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1001 book reviews > Silk - Alessandro Baricco

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Kristel (kristelh) | 3967 comments Mod
Read 2015
Very good! This really is a quick read and therefore there is no excuse for why I put off reading this one so long. This is a story written by an Italian author with the protagonist a French man and the setting is a town in France. The time is 1861 and the story is about the silk industry. The silk worms have a disease and are not healthy enough to keep the silk industry going, the answer is to travel to Japan. The problem is Japan is closed to outsiders.

The first chapter tells the reader that this is 1861, "Flaubert was writing Salammbô, electric light remained hypothetical, and Abraham Lincoln, beyond the Ocean, was fighting a war of which he was not to see the finish."

The protagonist--Hervé Joncour was thirty-two. He bought and sold. Silkworms.

"He crossed the frontier near Metz, travelled the breadth of Württenberg and Bavaria, entered Austria, reached Vienna and Budapest by train, thence to continue as far as Kiev. He travelled two thousand kilometres of Russian Steppe on horseback, crossed the Urals, entered Siberia, continued for forty days until he reached Lake Baikal, known locally as "the sea". He descended the course of the River Amur, skirting the Chinese border as far as the Ocean, and when he arrived at the Ocean he stopped in the port of Sabirk for eleven days, until a Dutch smugglers' ship conveyed him to Cape Teraya on the west coast of Japan. Taking secondary roads, he crossed the provinces of Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata on foot, crossed the province of Fukushima, and reached the town of Shirakawa, passed to the east of it, waited two days for a man in black with a blindfold...." This repeats each trip and the return trip..."boarded a Dutch smugglers' ship at Takaoka, which took him to Sabirk. Thence he skirted the Chinese border as far as Lake Baikal, travelled four thousand kilometres over Siberian soil, crossed the Urals, arrived back in Kiev and crossed the whole of Europe by train, from east to west, until after a three months' voyage he arrived in France. The first Sunday in April--in time for High Mass..."
"The government had sent to Nîmes a young biologist who was to make a study of the disease that was effectively making French silkworm eggs unusable. His name was Louis Pasteur. He worked with microscopes..."

This little book is also a love story.

Diane | 2022 comments Rating: 4 stars

Short book that tells the downfall of the silkworm trade in 19th century France. After an epidemic threatens to decimate the French silkworm industry, a silkworm merchant travels to Japan to buy more eggs and falls in desperately love with a Japanese nobleman's young mistress. The book explores themes such as politics and the anti-Western feelings in Japan during that time. Overall, a great book and a quick read. I enjoyed the story and Baricco's poetic style of writing. I have since learned that there is a movie based on this book.

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