2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Classics are made of this...,
This review is from: The Breaking of Eggs (Hardcover)
I was lucky enough to read this book in manuscript form when I was working for the literary agency it was picked up by. From the moment I picked it up, I was enthralled. Though the genre is not one I am overly familiar with, the ease with which the author (and his narrator) guides the reader through the highly political yet touchingly lonely life of Feliks Zhukovski is to be commended. It is a highly readable narrative, one that will not bore for even a page.
Feliks is essentially an idealist - resistant to change and, indeed, to action, he has gone through life merely existing. Moving from tree to post like a meandering, weightless leaf, with no sense of direction and no destination. His listlessness is well depicted in the narrative which, in the opening chapter, follows this pattern, seeming to mimic his inconsequential life. Feliks talks, and talks and talks; he has ideas, but not the courage to implement them. He has failures, and no real successes, save his business - a small travel guide steadily losing money in the post-Communism disillusionment. He is as we all are - afraid, lonely and a little bit lost.
It is, however (like much of life), a small act of friction that picks up wind and changes Feliks' direction. He is forced to sell his failing business, and sell it to those he vehemently opposed his whole life - the Americans. This tiny action causes a ripple that reverberates through Feliks' present, past and future - reuniting him with the brother he lost fifty years ago, forcing him to reconcile with ghosts from his past and learn a few home truths in the process. The blinkers that covered his eyes for fifty years, the edicts he based his whole identity on, they all fall away as he faces unassailable truth after unassailable truth - learning in the process that what he thought and what he had were never real.
For me, the most touching thing about this novel was the idea that Feliks' life needn't have been so - that a series of misunderstandings, unavoidable 'choices' and heartbreaking helplessness made him what he is, and that his life could have been very different. Feliks' loneliness is exquisitely portrayed by Powell - never melancholy, its' very self-deprecating humour is why he cuts an even more tragic figure, leaving the reader no choice but to feel for him and countless others like him. This is a very visceral portrayal of war - not the guns and battlefields, but the homes and lives destroyed in the news stories that never remain front-page for long. It paints a damning picture of the divisiveness of politics, and the very human cost of policies and decision beyond the control of ordinary people. The publication of this book at this time in our world history is not without irony. In this very moment, we remain at war with any number of nations, where servicemen and -women die every day, for reasons that most ordinary people don't even agree with, let alone condone. The anger that grips our generation is the same as the anger that gripped Feliks', as they was forced to endure horrifying brutalities with all the helplessness of slaves. What, a hundred years from now, will our future generations think of this period in history? Like Feliks, we are all displaced, a lost generation. And so a story such as this becomes extremely powerful as it literally lifts itself from the page (and from the pages of our collective past) and enters our world, our consciousness.
There are very few novels (and sadly fewer every year) that deserve a place in history as something monumental, to be read and loved and understood by everyone; something that five, ten, fifteen years later, someone could call a classic, and use it as an education of the past, to learn of the prejudices and faults of human beings and the strength and warmth of human spirit. Books such as To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, Catcher in the Rye and, in my opinion, The Breaking of Eggs. I don't believe that I am exaggerating when I say that this is a classic from the moment it is picked up by a reader. I know that I will be reading my (pre-ordered) copy for years to come, and (like my favourite book of all time, To Kill A Mockingbird) will always find in it a new direction, a hitherto undiscovered nuance, a gospel of truth in every word and on every page. 'The Breaking of Eggs' is a gem, and to call it a novel does not do it justice. It is a discourse of politics, history, love and life; of individuals, and of us all. Do not miss this!
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Initial post: 25 Mar 2010 21:15:42 GMT
Seldom Seen. says:
Good review. I too got a manuscript copy of this and thought it was a brilliant read. It's been compared to Everything Is Illuminated and I can see why. If you liked Foer's book, you can't go wrong picking this up. Brilliant read.
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