Joy's Reviews > All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost

All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang
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Aug 30, 2010

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bookshelves: published-2010, arc, read-in-2010, books-about-books

Lan Samantha Chang's All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost is a beautifully written novel about the lives of the poets. In this case, the poets are three members of a poetry writing program in a Midwestern university – a program not unlike (I suspect) the Iowa Writers' Workshop of which Chang is the director – and the poet-professor who influences their lives far beyond the seminar room.

The story is told in three major sections. We first meet Roman, Lucy, and Bernard in the poetry-writing class led by the famous (and feared) poet Miranda Sturgis. After graduation, we follow Roman as he begins his own teaching career, marries Lucy, and struggles to complete a long-worked-on volume of poetry. When Bernard becomes homeless for a while, he spends several months with Roman and Lucy – so the friends are together again after many years, and their relationships are renewed and undergo changes. Then, in the third section of the book, we drop back in on the group ten years later for a final look.

I enjoyed the book as I was reading it. The academic settings seemed very authentic, and the book moved along at a nice pace. And while I can't say I really liked any of the characters, they did seem real to me – sometimes frustratingly real. However, I have to admit that a week after finishing it, I find myself struggling to remember much about the characters or the incidents. Perhaps it was a little too realistic to be really memorable. Or maybe it's just that the writing life – or any life devoted to the pursuit of art – is never easy to portray in writing.

Still, I definitely think the book is worth reading, if only for Chang's gorgeous and elegant prose style. She's a new discovery for me, and now I'm eager to read her earlier work.

Note: This review refers to an advance reading copy of the novel, provided free of charge by the publisher through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received and no one attempted to influence my opinion of the book.

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Reading Progress

August 30, 2010 – Started Reading
August 30, 2010 – Shelved
September 1, 2010 –
page 135
September 1, 2010 – Finished Reading

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