Serge Carrefax spends his childhood at Versoie House, where his father teaches deaf children to speak when he's not experimenting with wireless telegraphy. Sophie, Serge's sister and only connection to the world at large, takes outrageous liberties with Serge's young body - which may explain the unusual sexual predilections that haunt him for the rest of his life. After recuperating from a mysterious illness at a Bohemian spa, Serge serves in World War I as a radio operator. C culminates in a bizarre scene in an Egyptian catacomb where all Serge's paths and relationships at last converge.
Tom McCarthy's mesmerizing, often hilarious accomplishment effortlessly blends the generational breadth of Ian McEwan with the postmodern wit of Thomas Pynchon and marks a writer rapidly becoming one of the most significant and original voices of his generation.
©2010 Tom McCarthy (P)2010 Tantor
"Each chapter of McCarthy's tour de force is a cryptic, ornate puzzle box, rich with correspondences and emphatically detailed digressions. Ambitious readers will be eager to revisit this endlessly interpretive world, while more casual readers will marvel at the high-flying picaresque perched at the crossroads of science and the stuff dreams are made of." (Publishers Weekly)
The first three quarters of this book were a great read. I loved the characters, the setting, the prose and the storyline. The writing is sharp and witty. The reader's performance was one of the best I've ever heard and I found myself laughing out loud frequently. But the book takes a sharp turn about 3/4s of the way in and after that, I lost interest. I got the impression that the author was looking at his watch and trying to figure out how he could make the story end on a much grander note than the book's more natural trajectory.
English majors can write long papers on the symbolism and hidden meanings in this book. I just feel frustrated by the story's collapse.
One of the book reviews I saw on this book characterized it as an anti-novel. At first I didn't really know what that means. But that was made clear soon enough… in this case it is a novel without a plot.
Now, books without a plot is not necessary a bad things. Many books follow this path quite successfully. What this book lacks in plot is more than made up by the writing itself. The writing, at times, is actually quite beautiful.
But my biggest problem with this book is the narration. The narrator is so lethergic is the narration that I had trouble staying awake while listening to it. He just drone on and on. With no plot to grab one's attention, his droning makes for a lethal combination.
Granted, the author has no control over the narration. So if we had a more engaging reader, this would be a 3-4 star book. Alas.. a perfectly good anti-novel ruined by the narration :-(
What does Serge want? What are his feelings about his mother and father? Why did his sister commit suicide? I get we're supposed to read between the lines and I failed because I have no clue to the answers. Even more relevant, though, I didn't care. I never once lost myself in the narrative. I was always aware I was listening to a book and kept looking at how much time was left. The writing is good but it cannot save a tale that meanders from one event in Serge's life to another. The critical acclaim this book received, frankly, baffles me.
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