0-340-89724-9

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                    • Product Details

                      When a plot of land is being developed in Vermont against the will of a local Native American tribe, strange things begin to happen - and Ross Wakeman, a paranormal investigator, is asked to get involved. He's a desperate drifter who's taken up ghost hunting in an effort to cross paths again with his fiancee, who died in a car crash eight years ago, but he has yet to experience anything even remotely paranormal. Then Ross meets Lia...As a seventy-year-old murder case is reopened, a shocking secret about a crime of passion long past is revealed.