Gretchen's Reviews > All the Names

All the Names by José Saramago
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's review
Dec 02, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: book-club, contemporary
Read in September, 2009

This book was interesting. It's about a man who works as a clerk at the Central Registry, which keeps track of all the births, deaths, divorces, and marriages in a certain area. Senhor Jose's life is pretty dull at first, until the day that he happens to see the card of a random woman. He becomes intrigued by her and wonders what her story is. Through a series of events, he tries to find out about her life, and in so doing, seems to add meaning to his own life.

I've never read anything by Jose Saramago before, so his writing style was a little tough for me to get used to. He uses no quotation marks, so dialogue can be hard to figure out. I really had to concentrate during that part. Also, he writes in really long paragraphs and sentences, which can be a bit tedious. Before this I was reading a much more simply written book, so making the transition was a bit difficult.

Early on in the book, I found myself getting slightly annoyed with Senhor Jose. I just didn't really get why he was so obsessed about finding out about this woman, and he seemed to make a lot of really foolish choices. In the end though, I think this book is about the connections that we strive to make as human beings. I think that Senhor Jose was starving for some kind of human connection, even though he may not have known it. And in his quest to find out about the unknown woman, he is able to connect with several people -- the woman on the ground floor apartment, the headmaster at the school, the shepherd, even the Registrar.

In my book club, we talked briefly about how this book is about the difficulty of actually knowing someone. Even though Senhor Jose tries to find out all this information about the unknown woman, he still doesn't really know her. Connecting with others is less about knowing their vital statistics and more about getting to know them -- what they like, what they dislike, what makes them tick, etc.

At any rate, this book is definitely thought-provoking, and I will probably be reflecting on it for awhile.

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