Before discussing the book, I’d like to say that this particular author has a very impressive vocabulary. I make it a habit of looking up words I don’t know, and I had to look up quite a few while reading this book. Test yourself and let me know how many of these you got right. Answers will be at the bottom of the post.
impecunious: a) carefree, without regard b) penniless, poor c) lacking sense
castellatus: a) cloud with small turrets b) of or relating to the baroque period c) percussion instrument
felucca: a) men’s hat b) a sailing vessel c) trim surrounding an arched doorway
bromide (in addition to a chemical compound, it is also): a) a caustic comment b) a trite saying c) a dubious remark
paroxysm: a) coincidental occurrence b) atypical political viewpoint c) violent outburst
When forced to make a quick but momentous decision, I often wonder afterwards how different my life would have been if I had chosen a different path. Although this book explores several themes, the residue that is left…the point that I thought about after finishing the book…was the effect of hastily made decisions. This theme always intrigues me, in part because I morbidly fear that I may be faced with a similar decision one day (swerve or stop?, or more seemingly innocuous decisions such as, let my kids go to the party or keep them home?) and make the wrong decision that ends in tragedy. I think all parents have this fear to a certain extent.
This book explores that theme through romantic love. The main character, Thomas, is a writer who is recently divorced. A package arrives from Berlin which he assumes is from his former lover, and thus begins the flashback that encompasses most of the story. Thomas goes off to Berlin to write a book, at which point the book explores communism, the Cold War, and all of the related issues in Germany during the late 1980’s. Midway through, he meets and falls in love with Petra, and we learn how they ended up apart by the end of the story.
Although I enjoyed this book, it could have been edited significantly. I had to rally about halfway through, because the author often said in 100 pages what could have been expressed in twenty. For example, the romantic portion (which encompasses maybe 25% of the book) reiterated over and over: I love her! How can I love her so much? I just do! It’s really great! I can’t wait to see her again! over and over and over. I get it, I don’t need to be pounded over the head.
BUT…if you can make it through the repetition in the first 70% of the book, the remaining 30% is worth the effort. Finally at the end, the book provides intrigue, thought provocation, and..my most important benchmark…I couldn’t put it down.
On a scale of 1-10, I would rate this book a 7…if it were edited by 100-150 pages, it would be an 8.
Here are the answers to the quiz, how did you do?
impecunious: b) penniless, poor
castellatus: a) cloud with small turrets
felucca: b) a sailing vessel
bromide (in addition to a chemical compound, it is also): b) a trite saying
paroxysm: c) violent outburst