Anne Goodwin's Reviews > The Banner of the Passing Clouds

The Banner of the Passing Clouds by Anthea Nicholson
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's review
Oct 13, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: debut-novelists

We often describe novels by reference to others that seem similar, but Anthea Nicholson’s The Banner of the Passing Clouds is unlike any contemporary novel that’s recently graced my bookshelves. It’s the story of a man growing up in Soviet-era Georgia who is possessed by Stalin in the most literal way. If you think the notion of a man with a moustachioed squatter tapping on his ribs, churning his bowels and stealing his voice might be funny, think again. This is a serious novel about a bleak time in Georgian history.
Nevertheless, although Iosif, the narrator, gives it to us straight, it isn’t a bleak novel. Despite the demands of his inner Stalin, Iosif wants what we all want: a career; a comfortable life for those we care about; love. There’s a poignancy in Iosif’s character: born in the shadow of the death of his sister and never his parents’ favoured child; in his quest to collect and catalogue his country’s folksongs, while his own singing voice is suppressed. The worst atrocities occur offstage while, in their own different ways, the family and their neighbours strive to maintain their humanity within an oppressive regime.
Living in Tbilisi, I’m assuming Anthea Nicholson is well acquainted with the history of the region. With my scant knowledge, I may have missed some of the nuances in the symbolism of Iosif’s predicament, but I don’t think that detracted from my satisfaction with the novel. However, I may understand more when Anthea completes my website Q&A:

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
October 13, 2013 – Shelved as: debut-novelists
October 13, 2013 – Shelved

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