Lisa Vegan's Reviews > What is the What

What is the What by Dave Eggers
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Apr 09, 08

bookshelves: fiction, bookclub, reviewed, biography, non-fiction, novel, aaalt
Read in April, 2008

I liked this book and I do feel guilty for not loving it; I thought that I would. It’s my kind of book. I adore Dave Eggers. I was moved by Valentino Achak Deng’s story and the stories of the various other Sudanese refugees, and was interested in learning more about the events of the war in Sudan. I’m delighted that the proceeds from this book go to good causes: to fund the college education of Valentino Achak Deng, with distributions to other Sudanese refugees in America, and to rebuilding southern Sudan, in particular Marial Bai, where Deng is from.

But something was missing for me in my experience of this book.

I always have a difficult time enjoying novels that are basically biographies; I appreciate knowing what is real and what is fiction.

Also, I didn’t enjoy Egger’s technique of having the protagonist (Deng) tell his story to the many various people in his vicinity or those on his mind. I’m not sure why as I love the storytelling form. But it didn’t work for me here. I felt distance vs. intimacy.

And when it came down to it, while I was interested in the man and the events in his life, the book felt too long to me. That’s never a good sign. Usually, I hate it when a book ends and I wish it was longer and I had more to read. Maybe better editing would have helped?

I know that I’m in the minority here; most seem to love the book. Maybe in retrospect I will or maybe I my views will shift after my book club discussion.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Rachel Lisa, I totally know what you mean. I am only halfway done with the book, and it feels way too long already. I like it, it just feels like it's taking too long to read.

Heard about you being sick. Hope you are feeling better! Did you make it to the book club discussion after all? I had to miss it!

Hope to see you at the next meeting!


Lisa Vegan Hi Rachel,

I did think that it was worth finishing though. But some better editing would have helped.

Kristin said something wise about the Sudanese being known for telling really long stories (there is something about that in the book) so maybe that was the main reason for this treatise of this guy's life.

No, I didn't make the book club discussion. I was sick for only about 12 hours and was better by mid afternoon but decided not to attend. It's the first one I've missed of the 19 that we've had.


Rachel Lisa, as you can see from my review, I finally finished it!

It actually gets WAY BETTER at the end. In fact, the narrator suddenly began expressing himself much more eloquently in the last 6 pages. Maybe this was Dave Eggers allowing his Sudanese writing accent to wear off. (!!!) (????)



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