In Fatherland by Robert Harris, Germany won WWII and is now locked in a cold war with the United States. The novel follows a police detective, XavierIn Fatherland by Robert Harris, Germany won WWII and is now locked in a cold war with the United States. The novel follows a police detective, Xavier March, as he investigates a man's death in this alternate reality.
The novel is extremely fast-paced and reads like a thrilling movie. By discovering the man's identity, March uncovers hints of a deeper secret and conspiracy. German history, as written by the victors, makes no mention of what happened to the Jews. Officially, they were shipped east to work camps in Russia. In this alternate Germany during the 1960's officially does not always match up with reality. Germany is in a never-ending war with Russian partisans, the German settlers wish to come back, and rebellion bubbles beneath the surface.
What will the government do in order to keep the Holocaust covered up? As March is about to find out, they'll do whatever it takes.
In The Warsaw Anagrams, byRichard Zimler,the narrator, Erik Cohen, searches for the people who killed his nephew and two other children. He's a psychiIn The Warsaw Anagrams, by Richard Zimler, the narrator, Erik Cohen, searches for the people who killed his nephew and two other children. He's a psychiatrist, who was once respected, but now must deal with the hardships of the ghetto and the change in his station. While still respected, he's no longer one of the elite as the ghetto has destroyed the social order from the "Before Times." The voice of Cohen is rich and unique. Zimler stays with him throughout the novel and creates a solid character. Cohen fluctuates between compassion and anger, humor and grave melancholy. It's refreshing to read a character who is complex and whose actions cause him remorse.
While, technically a mystery, the novel is more about life in the ghetto than a compelling puzzle to solve. Part of the confusion stems from the title. It seems as though there will be coded puzzles throughout the novel and the anagrams do refer to the garbled names of people in order to hide their true identities; however, the anagrams fade below the surface as the novel progresses. The final anagram/puzzle is so hidden that "only a Jew would know both Polish and German well enough to understand that linka was string and Flor was gauze." For the reader it is next to impossible and the narrator doesn't care to share this information until he's been told by an accomplice to the crime.
Zimler's description of the early days of the Warsaw ghetto show a place full of heartache and desperation. The black market thrives as Jews cross over to the Christian side through hidden tunnels. People try to sustain the normalcy of life through music and cafes. But how soon before that goes away? The novel concludes before things become more terrible in the ghetto. We know what will happen eventually, but the novel sticks to the time frame of Cohen's perspective.
One issue with the narrator is that as he tells the story to a man, his current state is that of an ibbur, kind of like a ghost. This didn't trouble me; I assumed it was part of Jewish culture, but it is kind of cheesy. It does add another layer to the story, but for readers who do not enjoy the fantastic, it may be a problem.
The Warsaw Anagrams provides a glimpse of life in the ghetto and the suffering involved. Full of interesting characters who must make decisions, in which they question their morals, the novel leads the reader through the twisting streets, cramped apartments, and secret lives constrained by the ghetto walls. The novel is published by Overlook Press and available on Amazon....more
I picked City of Glass off the bookcase because I heard Paul Auster interviewed on Radiolab. In the interview he described getting a phone call, afterI picked City of Glass off the bookcase because I heard Paul Auster interviewed on Radiolab. In the interview he described getting a phone call, after the novel was published, by a man asking for Quinn (the character in City of Glass who takes on the identity of Paul Auster). It sounded like an intriguing novel, and I decided to give it a chance.
It's no secret that I'm not a Paul Auster fan. At times, it seems like he is more interested in exploring identity, whether it is that of his characters or overtly himself, instead of telling a complete story. Plot is sacrificed for style, and postmodernism and metafiction shape the writing.
The novel starts with Daniel Quinn receiving a phone call asking for Paul Auster, the detective. Daniel Quinn is a writer whose wife and son died, which has caused him to distance himself from his friends and career. Quinn writes under a pseudonym, William Wilson, about a detective named Max Work. Quinn identifies with Max Work, but only through the separate identity of Wilson, his pseudonym. Without Wilson, he would be unable to Work. After getting the call again, Quinn takes on the case and becomes Paul Auster.
What layer does it add that Paul Auster has written himself into the novel? I like it when Charlie Kaufman wrote himself into Adaptation, so why am I less thrilled when Auster does it? Part of the reason is that it seems like Auster's motives seem less about fiction and story, and more about ego. He does bring up interesting questions like what is the relationship between the writer and his characters? In the end, that's what City of Glass is interested in exploring. How we create language, how we tell stories, and who forms whom. Do the characters in Auster's head define Auster, or does he define the characters?
The other point where I diverge with Auster is how I view the universe. I don't believe in fate. I don't believe in magical coincidences being anything other than the play of statistics. I do believe in chance, but I don't put any extra importance on chance. Someone could win the lottery and their life would change. Is there special meaning in that, or is just that random events happen? A world where events and possibilities are linked by something unseen is a much safer world, but it's one that ultimately is a false world, another fiction which has been created.
As City of Glass continues, the writer who is many people slowly disintegrates and loses himself in his own fiction. He believes he is the detective and the case is real. He trusts in the circumstances and doesn't check his facts. Another key question is who is telling the story? Actually, that's not a question, because we all know that Paul Auster is telling the story, but there's another narrator toward the end of the novel, a friend of Quinn's who speaks in the first person. Here we add another layer in the identities of the author.
Lastly, Auster tries to mirror Don Quixote, which is fine, but he explains it all to the reader. Why not let that be present, and if the reader notices the similarities then it adds texture to the story. If the reader doesn't notice it, there's no harm done. Instead, it's spooned into the reader's mouth through a few pages of clunky exposition.
Overall, I appreciate Auster's exploration of writing and the relationships between characters and the writer, but feel that some elements that drive a story our sacrificed for style and ego....more
Anyway, the premise is pretty simple. Old rich guy close to death is obsessed with the disappearance of his favorite niece thirty plus years ago. In a last ditch attempt, he hires an investigative journalist who has lost all credibility in a libel suit and needs the work. Add in computer hacking girl with a photogenic memory, tattoos, and social disorders, and you've got an international best seller!
It's hard to describe some of these books without sounding sarcastic, however, it's an entertaining read and more thoughtful than your average mystery/thriller. It takes a while to get into, because the pace doesn't take off until Blomkvist (journalist) and Salander (computer hacker) get together about a third of the way into the novel.
Anyway, it's good, quick reading, although the ending is strange as it shifts toward another focus of the novel for sixty or so pages after the mystery has been solved....more
In The City and The City, China Miéville, branches out into a new form of genre fiction: the mystery. While past novels, like Perdido Street Station aIn The City and The City, China Miéville, branches out into a new form of genre fiction: the mystery. While past novels, like Perdido Street Station and the Scar, have firmly established Miéville as a scifi/fantasy superstar they have not been proving grounds for writing a good mystery. Miéville works in some of his scifi and fantasy tendencies by creating this city in a version of our own world and having it split. Citizens of each city are supposed to unsee each other. Effectively, they act as though they have blinders on and the other city is non-existent. If they do notice it or cross over, this is seen as breach, and a mysterious police force intervenes. The idea is a little compelling, but not compelling enough for three hundred pages. The city is what Miéville is most interested in, and the overall murder mystery becomes quite secondary.
Most of the dialogue in the book is poorly constructed. Characters speak to give the reader information. It's a poor attempt to move the story forward that hurts the novel in another way. Character development is as non-existent as the boundary between the cities. The narrator is not intriguing or endearing. We never really see his motivations beyond it being his job. Yet, he is working outside the system. He must have motivations. Often times the characters seem as though they've been created by someone who has watched a lot of police dramas. The other awkward area in this novel is the attempt to ground it in our present world. There is an internet, email, and all the big corporations that litter expressways with billboards. To what effect? The pop culture corporate name dropping doesn't add anything. It doesn't make the Cities any more strange by seeing them next to our world.
Miéville is an exciting writer who will most likely write more books. For the time being though, this is one to miss. ...more
This is the first book by Michael Chabon that I haven't really liked. There's nothing bad about it, but it is skeletal. I halfway want to check and seThis is the first book by Michael Chabon that I haven't really liked. There's nothing bad about it, but it is skeletal. I halfway want to check and see if it is young adult fiction. The mystery is not very mysterious, and the main character is a re-hash of Sherlock Holmes. Basically, imagaine Sherlock Holmes alive and retired in the country side during World War II.
I'm sure Chabon enjoyed writing it, and it was fun to read but lacked substance. At times it seemed more like a writing exercise that was continued into a short novel. If this is the only book you read by Michael Chabon, don't give up on him, the rest of his stuff is a whole lot better....more
I have yet to be dissapointed by anything that Michael Chabon has written. The descriptions in this book are dense, poignant and create an atmosphereI have yet to be dissapointed by anything that Michael Chabon has written. The descriptions in this book are dense, poignant and create an atmosphere that reflects the characters' moods and the mood of the Sitka Jews.
Initially, I was thrown off that the novel takes place in an alternate reality. Mainly, I had no idea going in and didn't read any reviews. The premise though is that Jews were settled on islands along the coast of Alaska after WWII and the dissolution of Israel. If you can take that, then what you have is a hardboiled detective story steeped in nuance.
Meyer Landsman (the main character) is almost a cliche. I'm not sure that's a bad thing though, because in detective stories we expect a down-on-his-luck, alcoholic with relationship problems who bucks the system.
Also, chess plays a major role in this novel and works as a pretty obvious metaphor for the puzzle Landsman is trying to solve....more