Younkin Pete's Reviews > The Boat

The Boat by Nam Le
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M 50x66
's review
Sep 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009-a-list
Read in September, 2009

This is a fascinating collection of short stories and, like most collections, its hard to give the entire collection a rating when there is a fair bit of variance between the stories. The first story is spectacular and, in my mind, the best and most memorable of the novel. In fairness, my opinion may be colored by the fact that I found that protagonist the most inviting and complicated. The subsequent stories veer from very good to average, in particular I was not a fan of either "Tehran Calling" or "Hiroshima", while I found "Halfhead Bay", "Meeting Elise" and, "Cartagena" to all be impressive. The final piece, "The Boat", was the most difficult for me as it did not have nearly the impact on me it probably should have and I wonder if I had read it elsewhere if I would have been more moved.
However, the collection as a whole is staggering. Just looking back at this assembly of protagonists, situations, and locales is staggering. Some voices may have felt more true than others, but the ambition required to tackle a Colombian hitman, teenager in ireland, persian activist, japanese girl... I mean the guy is insane to even to attempt this. Most impressively the styles of the pieces range radically (though all are first-person), some are noirish, some coming of age, some political. The only thing that unites these, as one character points out, is that they all deal with the issues that trouble the various characters, and while these may objectively vary wildly in scale, to the characters they are all of similar weight. It is, I suppose, left to the reader to decide whether it is trivial for a man to worry that he has never seen his daughter when other people are stranded in the sea trying to escape totalitarianism.
Truly an impressive undertaking.

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