Customer Reviews for

Swamplandia!

Average Rating 3
( 237 )
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(55)

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(41)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia!

Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the onc...
Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the once popular stop appears heading to bankrupt extinction.

There are talent issues as the star wrestler Hilia who brought in the masses to watch a female pin alligators recently died. The older daughter Ossie has fallen in love and elopes with a ghost of a man. Adding insult their brother Kiwi accepts a position as janitor at their more powerfully backed rival the World of Darkness. Finally the patriarch Chief Bigtree has vanished. Thus the youngest sibling thirteen years old Ava takes over her late mom's spot as the show must go on, but lacks her glamour and experience and besides has to herd just under a hundred gators and care for the park while controlling her grief. However, all changes when Ava believes she must rescue her father trapped in hell otherwise known as Gulf of Mexico; her allies are Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and her BFF the midget alligator; at stake is her dad, the park and their island.

This is a wonderful odd fantasy with the key players fully substantial that they bring core realism to the capricious tale. Obviously this is Ava's saga but the support cast enhances her save her world story line. Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia! Tour guide Karen Russell escorting them around the island, the park, and the Gulf in this enchanting but strange thriller (see St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves anthology for more entertainingly refreshing)tales.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on January 17, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Almost There, But Not Quite

I enjoyed Swamplandia! but it is not a book I would really recommend. It's merit is in it's characters. All are individually interesting and vibrant and even more so when thought of as a family. Russell goes into wonderful detail explaning the the rich and colorful Bigt...
I enjoyed Swamplandia! but it is not a book I would really recommend. It's merit is in it's characters. All are individually interesting and vibrant and even more so when thought of as a family. Russell goes into wonderful detail explaning the the rich and colorful Bigtree family and their Seths. It's the plot that's lacking! The first, descriptive, half of the book is fabulous, but so much more could've been done with the second half. The plotline gets confusing. I foudn myself asking "WHERE IS THIS BOOK GOING?" Not enough attention is paid to individual storylines and although the book felt too long, there needed to be more at the end. What happened to Ossie during her journey w/LT? What happened to the Birdman? What happened to Ava? What happened to Swamplandia!? While Russell touches upon all these questions, she doesn't fully answer them. You feel connected & interested to the characters and their sagas. You wonder about their fates, and then BOOM. THE END. This book needed more. That being said, I did LIKE it, but not enough to confidently recommend it to anyone.

posted by Maggie83 on February 10, 2011

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia!

    Florida is known for some of the oddest tourist attractions (some might say traps) on the planet. The state is home to Swamplandia where Bigtree alligator-wrestling has gone on for ages. However, several recent setbacks place the family business in jeopardy as the once popular stop appears heading to bankrupt extinction.

    There are talent issues as the star wrestler Hilia who brought in the masses to watch a female pin alligators recently died. The older daughter Ossie has fallen in love and elopes with a ghost of a man. Adding insult their brother Kiwi accepts a position as janitor at their more powerfully backed rival the World of Darkness. Finally the patriarch Chief Bigtree has vanished. Thus the youngest sibling thirteen years old Ava takes over her late mom's spot as the show must go on, but lacks her glamour and experience and besides has to herd just under a hundred gators and care for the park while controlling her grief. However, all changes when Ava believes she must rescue her father trapped in hell otherwise known as Gulf of Mexico; her allies are Grandpa Sawtooth, the Bird Man, and her BFF the midget alligator; at stake is her dad, the park and their island.

    This is a wonderful odd fantasy with the key players fully substantial that they bring core realism to the capricious tale. Obviously this is Ava's saga but the support cast enhances her save her world story line. Readers who enjoy something cutting edge different will want Swamplandia! Tour guide Karen Russell escorting them around the island, the park, and the Gulf in this enchanting but strange thriller (see St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves anthology for more entertainingly refreshing)tales.

    Harriet Klausner

    13 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 10, 2011

    Almost There, But Not Quite

    I enjoyed Swamplandia! but it is not a book I would really recommend. It's merit is in it's characters. All are individually interesting and vibrant and even more so when thought of as a family. Russell goes into wonderful detail explaning the the rich and colorful Bigtree family and their Seths. It's the plot that's lacking! The first, descriptive, half of the book is fabulous, but so much more could've been done with the second half. The plotline gets confusing. I foudn myself asking "WHERE IS THIS BOOK GOING?" Not enough attention is paid to individual storylines and although the book felt too long, there needed to be more at the end. What happened to Ossie during her journey w/LT? What happened to the Birdman? What happened to Ava? What happened to Swamplandia!? While Russell touches upon all these questions, she doesn't fully answer them. You feel connected & interested to the characters and their sagas. You wonder about their fates, and then BOOM. THE END. This book needed more. That being said, I did LIKE it, but not enough to confidently recommend it to anyone.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    Not great, don't waste your money on this one

    I'm still trying to figure out why this book has been popular. Frankly, I don't think I will finish it. It's all over the place, the overdone descriptions of each situation make me want to skip through large parts of the book. It's just not a book I look forward to picking up again. I'm reading it for a book club, and every other person in the club feels exactly the same way. I wouldn't waste your money on this one.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2011

    Couldn't put it down!

    It has been a vey long time since a book has intoxicated me as much as this one. Karen Russel's brilliant prose breathes to life unforgettable characters and reclaims the beauty of a forgotten geography. She gives the well worn theme of childhood lost a new perspective and keeps you turning pages until you are sorry there are none left.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011

    Not for everyone, but the lady can write.

    When you're reading Swamplandia! you know you're in the hands of a writer who can make you gasp at her ability to use language, who knows more strange and interesting stuff than just about anyone you've met, and who has a boundless imagination. The trouble is she doesn't always know what to do with all these gifts and the reader doesn't always know what to make of the book. I didn't have any difficulty making the journey (the journeys) just for the sheer pleasure of Ava's and Kiwi's company. But like her characters I did sometimes feel lost along the way. And, at the end, looking back, I don't know what to make of the trip. I do have the feeling that there were a couple of places in the book where Russell made some wrong turns and got pulled into the vortex of her own brilliance. But to be sure, I will read her next.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2011

    Brilliant

    Taken in by the cover, I was intrigued enough to read a few lines. I was hooked from the beginning. Russel's prose are of such moving quality that I found myself riveted. Innocent and dark, insightful and all-too-relatable; I ached for Russel's characters. A truly brilliant new author. A must read for those who wander from the beaten path and enjoy the extraordinary.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2011

    Bring your muck boots to get through this swamp.

    This one falls apart about three chapters into the swamp. By the end I was rooting for the alligators. Too much story spread out over too many characters and a lack of development to care about any one of them or their plight. By the end, I just didn't care.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2011

    The price has dropped! So stop giving an amazing book bad reviews.

    I don't know what kind of society people think we live in but expecting everything to be cheap/free is absurd as well as counter productive. If people want free books take a few minutes out of your busy days of whining to learn how to illegally download them, in the mean time I will spend every penny on a book as artistically crafted as Swamplandia and hope some of it trickles down to the author.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2012

    I was so gratified to see the number of people who did NOT like

    I was so gratified to see the number of people who did NOT like this book. I didn't either, and I wondered what was wrong with me, considering all the rave reviews it has gotten from professional critics. I was bored, frankly, and quit after about fifty pages. I was expecting something on the order of Carl Hiaasen, one of my favorite writers, and it wasn't, so that was my fault.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    A New Favorite!

    From the moment I read the synopsis of Swamplandia by Karen Russell, I knew I had to read it. Once I began reading, I could not help but think that the audience might include fans of Geek Love. I was not surprised to see that in her acknowledgments, Russell lists Geek Love author Katherine Dunn as an influence. No surprise, Geek Love is a favorite of mine. Swamplandia! is not a light-hearted tale. There are definitely things wrong in the Bigtree family after matriarch Hilola Bigtree's death. Hilola, the alligator wrestler, is the main attraction for Swamplandia! The family is unable to continue enticing tourists to their swampy island without Hilola. I don't want to spoil anything for potential readers, but very worrisome events occur after the tourists stop arriving. The book seemed somewhat slow-going at first, but the descriptions were vivid enough to keep me reading. It was all worth it. Swamplandia! is a new favorite for me. Many readers seem to have arrived at reading this book after enjoying Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. I am in the opposite camp. After reading Swamplandia!, I cannot wait to get my hands on her short story collection.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    Oh Swamplandia!

    The fact that Karen Russel managed to produce such a honed gem of a book in her 20s (!) Is nearly uncanny. This book had so many shining facets to keep this reader in it's thrall- Eccentric outsiders,.characters so well-drawn that empathy is effortless, family ties, love, grief, wry humor, southern gothic ghost stories, history & science, heady atmospheres, teen angst & hardwon wisdom, trauma, adventure...and all shot through with bang-on metaphors, beautiful similies, descriptive vistas of aching beauty.

    Yes indeed, an awesome book and one of the finest credits to Florida lit. since Marjorie Keenan Rawlins' 'Cross Creek'.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Fresh Voice

    Things are not going well in Swamplandia! Once a major tourist draw with hordes of visitors each day, the death of the show's main attraction has put a serious dent in the business. Even worse, the main attraction was also the mother of the Bigtree family that runs Swamplandia.

    Karen Russell's novel is the story of how this family comes to grip with the loss of their mother and the possible ending of the only life they have known; that of the Bigtree family of Swamplandia!. There are three children. Ossie, the oldest sister who is sixteen, has never been that involved with the business, being a fey girl who drifts through life. She becomes entranced with spiritualism and soon convinces herself that she can talk to the dead and that dead boys are perfect boyfriends. Kiwi, the oldest and only son, has always wanted a 'normal' life on the mainland, and leaves the Swamplandia! island, determined to make it on his own and then figure out how to save the park. Ava Bigtree is thirteen and the novel's protagonist. She loves the business and her only dream is to grow up and take over for her mother.

    Chief Bigtree, the father, is one of those optimistic people who is sure everything will work out even when he has no plan to make it happen. He leaves on a mysterious business trip shortly after Kiwi's departure, leaving the girls alone on the island. Ossie disappears into the swamp, chasing her ghostly love, and Ava soon goes into the swamp to rescue her. Will this family ever be reunited and made whole?

    Readers will love the fresh voice and writing style of Karen Russell. Ava's spirit is so big it jumps off the page, and the ability to experience life from her young perspective is intriguing. The characters are memorable, and the reader gets to experience the Florida swamps in all their murky, humid, bug-infested, dangerous appeal. This book is recommended for all readers, and especially those interested in coming of age stories and those of families finding their way to make a live together.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2012

    gothic metaphors. in touch with current culture. ironic. told so

    gothic metaphors. in touch with current culture. ironic. told so carefully, always almost funny then not. pain expressed with out excess juxtaposed to another kind excess told through seriously innocent eyes. feminine child perspective perfectly expressed. an engaging story, never read anything similar. kids wanting to save crumbling family. and they do. probably helps i was a disneyland kid:) wanting to save my family. IMO, this is art. best book i have read in years.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I think Karen Russel is an excellent author with great writing s

    I think Karen Russel is an excellent author with great writing skill. The characters in this book are intriguing, the whole venture suffers by a weak and meandering plot. I'd be interested to read another Karen Russel novel but this one just barely makes it out of the swamp.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2012

    Great writer but the story is disappointing

    I was enjoying the style of Karen Russel's writing. It is very vivid and her world comes alive off the pages. The description of the characters was also very good. What I didn't like was the story itself. First off I felt the main character was a bit old for her age considering she led such a sheltered life. The pacing was odd too especially at the end. It wrapped up too quickly. I also felt it was so unsatisfying in the end. I think Ms Russell has a great style I just hope her story is better the next time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    I'm being kind...

    I think I'm being kind when I give this book three stars. It's not that the writing was bad, because honestly, it wasn't. It wasn't that the characters were awful, because they weren't. Mainly it's because about half way through this book all of the characters take a nose dive towards disaster and are basically ruined by life. From the start you know that life won't be easy for them but you continue to read it because the characters are loveable and have such great souls. By the end, the world is pretty much a confirmed poophole from which no one gets out alive.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2011

    Disappointing...difficult to finish

    This book is overly descriptive detailed in areas of no concern, and completely under descriptive detailed in areas that should be. It totally loses your interest with the different tangents it takes constantly, in fact towards the end when you are adept at skipping large sections of descriptive text, you almost miss the two sentences that have a huge impact on the story...it's a disappointing read. Everyone in our book club felt the same way, which left us wondering why our thoughts were so different from all the other reviews...

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Depressing and unimaginative.

    I kept reading and reading waiting for the plot to draw me in. Never happened. Sad characters and an anticlimatic predictable ending.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Magical realism

    It takes a while to really get into the main plot of the story and the vocabulary is a little dense...especially if you know nothing about alligators or swamps...but overall a really interesting book. Not a typical coming of age story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    Youth appeal

    Given the harry potter and vampire success enjoyed recently, I would expect to see this book wildly popular.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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