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3.4 out of 5 stars40
3.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 27 July 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Love and Obstacles derives both it's strength and it's weakness from the same thing - it is made up of mini-stories rather than one continuous storyline. First of all, there is no denying the beautiful, almost poetic, writing style of the author. Each chapter has its own style and 'attitude' which makes each unique and individual. At the same time, they are all bound together by their narrator, who begins life as an experimenting teenager and goes on to become a writer in America before returning home in later life. My particular favourites were 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Everything', 'Szmura's Room', 'The Bees Part I' and 'Death of the American Commando.'
The length of the list demonstrates that this is, on the whole, a very enjoyable read.

However, there are a few problems. The book's main weakness is that there is no concrete story with its beginning, middle and end. There is no sense of consequence or conclusion because most chapters do not have a definitive ending. There are also a few weaknesses in the storytelling. For example, the narrator's girlfriend of the first chapter is never mentioned again, the characters in 'Szmura's Room' are left mid-action with no later explanation of what happened and the fate of the film being made by Alma in 'Death of an American Commando.' There is also little to no explanation of how the narrator comes to know story details that he did not witness first hand. Weakest of all is the final chapter of the story, which although touching, seems entirely superfluous and irrelevant and an incredibly disappointing ending to the story.

Love and Obstacles is a charming, well written and sometimes engaging and funny book which I would recommend. However, it also lacks a certain something that makes it seem hollow, leaving you to wonder why exactly you took the time to read it and what those vital missing pieces of the story might have been.
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VINE VOICEon 14 September 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a curious book. In it, Hemon presents a series of short stories narrated by a single character, an aspiring writer from Bosnia. Each story records an episode in the writer's life, but there are large and unspecified time gaps between the stories. The surface level plots are very varied, from childhood experiences in Africa through experiences in America to a later return to his homeland. In some, nothing of particular significance seems to happen, but this is, I think, part of the point. More significant than the physical details of the plots are the writer's views on himself, the people around him, the places he visits and the things he observes and reads. The thoughts are often disjointed, spontaneous, even odd, but they create a rich tapestry of an inidividual's life. Constant themes are family relationships, cross-cultural encounters, literature and the process of writing, and rites of passage. The insights into these range from those laced with wry humour to poignant and thought-provoking reflections on the political and social changes.

Hemon's style is somewhat eccentric, but very readable. His descriptions are lavish, unpredictable and stimulating, and he has an ability to create engaging characters. This is a book that's meant to puzzle the reader, I think - don't pick it up as an easy read, but instead expect to think, question and reflect on the situations it describes and the world-view of its protagonist.
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VINE VOICEon 5 March 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Alexander Hemon then - He presents us with 8 interwoven storylines that, even though for this Bosnian novelist his mastery of the English language is something slightly recent for him, are mirror-images into his own life as a young immigrant in Chicago; earlier years in Bosnia / Sarajevo and a teenage summer in Kinshasa ("Stairway To Heaven" is the particular standout for myself). Although not in Bosnia when the war and subsequent slaughter erupted, whilst viewing it from afar Hemon notes how violence and bombast can shake a mundane Life in even the most smallest of portions. Stories such as "Everything", "Azra" and "The Noble Truths of Suffering" are far-flung as move us from geek girlfriends and the later lives in which they excel, and pointless violence at the hands of hotel receptionists.

All written in Hemon's strange and spiralling prose (no doubt honed from English's second language status for himself) the reader has no choice but to attempt to seek themes and correlation within the stories... the very title itself, "Love and Obstacles" seems itself to be endowned with meaning, but that's for the reader to unravel as Hemon isn't telling. don't get too obsessed with picking out the meaning amongst the threads though, for first-and-foremost the short stories complete a satisfying whole within the imagination, which makes this highly recommended in these trying times.
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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2009
This is a brilliantly written book and the descriptive language and energy in it was superb. However, I felt that the short stories were more like taster chapters of a novel, rather than a complete story. Many of them seemed to just get me desperate to find out more, only to turn the page and find that was the end. The style and humour was excellent and I would definitely read a novel by the author rather than more short stories.
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VINE VOICEon 13 August 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a set of different stories, mainly set around the same character, but sometimes around his father or other people he knows.
And it's wonderful. At times the prose is truly marvelous. We journey with the character as he takes drugs for the first time; as he tries to lose his virginity (which happens during an excellent and hilarious account of him being sent away to buy a fridge); as he trawls through bad jobs like selling magazines to suicidally depressed priests and so on. Some of the best parts of the book are centered around his father who is a little too obsessed with the truth and bees.
This may sound all a little bit bizarre but, trust me, it's brillant. All human emotions are dealt with exceptionally well and in a truly unique manner. There is a quote on the front of the book that says Aleksander Hemon owes a debt to nobody and I wholeheartedly agree: the best book I have read in years.
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on 23 November 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I completely understand why those giving this book 5 stars did so.
It's worth you reading their reviews, to see if they resonate for you.

However, my review is neutral at 3 stars because it just wasn't a book I enjoyed.

The short stories were almost too short and didn't seem to give the author space to really build his characters, which I'm sure he has the talent to do. They just didn't engage me. Or maybe that's MY job, as the reader? ;-)

In a number of the stories, this makes the narrative somehow less credible. And this wasn't helped by the sometimes "clunky" use of language - which felt more like overuse of a thesaurus than an accurate portrayal of the narrator's command of English. It felt like this book wasn't quite finished and needed some more editing.
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VINE VOICEon 9 August 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I find myself becoming more and more a fan of short stories nowadays, and I particularly enjoy those by writers from different cultures. I find them to be a little peek into the unknown and they fascinate me. Aleksandar Hemon did not disappoint - straight away I was comfortable with his prose, and I enjoyed the characters, there was just the right amount of information to carry you through the stories without losing sight of the stories themselves. And yes, not all the stories had a definite 'point' to them, but they were stories in the old fashioned sense of storytelling - they imparted information in an enjoyable way. I was disappointed to reach the end of this book and I will definitely be reading more of Mr Hemon's books - I can't wait to read more!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Each of Hemmon's short stories - loosely connected by theme, atmosphere and the author's tendency to create characters that appear autobiographical, but are not - is a gem. Some are fantastical, some down to earth. Together they make something quite strange, and possibly eccentric, that will either leave you intrigued and hooked, as I was, or quickly put off.

The narrator, who may be common to each story, is an internationalist with no real ties to any particular country or culture. He may find himself in Africa among people the colonialists appear to have left behind, in a broken Sarajevo or a relatively humdrum Chicago. Wherever he is, he is neither comfortable with himself or those he's with; he's the outsider's outsider.
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A few of the short stories in this collection are very good, but others are rather slight and fail to hold the attention.

For me the main problem with this book is that the stories are all supposed to be based around the narrator and his experiences, but I didn't get a cohesive idea of the narrator's personality - the stories seemed to be being told by a group of narrators, rather one one central; believable being holding it all together. Interesting enough in parts, and not badly written, but not something I would ever have a burning desire to return to.
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VINE VOICEon 23 July 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I didn't quiet know what to expect from this book and was unfamiliar with the work of Aleksandar Hemon. The book features 8 short stories detailing the trials and tribulations of a young boy. Set in a multitude of locations including Africa and Chicago, I admittedly found the book slow going at first but the stories are laced with humour and I found myself flying through the stories. Aleksandar Hemon is an author I will be looking out for in the future, his stories are energetic, I highly recommend this book.
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