Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written but Doesn't Quite Live up to Its Potential, 20 Sept. 2011
This review is from: A Book for All and None (Hardcover)
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This was a frustrating book in many ways. Right from the start, Clare Morgan showed her mastery of descriptive prose. The story, however, failed to stir up my interest. The book falls into the realm of creative nonfiction; Clare Morgan took key facts about Friedrich Nietzsche, Virginia Woolf and Lou de Salomé (who had complicated interdependent relationships), and filled in the blanks from her imagination. While this task demanded admirable academic rigour and creativity, the old-fashioned style of writing comes across as overly wordy and formal, which keeps the reader at a distance rather than drawing him/her into the story. This was the case for 139 pages: style over substance.

Then a change happened. From out of the blue, a chapter of such poignancy that it set all my senses alight. Morgan's description of how Love came to Earth, helped by her cousin Chaos, is steeped in myth and majesty. The writing here is neither old-fashioned nor modern, but timeless. The chapter is nothing short of captivating.

I wish I could say that the rest of the book maintains a similar level of brilliance; it doesn't, although from that point on the story is more consistently engaging. There are flashes of spectacular prose, especially when describing Nietzsche's dark moods and uncompromising beliefs.

The parallels between the modern-day characters (who often act as the story's narrators) and the historical figures are cleverly written. There are, however, too many loose ends for my liking. OK, leave one loose end to let the reader make up his/her mind about the way in which a particular plotline plays out. Leaving a plethora of loose ends flapping in the wind, though, is lazy writing that fails to leave the reader with an enduring sense of satisfaction.

I'm happy to have read the book. I'm better off for having done so. If Clare Morgan had spent more time distilling the story to its essence, weeding out stuffy, unnecessary formalities and sticking to the spellbinding prose of which she is capable, this could have been one of the greatest books ever written. As is, it's a worthwhile read which takes too long to get into its stride and too often veers off on irrelevant tangents.
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