bleak and with no mercy or get out jail cards, the novel is gripping to the end and has a structure that by alternating between the 1941-1945 recentlybleak and with no mercy or get out jail cards, the novel is gripping to the end and has a structure that by alternating between the 1941-1945 recently independent Estonia now under the first Soviet occupation followed by German "liberation" (quickly turning into an occupation which is becoming more brutal the more time passes and Germany is losing the war, though in a different way and with somewhat different victims/collaborators) and the 1960's Estonia as a Soviet Republic, poor, with a grayish life for most everyone but with less immediate brutality as in the war years, keeps things moving around and being interesting as a few mysteries are only cleared in the final pages, though of course we realize a few as we go on
with the strangeness of the names and the deliberate authorial confusion of such too (partly because one of the themes of the novel is the ability of some people to change completely when circumstances change and how those that do not, tend to be broken, mostly faster, occasionally slower by "history", while those who do change drastically fear discovery at any moment and basically only luck propels them in the longer run), it took me a while to get the gist of the storyline but things click and the pages almost turn on their own so to speak...
The narration alternates between first person from patriot Estonian Roland who fights against the Soviets, Germans and Soviets again until - read to find out what - and third person from his cousin/adopted brother Edgar who is always looking for himself only so he bends to whomever is in power, from the NKVD to the SS and back to the NKVD as times go, while trying to hide his deepest secret for which both the Nazis and the Soviets would have him imprisoned at best and most likely eliminated, namely being interested in men rather than women, as playing agent for one and then another is par for the course for both camps in the right circumstances, but being gay is a capital offense) and Edgar's wife, Juudit who has an interesting odyssey of her own as when due to her previously sheltered life she cannot fathom why Edgar has almost no interest in her just very perfunctorily consummating the marriage and then staying away from her bed, she starts alternating between the distant Roland (still in love with murdered wife Rosalie but a comrade of sorts) and SS officer Helmuth, handsome, courteous and truly in love with her, however brutal and nasty his "job" of suppressing Estonian patriots and supervising the orderly functioning of extermination camps for the Jews and work camps for the rest turns out to be...
Overall excellent stuff and a top 25 novel of mine for the year (as the English translation is 2015) which made me a huge fan of the author so i plan to get all her books available in a language I can read ...more
not that engaging after an intriguing start; the combination of autobiography and sfnalness didn't work for me - I would have much preferred a straighnot that engaging after an intriguing start; the combination of autobiography and sfnalness didn't work for me - I would have much preferred a straight-out literary novel or even a semi-autobiography a la Knausgaard...more
very good narrative/allegory of 20th century German/Jewish people, following a girl from her birth in the beginning of the century as the daughter ofvery good narrative/allegory of 20th century German/Jewish people, following a girl from her birth in the beginning of the century as the daughter of a Jewish mother whose father has disappeared from her life when young - "gone to America" as her mother would insist, but the girl is sure he was dead - (and in fact he was beaten to death in an antisemitic attack as we find out later) and a poor Austrian civil servant who has to keep his wife's Jewish origins quiet as not to be ostracized by his colleagues, until her death at age 90 just after the reunification of Germany, when she questions her life as a dedicated communist who followed the party line despite all...
but what if events would have been just slightly different, and the girl would have died as an infant if her parents would not have scooped some ice and put it on her when she had a bad fever, or later in a tragic love affair, or later in Stalin purges etc?
well written and a page turner that one cannot put down until the end, while also a meditation and reminder how life can change (and even end) so dramatically on very little things, like a scoop of ice, or someone confusing the letter F with letter H or...
while the first book was tolerable though not what I expect from Joe A after so many awesome novels, this one lost my interest quickly; mostly the setwhile the first book was tolerable though not what I expect from Joe A after so many awesome novels, this one lost my interest quickly; mostly the setting and characters I guess than the YA vibe, though that did not help either...more
The usual past/present action with strange happenings a long time ago having major consequences in the present, a mysterious book which may hold the kThe usual past/present action with strange happenings a long time ago having major consequences in the present, a mysterious book which may hold the key to those etc; with the hook being that women in his family tend to drown young on the same date in July, a librarian with a house on the verge of collapsing on the Long Island Sound tries to solve the mystery as his strange sister is coming back home, it is getting close to July (when their mother drowned years ago) and the book in cause may help; the past follows a traveling circus in the late 1700's, early 1800's America and some strange characters there which are of course his ancestors or related to them; quite a page turner and a very enjoyable book, though missing something to get to the level of the best such
read this one fairly fast (long but easy read) and overall I would rate it as ok but not great the way the Kinden series was; like in the Aethernet seread this one fairly fast (long but easy read) and overall I would rate it as ok but not great the way the Kinden series was; like in the Aethernet serial novel Spiderlight to which this one compares in some ways, the author wants to turn the corresponding tropes (here "good English/Royalists/orderly, bad French/revolutionaries/disrupting society) upside down and while the smooth prose makes reading the novel painless, the lack of sophistication - basically the whole book is a one note show - and world building that doesn't quite bear close scrutiny (the whole conflict feels like a tinpot one between two little provinces and outside any external context, not to speak of the lack of any economic sense in the book), makes this a passable but also easily skippable novel with enough goodies (mainly the feisty main character) to avoid complete failure ...more
very good (non jargon) dicussion discussion of Murakami's work with emphasis on his recent novels (including the latest) and his evolution of views abvery good (non jargon) dicussion discussion of Murakami's work with emphasis on his recent novels (including the latest) and his evolution of views about identity, reality and more
on the flip side at least one read of his major and recent works (Wind Up, Kafka, 1Q84) is required to profit from this book ...more
very boring and uninteresting beginning which tries to imitate Joe Abercrombie so much that it reads like a parody - browsing ahead, looks to get bettvery boring and uninteresting beginning which tries to imitate Joe Abercrombie so much that it reads like a parody - browsing ahead, looks to get better, so will see but the book is far from the hype ...more