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Not as engaging as it could've been
on 4 February 2012
Fugitive Pieces, a novel by the poet Anne Michaels is a book of two narrators. In the first part our narrator is Jakob, who is rescued as a child by a Greek man, Athos who smuggles him into Greece, and thereby saves his life, having rescued him from the Holocaust. Jakob grows up with geologist and academic Athos as a father figure but is haunted by the memories of his dead family in particular his sister, Bella.
Our second narrator is Ben, something of a fan of the work of both Athos and later Jakob, in what is the reverse of Jakob's situation, Ben's parents survived the Holocaust and escaped to Canada where Ben grew up. But, in doing so inflicted damage upon Ben's childhood, different to that of Jakob but from the same root.
As a novel I had a mixed response to it, it is often written in non sequiturs (pieces from a fugitive) which could often be annoying or confusing. Indeed, when the novel switched narrators from Jakob to Ben it took me ages to realise this had happened, and, this apparent change in Jakob's circumstance completely threw me off. In addition, the Jakob sections are more enjoyable and better written, though I occasionally found the novel as a whole verbose and disengaging.
Despite my misgivings this novel has some very poetic prose which I enjoyed :
Her mind is a palace. She moves through history with the fluency of a spirit, mourns the burning of the library at Alexandria as if it happened yesterday.
And I really enjoyed a moral lesson posed by a rabbi midway through the novel that is perhaps too long to quote. Yes, ultimately I found the book mixed and I doubt I would either recommend it or re-read it 6.5/10