Alvin's Reviews > Quarantine

Quarantine by Jim Crace
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's review
Apr 08, 09

bookshelves: fiction
Read in April, 2009

This is my second read, but the one that truly counts, since the book failed to leave a mark the first time round. (It's not the book, it's me). It's odd how a book can go from 1 to 5 stars on a re-read.

I've loved all of Crace's other books, so I was quite puzzled that I couldn't get through Quarantine. I found it thick, dry, slow and hard to chew on the first time round -- the details kept getting lost.

This second reading, coming as I am from editing a book that is somewhat similar in tone and approach, and with quite a few more years of mellowing on me... was much more rewarding.

The desert-feel of the prose is entirely the point; it focuses attention on the details. Crace's Jesus is convincingly human; his is the sort of immortality a storyteller would put forward; that of story, and of transformative reception, and not the banality of special-effect miracles.

But the heart of the book is humour, and wit, and terror, and the wily cunning in the design of Musa the merchant who is the lynchpin of the book, an unlikely Everyman, and a force with which we cannot sympathized and yet can not dismissively demonised. His brutality is and very human, as is his charm, and grotesqueness, his bewilderment in the face of the inexplicable, his instincts for survival and profit. The ending is genius: and feels authentic, unforced; without either confirming nor refuting the sense of the ineffable.

This is a novel rooted in the flesh and the dust. Perhaps I needed those few years to come down to earth in order to appreciate it more.


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