M's Reviews > A Partial History of Lost Causes

A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois
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's review
Aug 19, 12

Read from August 06 to 19, 2012

To the people who have often said to me "Well what do you expect if you just randomly pick books off the shelves?? Of course you'll end up with lousy reads," I say to you, books like this one are why I still believe.
APHLC was not recommended to me by anyone, I hadn't even heard of it. I found the title intriguing and went with it, and I am grateful that I did.
This book is elegant, delicate, profound, and deeply moving. It traces two parallel stories bound to intersect (using alternate chapters, something I usually hate, but didn't mind here, perhaps because the writing was so thoughtful) - that of a young Russian chess genius in the 70s who is torn between his values and his poverty, and a brilliant young woman who has just been diagnosed with Huntington's disease, and witnessed her father's demise and refuses to go gently into that good night.
What ties these two unlikely people together is that the woman's father followed the chess player's rise to success intensely, and one day wrote him a letter, asking if he ever faced a battle he knew from the beginning he was bound to lose, and how he played with that knowledge? After all, the man himself was losing the game of his life, and wanted to do it with dignity. The woman finds the letter after her father has died, but with no corresponding answer, and goes on an adventure to find the chess player, and answers.
The novel is beautifully written, engaging, and almost wrenchingly insightful. It fell short of five for me because the narrator, for all her beautiful prose, felt very far from me, as if her cerebral-ness was all she had to offer as a person, which made her distant and hard to relate to or even root for. The writing was gorgeous but bordered on pretentious for this reason, and I would have appreciated sacrificing some of the language for a more emotional feel of the protagonist.
Still, as compromises go, that's not a bad one.

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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K Cool! This sounds really interesting, and happily, is actually available for download on audio from Brooklyn Public Library. I'm enjoying "The Chaperone" and going through it pretty quickly; it's nice to have another title to look forward to! Here's hoping that you don't end up hating it.

message 2: by M (last edited Aug 07, 2012 07:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

M Since it was a blind pick off a shelf I'm thrilled to report that it's actually really really good!

message 3: by rivka (new)

rivka marg wrote: "Since it was a blind lick of a shelf"


message 4: by M (new) - rated it 4 stars

M Whoops! Silly iphone. Since corrected. Thanks :)

message 5: by rivka (new)

rivka I think I liked the original better. ;)

message 6: by M (new) - rated it 4 stars

M I should make a collection of my iphone blunders - they make for a good time!

message 7: by rivka (last edited Aug 07, 2012 07:38AM) (new)

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