Sunday, December 09, 2007
A Little Sunday Reading v. 6
The story weaves a tale of a former literature teacher turned archivist in 1930's Moscow. His task is to destroy the literary work of political prisoners.

This book has been showing up on lots of Best of 2007 lists. As I read it, I was confused as to why. First, let me say it was well-written in a technical sense. Good sound plot. Interesting lead character. A build in the story. But overall I was let down. I think there were a few things that just didn't sit well with me.

First, it was written in third person. I've really been into first person narration lately. REALLY into it. And I don't know that I can say "lately." This is pretty much a mainstay with books I like. I enjoy when one of the character narrates. The narrator can vary from chapter to chapter but I like it always to be someone involved in the story.

Second, I hated the ending. Many people will disagree with me. I've read other reviews by people who LOVED the ending. I just didn't think it did enough to conclude what was a very powerful story.

Third, the writing just wasn't aesthetic enough for me. Prose doesn't always have to flowery and beautiful. But I'm critical of authors who constantly write in short, choppy sentences. Sure, it was a way to understand the character's (often unfinished) thoughts. It just started to bug me after a while. And, relatedly, the book centers around an archivist who reads beautiful literature for a living. Such beautiful literature he risks death to steal a work. I expected more of those beautiful words to be used in the story. No suck luck though.

So I can't recommend the book to any of you but I kind of hope you all will read it anyway! I'd like to know what I'm missing!

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