I picked this up in the Translated Lit section of Talking Leaves for two reasons. The first is that it was the thickest book in my line of sight, and I like my big books. The top right area of the immense book-shelf grid that takes up the left wall of my living room is easy to reach from my armchair and consequently houses those of the books I tend to want to reach for the most that haven’t been lent out to [forced upon] various friends. A lot of these are pretty thick – Infinite Jest, Life and Fate, Anathem, et cetera. The to-read pile on the table by my chair includes a few more “books that you could use to build a house,” and up until I read it this was the housiest of them all.
The second reason is that I’d just watched both Robocop and Basic Instinct… which were of course directed by Paul Verhoeven.
The meat of this book is an immense Holocaust memoir within a book, dictated by an old man to the young male protag. It’s gripping stuff, and it needs to be, because it’s the setup for a magnificent plot twist that GOT me even though I knew it was coming. Next to that bump-and-spike, the framing plot seems a little rushed and thin.
(Maybe that’s because I read books too fast though, which may be why I like big books – they last longer, there’s more in them, they hold up better when I read them really fast. The better the book, the faster I read, because I want to know what’s in the rest of it. However, my very favorite books take me a long time to read, because they are impossible to read quickly. This is I like Pynchon’s books best and Ulysses is the book I am savoring most right now.)
Still though, there’s a lot of plot crammed into the corners. The women are named Donatella and Nebula. There are deep, dark family secrets. I should also mention that this book has a lot of sex in it for a big ol’ book with a black and white photograph of a broken pair of glasses on the cover, if you know what I mean. I think even to the point of it being a “theme.”
And the ending is tidy while being totally implausible in a way that breaks with the feel of the rest of the book. It’s very symbolic (ish?) and epic, and at least kind of happy, and it irritated me. But after the natural climax of that plot twist, any further attempts at climaxing the story are fairly doomed anyway.
All of these criticisms sound pretty damning grouped together, but I really did enjoy the book. I’ll probably be forcing it on an acquaintance as soon as they return whatever tome they’re currently burdened with.
Definitely worth checking out of the library if you’re not a slow reader.