A bit of a googly because I found it rather deceptive this book. It appears to be a well written, neatly structured story of a man's life from birth to, well, mediocrity and middle-age, but whilst the sentences are nicely composed and measured and the scenes are carefully constructed with colour and detail, the truth is there's no heart.
The story seems to be gathered on a thread (the life of Gogol, the namesake)with decorative beads, vignettes from a life story, but remains on a thread - the end product not excuisite jewelry. It's essentially episodic and rather disconnected, especially on an emotional level. The characters barely reflect on their history, the poigniant events of their past. It is all rather matter of fact.
It depicts life experienced as if in a dream: un-self-concious, unreflective. Just a succession of events. None of the characters appear curious enough to question these events, or attempt to put together the pieces.
It's no surprise the author has graduated from the short story form. For me, there is too much of what is to be enjoyed in a short story: atmospheric, well articulated scenes with shades of poetic ambiguity, left to the reader's interpretation. But not enough of what a novel should offer: character insight and development; a story co-ordinating with momentum, intensifying our identification with the characters through the growing weight of past actions and circumstance.
As the book progressed, even the sadder things just felt like yet further items on a supermarket conveyor belt.