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The Visible World: A Novel
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The Visible World: A Novel

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  915 Ratings  ·  167 Reviews
An immensely moving, powerfully romantic novel about the vagaries of love and the legacy of war, The Visible World is narrated by the American-born son of Czech immigrants. His New York childhood, lived in a boisterous community of the displaced, is suffused with stories: fragments of European history, Czech fairy tales, and family secrets gleaned from overheard conversati ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Mariner Books (first published 2007)
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Anna
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I was reading this book, I couldn't say I liked it or not. It was like collecting little crocks together to gain the final picture. During reading, I was also confused by some facts of German occupation - I haven't lived through any occupation of our country (the Czech Republic) so I didn't catch some circumstance even if I was supposed so. But after all, after closing the book for the last time, I realised that all the pictures of characters' life made one huge picture of this book and I ...more
Julia
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has unsettled me, and I'm still mulling over why. Slouka, a professor of creative writing (Univ. of Chicago, then Columbia) places me under a waterfall of some of the most descriptive sentences I've ever read--so much so, that at times the sheer VOLUME of detail becomes overwhelming.

The book is divided into three sections: "The New World: A Memoir", "Prague: Intermezzo", and finally "1942: A Novel." Slouka, himself of Czech heritage, has built his book around the true story of the assa
...more
Em
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
If you have loved someone and lost that person, then Mark Slouka‘s The Visible World is for you.

If you are loving a person you have not seen for decades, then this book is for you.

If you have been captured by love in spite of heartaches, and cannot forget, then this book is for you.

If you love America and Europe, then this book is for you.

If you love history, and literature, then this book is definitely for you.

The Visible World begins with a memoir and ends with a novel, craftily connected by a
...more
Erica
Within the first 12 pages of this book, I thought to myself, "I never want this book to end." And throughout the novel I grappled with that idea--I didn't want it to end, but I knew that I would not be able to withstand the emotional power and grief that Slouka packs into every page. Experiencing the War almost in real-time, from the perspective of someone living in Eastern Europe, enthralled the historian in me and prompted me to reassess how I conceptualize that period of history, to critique ...more
Brian
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written in luminous prose and built upon acute psychological observation, this is the story of a woman whose life is first illuminated and then blighted by her involvement with the Czech resistance during the second world war. It's told from the point of view of her son who slowly unearths his mother's hidden past in an effort to understand the suffocating sadness that surrounded her life. A masterpiece.
Chrissie
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Daisy
This novel is split into three different sections: ""The New World", "Prague Intermezzo" and finally "1942: A Novel". The book's narrator is the son of Czechoslovakian parents. He is seeking to understand and to make sense of the events of his childhood and the estrangement he felt between his mother and father. The first part is set in the US, in Queens, where the boy grew up. This part is written as a memoir. The reader sees the parents' relationship through the eyes of the child. It concludes ...more
Kay
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are those who say 'good books' must be difficult to read. In general I don't agree with that, but in this case, this book is both good, in several senses, and difficult to read, in several senses.

The difficult part is both structural and moral - the first third of the book is written as a memoir: the son of a woman who is clearly emotionally troubled and distant from her husband and child begins to explore her past in the hope of discovering what has caused her to behave so painfully. His
...more
Debbie
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel gets four stars for the sheer beauty of the prose. I've never read a book, pencil in hand, softly underlining the most beautiful of sentences - but with this one, I couldn't help myself.

"Winter. It was as if the year would never die".

"There are people like that, after all - individuals who resist the current, who hold out against the betrayal. Who refuse to take their small bouquet of misremembered moments and leave. You'll run into them at the deli counter, or while waiting in line a
...more
Tami
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book starts out a tough read. The first third is told from the narrator's perspective, he's the son in the story. But then he tells the last two thirds of the book from his parents' perspectives, and it's a love story combined with a tale of WWII intrigue and tragedy. It's totally worth slogging through the first part to get to the really good story because it's so fantastic.
Adri
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book. The writing is fluent and reads like poetry. The themes of love, loss, war, family are all extremely well dealt with. I will definitely read more books by this author.
Dean
First and foremost this is a novel. The reason why I state this from the beginning of this review is that it initially reads as a slightly whimsical memoir, which is clearly a device. Stylistically clever the first half of the story has the the vagaries and half recollections of a adult reminiscing on his childhood in New York. Slouka uses the style of half remembered events and semi-comprehended moments to great affect.

The narrator describes growing up in New York, the son of Czech emigres in a
...more
Deborah Gray
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult book to get into, but well worth the effort. The weaving of memoir, history and novel is artfully and successfully done, in my opinion, so that you are equally drawn to each, although I found the imagined love story and the real assasination account to be more compelling than the true story on which the book was based. Perhaps it is the attempt of the author to fill in the gaps for himself of his difficult childhood, or perhaps his existence with his psychologically damaged m ...more
Kat Michalets
This is an extremely hard book for me to rate. The prose throughout was some of the most beautifully written that I have ever read so I would give the book 5 stars based on that. However, the first two sections were so wandering and eventually borderline tedious that I would only give it 1 star. The final section truly redeemed the book, which was interesting and a real page turner. I wish Slouka would have made the book into a novella and only used the third part of the book. I felt like the fi ...more
Jo
This is a novel partly about the power of stories in our personal and national identities and histories. The narrator tells his story and that of his Czech parents from a comntemporary vantage point in America and Prague. At the heart of the novel is a tragedy in a church crypt in 1942 and a painfully beautiful love story. I found it incredibly moving. Epic in scale, the beauty is in the detail. Reviewers on the backcover blurb make comparisons to The English Patient - but this is an easier read ...more
Blair
While Slouka's prose is beautiful, and there's no doubt he's an extremely talented writer, the structure of this book bothered me. A coherent plot doesn't emerge until more than halfway through - until then, it's just a series of vignettes which, though evocative and vivid, failed to engage my interest fully. It's a shame that the pivotal romance, the most important element of the story, isn't explored until near the end; as a result, I didn't care about the characters as much as I felt I should ...more
amanda
Apr 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, lovelovelove
Possibly my new favoritest book ever!
I'm just not the ind of girl who can call a book a masterpiece. i just can't!
so what do i say? Mark Slouka's novel of an American-born man longing to piece together the fragmented history of his Czech parents is positively breathtaking. (Am I the kind of girl who says breathtaking?) Equal parts suspenseful World War II saga, family memoir, and extraordinary romance, The Visible World is a wonderful read!
Michelle
Feb 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty moving. First generation American son to Czech parents involved in the Resistance goes back to Czech Republic to unearth their story. The second part of the book, which takes place in Czech in 1942-on, feels immediate enough to make your stomach turn over in places. Felt kind of unrelentingly sad.
Barbara
Aug 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myfavorites
This is a superb book. Oprah magazine recommended it, and I got it just because it was about Prague and we are planning a trip to Prague. This book offered me so much more than information about Prague. It is part memoir, part fiction, part history. It is beautifully written and interestingly structured. I highly recommend it.
Kelcey
Dec 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first section of this book is called a memoir and it feels a bit slow and self-indulgent in the way memoirs can be, but the last section is absolutely beautiful and makes me want to re-read the first part to see how the narratives bounce back and forth and enhance one another. Though the pace of the book is slow (in a lovely, thoughtful way), it can be read quickly.
Monica Martin
I didn't really care.
Joe Wilkins
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply one of the best novels I have ever read. Wrecked me in all the right ways.
Carrie
Apr 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is gorgeous. So beautifully written. Possible addition to my top 5 list. Loved it.
Rachael
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite frankly, this is one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever sat up into the night reading. It is poignant, sad and utterly heartbreaking. I could quote line upon line but I will let you discover your own bits of beauty all on your own. I spent many hours, wandering off of the pages to look up places, events that I knew nothing of and even recipes. Yes, I plan on making Kolace sometime in the near future. At times, however, the first sections could be tedious and for that, f ...more
Saleh MoonWalker
The Visible World is a sensitive and formally inventive elaboration of complex and elusive themes; despite its flaws, there is much to enjoy in its hidden implications and its nuanced narrative surfaces.
Denise
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's the story of the Czech resistance against the Nazi regime in the assassination of Heydrich. An interesting topic and I enjoyed the book even though it jumped around a bit between times.
Amalia
Jan 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rozreads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cheenee
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
It took an excessively long time to reach the critical point of the story, but overall it was okay. It was quite predictable.
Kate North
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This beautifully written novel is an account of a member of the Czech Resistance movement during WWII and her life and family afterwards - sort of. Beginning with her son in the US much later, the story begins to explore her pervasive sadness/depression, which centres around a lover from the days of the War. As we see his boyhood, then learn more about her and her experiences when he as a grown man travels to the Czech Republic & other surrounding bits of Europe, the story of her involvement ...more
Roman Clodia
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has had quite mixed reviews that fall into the either very high or very low and I think that's an accurate estimate of how any individual reader will respond. I have to say that I think it's an odd choice for Richard & Judy because they tend to choose the obvious 'good reads' that are fairly superficial and, in my opinion, instantly forgettable. This, however, is neither.

The wartime love story genre usually tends to be full of over-ripe emotions, and (soap) operatic story-lines - t
...more
Joan
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book which helps the reader grasp the tragedy of war and the fact that people have to live with the events forever. The narrators mother has a story which is part of her very make up and throughout his childhood he is aware she loved a man in the war but doesn't know the story and cannot get information from his parents.

In the third part of the book we get to find out what happened in Prague and Czech Republic all those years ago. The love affair is touching and be
...more
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Mark Slouka is the author of four previous works of fiction including Lost Lake, a New York Times Notable Book, and The Visible World, a finalist for the British Book Award. His 2011 essay collection, "Essays from the Nick of Time," was the winner of the PEN/Diamonstein-Speilvogel Award. A contributing editor at Harper’s, Slouka’s work has also appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best America ...more
More about Mark Slouka...
“If I needed your condescension, I'd ask for it.” 3 likes
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