Jessica's Reviews > The Periodic Table

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
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's review
Oct 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: happyendings, kind-of-depressing, they-made-me-do-it

Finally, an argument in favor of being forced to read books! I hated the beginning of this and fell asleep twice during the first chapter, so I never would've kept on going if I hadn't had to for school. But The Periodic Table got progressively better then finally peaked at the end, as is my personal preference for books. I cried for like twenty minutes after I finished this, though I'm not sure if that had to do more with Primo Levi or with my own lady hormones.

In any case, though it took me awhile to get into it, I did really like this book and recommend it, especially if you're interested in chemicals. Levi insists that it's fiction, not autobiography, but it feels very true, whether it all is or not. Each chapter is structured around an element from the periodic table, and tells the life story of an Italian Jewish chemist who grows up under Fascism, survives the Holocaust, and then works -- among other things -- as a varnish manufacturer. I haven't read Levi's Holocaust stuff, but the way that experience is handled here is unexpected and moving -- there is a little bit about it, but basically he's like, "I already wrote that book" and elides most of it, so the story is more about how his life continues on after that. Again, slow start for me but ultimately got into the Big Shit in a strikingly human, profound, and lovely way.
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05/13/2016 marked as: read

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