This blog is specifically for comment on the Man Booker Prize for fiction, based in the U.K. There are, at the moment, six shortlisted books each year, and as I read them, I will offer my review, without revealing the plot! I want to talk about the readability, style and the amount of quality reading to be enjoyed (or not!) I have no affiliation to anybody, so my comments are without outside influence. enjoy my thoughts, and please feel free to comment...
By Bruce Chatwin
Jonathon Cape, 1988
ISBN: 0 224 22608 9
I have been to a whole new country, in a distant time and read about at least two subject matters I knew nothing about. I was either going to love it or hate it; well, I loved it!
A short text, that got straight to the point, as long as you have your wits about you at the start. Set in Czechoslovakia, with a time that spans over many years (but specifically the early 1970’s) we are led through an almost personal tour of Meissen porcelain figures, and their owner, Utz. Or have we? What, exactly, do we get?
We get a brief overview of the politics of the country, with an equally brief look at the history, along with the sinister world of the contemporary country lifestyle; the restaurant menu, the clientele and the decor gives a vivid view of the day to day life of Utz. Or is it?
So, what about Utz? We are introduced to him, and then led to believe, via the title of the work, that he would be the main protagonist. And so he is, isn’t he?
The porcelain figures are the next items of enigmas. They are the main reason for the story if you discount Utz himself. We are introduced to them, given the point of having them in the plot, and then, they determinedly float around the text along with all the other strands that serve to make this text what it is. It drifts along in a floating way as if it is daring you to grab the story and make a rigid plot out of it. As each page turns, you just know that it will all pull together to make something tangible, then you will realise it already is. So, why doesn’t it seem like it is a solid read? Because it is writing at its most skilful – not a word is wasted, there isn’t a word in there that doesn’t count, and the whole text, as short as it is, is the right length to keep the book floating exactly where it should be.
Be ready to be introduced to nondescript characters, ordinary situations in a less than exotic setting and then be prepared to leave behind a completely different setting, situation and character. The work of this international travel writer is as good as it gets. Please don’t look for a goodie or a baddie; a crime or a whodunit, those things are not what this book is about. This is about the obsessive behaviour of people that collect things and why they would want t do that. Why do people want to collect things? You could, I suppose, ask me, as I collect these shortlisted books. Perhaps, after all, I do know what the book is about, I hope you get it too!
I have opened a new blog, reviewing good books that deserve maximum exposure for being good! Have a look at www.brenisthecritic.blogspot.com Thank you for looking, and happy reading...