Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fugitive Pieces

I was given Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels for Christmas and have been plugging away at it ever since. The winner of numerous international awards, the book is less than 300 pages yet I am slogging through it two or three pages at a time so am reading it in the same time it would normally take me to read two books.

The writing isn't dense and the words are woven together beautifully. This beautiful phrasing, however, sometimes interferes with the story at hand. I understand the goal of literary fiction is not the arc of the plot and this characteristic holds true with Fugitive Pieces. I also find it distracting to have Greek terms with the English next to it used as abundantly as has been included in this work. A few foreign words are fine for flavour. Too many and the narrative is too often interrupted for my taste. This holds true for the scientific terms as well.

The book tells the tale of a young Jewish boy who flees his family home after his parents are shot and his sister is dragged away by Nazis. He is rescued by a Greek geologist and spirited away to Greece and then, after the war, to Canada. The boy grows into a somber man unable to free himself of his tragic and horrifying past.

I have difficulty reading stories about the Holocaust and other acts of human hatred and cruelty, though read them I do. The imagery it brings haunts me as is the case with this book.

I read for a bit before bed last night then was kept awake by the horrors in the pages. I think I'll have to put the book aside for now.

It may be that in some future time, I will have more appreciation for -- and ability to finish -- it.

What books have you been reading?



  1. I am reading Miriam's Kitchen, it's part family history, part self-examination, part recipe book, by a woman raised a secular Jew who examines her family's history, culture and religion through cooking. It's very good.

  2. PS: do you have your word verification set on "difficult" or something? these words I have to type are crazy!!! Last one was haggywhump

  3. Becca: The book sounds really interesting. I'll have to add it to my "must read" list. I'm tackling Dickens next. As to the word verification: that's too funny. Not to mention a deterrent... like I don't really want anyone to post a message. :-)

  4. I'm doing some slogging of my own, through a slightly disappointing book by one of my favorite sci-fi writers (Canada's own) Robert J Sawyer (Mindscan). I thought the concept was interesting (to me, a sci-fi fan), addressing some issues we could presumably face in sci-future: questions about our sense of self, the soul, and what makes us "human" - or if that's even an important distinction. It hasn't hooked me like I thought it would though, and I'm not sure why.

  5. John: I find every now and then I'll struggle with a book, not enjoying it and will put it down only to come to it at some time in the future and fall in love with it. Cider House Rules by John Irving and Life of Pi by Yann Martel are two such books. I tried to get into each numerous times without success and then one attempt paid off and I couldn't figure why I didn't love them the first time. Maybe it's that sometimes we aren't ready for a book.

  6. I agree. In fact, I think I've had the same experience with a couple of John Irving's books - including Cider House Rules (but not on A Prayer for Owen Meany - one of my favorites).

  7. Owen Meaney... one of my all time favs as well. LOVE that book.