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Alone in Berlin,
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This review is from: Book of Clouds (Paperback)
'Book of Clouds' is a short, lyrical book, with prose that verges on poetry. Tatiana, the novel's Mexican narrator, lives in Berlin. Her tale is a meditation on the isolation of a living in a big city. Despite her somewhat bleak existence, Tatiana's Berlin is lovingly drawn. Anybody who is familiar with the city will recognise the sights and sounds that Tatiana depicts. Reading this book caused many fond memories to come flooding back.
Other than Berlin itself, `Book of Clouds' follows three main characters - Tatiana, her employer, an ageing historian, and Jonas, a meteorologist with a passion for clouds. As one might expect from a Book of Clouds, it has an ethereal quality to it. It deals with life's intangibles, and is filled with staccato vignettes of city life that tantalise and hint of deeper secrets.
Much of the book deals with the transience of life. Everything is malleable, shifting and shrouded in fog. Tatiana's Berlin, a city of deep historical significance, is only fixed in the present. The novel asserts that as we move forward in time, our perception of history changes. Inalienable truths become blurred around the edges and, with the passage of time, what was once certain becomes shrouded in doubt. So too the future of the city; as easy to predict as it is to forecast the weather.
Some readers may not find `Book of Clouds' to their taste. There is a frustrating lack of plot, and sometimes conversations or scenes come to an abrupt halt, never to be picked up again. (Much like cloud formations that disappear, never to be recreated.) But there is much to love here. The central theme of the isolation of living among millions is compelling, as are the peculiar people in Tatiana's life. Using her narrator's atypical existence, the author accurately depcits the human condition, which makes for absorbing reading. 'Book of Clouds is a startling debut; Aridjis is an author with a bright future ahead of her.