Azalea's Reviews > Der Weiße Knochen

Der Weiße Knochen by Barbara Gowdy
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Jun 10, 13

bookshelves: animal-fantasy, auf-deutsch, made-me-say-wtf-out-loud, reviewed
Read from May 21 to 24, 2013

I am always as happy as a clam when I find a "talking animal book" starring a species I've not read about before. There is only so much of this genre you can read from a canine/feline view, after all.

In my experience, you can classify this genre in the following sub groups:
Very obvious fables - Animal Farm
Not so obvious fables - Watership Down Wolfsaga
Fantasy books with animals instead of some humans or something, why even use animals at all? - The Sight
Fantasy books with animals, but it wouldn't work substituting the animals with human protagonists - Duncton Wood Journeys to the Heartland
Re-telling an animal's life from an animal's view, swerving more into fairy tale than fantasy - Kine Bambi

And then there is The White Bone. I'd say it fits mostly into the re-telling category, and as any of the above books, it has a certain degree of anthropomorphism (otherwise it reads like a terrifyingly boring nature-documentary-retelling... The Cold Moons), but good Lord, is it applied to all the wrong things and left out entirely where it's needed mostly!

The world building is interesting, at least:
The naming-system of the elephants is very unique and thoughtful, but it didn't really help me with what naming is meant to do - tell one thing from another! I found all these She-This, She-Thats to become pretty tedious after a while and quickly didn't make any more tries of remembering who was who. Nevertheless, interesting attempt. The way the elephants interpreted the world around them (the other animals, causality, humans and human machines and houses) was yet again interesting and convincingly animal'ish.

But I've no idea what mindreading and foreseeing the future has even to do here. Where the hell did this come from? So these elephants cannot grasp that a car is in fact no animal, but a machine. But they can grasp the concept of seeing things in their mind that have not happened yet, but definitely will? Something's not quite congruent here. Don't get me started with the dwarf elephants that (view spoiler) That's just ridiculous and completely out of place.

In stark contrast to these quite vital and totally missplaced fantasy elements these elephants behaved too much like animals. I've never in my entire life read so much about poop before. No, seriously. These elephants are infatuated with feces of any kind and will touch it, apply it on their skin/into their wounds and eat it very often in disturbing detail. It truly is disgusting. Yeah, I get that elephants probably do all of this. But I do not wish to read about it, in EXTREME detail. We are talking about humans trapped in animal bodies, pretending to be that animal, after all. These are not actual animal protagonists, no matter how hard we try in reading or writing such stuff. Even the rabbits in Watership Down regularly gobbled down their poop, but it was written descretely enough to not make me wanna vomit from disgust, as in this book, but I accepted it as something that bunnyrabbits just do. I also do not wish to read in extrem detail about their elephant sexuality and animal anatomy, regarding this topic. Gross. Just gross.

Add to that confusion downright unlikable, annoying characters (didn't care about any single one here) and a plot leading literally to nowhere (seriously, the story (view spoiler)) Make up your mind, authors. Are your characters animals? Full scale animals? No, they're not, you give them clairvoyance and theology and speech. Chose wisely which animal traits to keep and which not. Otherwise you'll end up with a fascinating and unique trainwreck, but a trainwreck it stays.
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Reading Progress

05/21/2013 marked as: currently-reading
05/22/2013 page 250
62.0% "Some of the grossest books I've EVER read. EVER."
05/23/2013 marked as: read

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