If you don’t have anything nice to say…

14 05 2007

Yes, it was one of my earliest lessons. If you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And that’s the first thought that came to me as I sat down to blog about Michael Ondaatje’s new novel.

It’s not that haven’t anything nice to say. There are some beautiful passages – the most beautiful, I think, the one in which Lucien reminisces about his stepfather, a village clockmaker, that appeared as an excerpt in The Globe and Mail and got me so excited to read it and probably contributed to my sense of disappointment as I moved further and through the novel.  There was also some mediation on the past/present, which I always enjoy and gets me thinking – as did the Nietzsche quote that is used at two points in the novel: “We have art in order not to die of the truth.”

To be fair, probably most anything would pale in comparison to The Book Thief. But I was really, really looking forward to reading it (after that aforementioned Globe and Mail excerpt).

So it’s not, as I said before, that I have nothing good to say about. It’s just that I’m left with a great deal of disappointment and emptiness. I realize that the incompleteness, the connecting stories that never fully connect or unify, is done on purpose. And yes, in my mind I can see some logic in the argument that that makes it so much more life-like, that life is fragmented and incomplete and we don’t have those perfect reconciliations that happen (too often?) in fiction and I wasn’t asking for that necessarily, for that moment of perfect resolution, but my heart just ached to know more about these characters, about what happened to these characters. Perhaps it is my own sentimentality coming out, but I felt some investment in the characters and then – far too abruptly in my humble opinion – they were gone and I wanted to know more.

In a few days, when my heart has got over this bruising, I will most likely admit that yes, this book does deserve a read, and yes, Ondaatje still has quite a way with words…

But not yet.

Not yet.

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The Book Thief

11 05 2007

I finished The Book Thief over a week ago. I don’t know why it has taken so long for me to write about it. It is still very much with me, and I suspect always will be.

I found myself sobbing for the final 50 or so pages and I cannot remember a book ever having such an effect on me. And most of that is because of its simplicity. It is so simple and yet so profound and emotional.

There was a sense of inevitability about the book, this looming knowledge of what was to come, and yet it was as affecting – or perhaps even more so because of that inevitability and because I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew.  And I won’t say more than that because I wouldn’t want to give away anything.

I have passed it on to the Artsy Mama and I’m recommending it to everyone, to absolutely everyone I’ve been talking to in the past week. I even find myself wanting to wave down people on the street and tell them, “There’s this book you must read…”