Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
Not easy, but worth the effort.
on 21 October 2012
Very much a 'literary' novel, in that it is concerned primarily with style over a fairly minimalistic plot, and one's appreciation of the novel is going to depend entirely on how one feels about the author's distinctive prose style. It's certainly unique (to me, at least). Marias hates full stops: the novel consists almost entirely of extremely over-extended sentences that any other sane author would break into three or four. His use of paragraphs is similarly hesitant - a single paragraph can stretch over three or more pages, meaning that one can open the book to be confronted by a double page spread entirely devoid of indentations, just a solid block of text. His style is also long-winded, every action is examined in minute detail, with the characters every inner thought noted in a stream-of-consciousness style. Often, his sentences can suddenly change direction halfway through and, with a 'perhaps' or 'maybe', suddenly offer a completely different point of view, leaving the reader with no single clear statement, but a collection of two or more alternatives to ponder. Reading this novel is a bit like trying to navigate through a fog, or being regaled by a very long-winded drunk. Several times during reading I had the urge to grasp the author by his lapels and shout at him to 'just get on with it!'
However (and it's a big 'however'), if you can mentally adjust yourself to the author's unique style, the quality of the writing does gradually shine through. Marias uses repeated ideas, phrases, sentences and chunks of text, gradually building up to an almost hypnotic effect on the reader, highlighting the power of storytelling, the masks and lies that we tell each other, and the lingering hold of the dead. The climax, in which he neatly mirrors the experiences of the narrator with the windowed husband of the dead wife is also pulled off with aplomb.
This certainly isn't a book for everyone, but if you can put the effort in required of a 'diffult' book, then you should find yourself rewarded.