Callum McLaughlin's Reviews > Visitation

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck
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it was ok
bookshelves: war, translated, literary-fiction

This was one of those frustrating reading experiences where I liked the book a lot more in theme and intent than I did in actual execution. It's a shame too, as I really wanted to love this.

The prose held some real moments of beauty, and the translation was handled well, preserving a sense of quiet menace closing in on the mundanity of everyday life. I could also see and appreciate what Erpenbeck was doing throughout the book; capturing Germany throughout a time of great change and disruption, whilst exploring the idea that we never truly 'own' land. Instead, we are all just visitors, occupying a specific time and place that will one day revert to the rule of nature – hence the title. This was done by focusing on a single property, and giving us snapshots of the various people that come and go over the years, trying to make it home; with a particular focus on the impact of Nazi rule and the fallout of the resulting war. This is such a clever and fascinating concept!

My trouble was that our time with each of the many characters was so fleeting that I never felt invested in them. This meant that, however shocking their fates may have been, I was constantly left feeling underwhelmed and held at a distance. This problem was heightened by the fact that many of the characters' sections would spend a large amount of time documenting the cyclical and seemingly dull details of day-to-day life, and the renovations carried out on the property, before glossing over the more interesting or potentially powerful aspects of their story. I suspect, in fairness, that this was done deliberately, to capture the idea of how immediate and terrible the effect of war is for 'normal' people just trying to live their lives; and the notion that, however much time goes by, we all want the same thing: to live out our lives in peace. But I have to admit that the repetitive nature of their stories started to wear thin, and failed to hold my interest.

Thus, I think the points she was making could have hit home much harder if the focus of the narrative had been shifted slightly, allowing for greater emotional engagement. I still admire what Erpenbeck was saying, and so can’t help but wonder if there was an element of right-book-wrong-time involved in my reaction. Whatever the case, I just didn't click with this, sadly.
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Reading Progress

March 12, 2018 – Shelved
March 12, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
August 12, 2018 – Started Reading
August 13, 2018 – Finished Reading
August 15, 2018 – Shelved as: war
August 15, 2018 – Shelved as: translated
August 15, 2018 – Shelved as: literary-fiction

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Ruthy (new)

Ruthy lavin Great review Callum 👍🏻

Callum McLaughlin Ruthy wrote: "Great review Callum 👍🏻"

Thank you very much! :)

JimZ I have a hard time appreciating Epenbeck's style. This is the 2nd book I have read of hers...both were frustrating reads.

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