Mar 02, 09
Read in February, 2009
I bought this book more than a year ago. And I’d pick it up to read, then put it back down, pick it up again, then put it back down. I just wasn’t that intrigued by the subject matter (World War II) or by the opening lines–and I’d keep picking it up because I LOVE Peter Ho Davies’ work. He is a tremendous short story writer whose prose is amazing and who in real life is super gracious and charming. But I kept giving the book a chance and eventually I picked it up to read. It was a bit tedious at first, much like a sleepy drive through the English countryside might be if you’re in the mood for something much more active and pulsing. But after awhile, you get into the groove of things and begin noticing details and understand the rhythm of that landscape, just as I did with The Welsh Girl. (His prose is always amazing). It is not Peter Ho Davies’ finest work, but man, it does pick up about halfway through, much like an Ian McEwan novel. I especially loved two characters: Karsten and Rotheram and wished there were more of them on the page. I learned a lot about characterization from this novel. In fact, I wished the novel were about THEM, even if Esther is the glue. Loved the theme of identity (are we defined by residency, citizenship/naturalization, ethnicity…?) that pervaded the book throughout.