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Anne Michaels
bookicon
Fugitive Pieces
paperback
294 pages
Poetic novel which deals with the eternal themes of live, death and loss. Jacob Beer is a child of the Holocaust, having to witnes yet escaping the brutal murder of his family.
He runs off and is ultimately found by Anthos Roussos, a Greek archeologist digging in an area nearby Joacob's home. Realizing that the boy is in grave danger, Anthos abandons his dig and smuggles the boy out to Greece. Within hours of leaving, the Nazis overrun the area of the dig and kill everyone associated with it. Thus, in the first of many wonderfully crafted observations, Michaels notes that, "in effect, they saved each other."

This is the sort of lyrical construction that fills a brillant book that works much better as a lyrical prose poem than it does as a novel, as structurally the book is seriously flawed. The characters remain elusively imcomplete due to haphazard breaks in the story line. For example, though Jacob's second wife obviously is the true love of his life, she has no significant role in the narrative other than that of a shadow as, shortly after she's introduced, the novel changes direction entirely, adopting a new protagonist, Ben, who is trying to recover Jacobs papers after his death. All rather awkward.

As a result, too many significant characters are insubstaintial shadows, not the substantive elements of the story they obviously shape but, in the structure of the book, don't really participate in.

The novel reads more like a rather lengthy poem, with each sentence a poem in itself, which considering Anne Michaels primary occupation as a poet make sense. As a poem it may be very lyrical and touching at times, but as a novel it gets rather boring after a while, and one finds oneself trying to get the finish line as soon as possible. Only to find that suddenly the characters change, with no introduction... Although the general theme remains, and we're off once more enduring lyrically described contemplations regarding life and death.

It's all threatening to turn rather depressing, and it's not really helping that the main characters seem to be wasting most of their time dwelling in the past and ignoring their loved once, which just makes the reader want to strangle them. Surely it can't really take 50 years of misery and depressing for a person to work out that happiness comes from the people you surround yourself with and not from dwelling on the past, trying to find explanations for events that are beyond change..

Recommended if you're in a comptemplative mood, otherwise try
something more uplifting..
6/10
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Anne Michaels
bookicon
Fugitive Pieces
paperback
294 pages
Rather sombre and poetic tale of a man's journey to overcome the terrors of the Holocaust.

It begins in Poland as a boy emerges from a bog. It is 1941, and the Nazis are rounding up the Jews. Jakob Beer, 17, escapes the slaughter of his family by running into a swamp and submerging himself. After several days, cold, dirty, and starving, he walks out of the bog and is rescued by Athos, a Greek scholar of history and paleontology, who was working at a nearby archeological site.

Athos smuggles Jakob back to Greece. For four years he hides the boy in his attic on the island of Zakynthos, protecting him from the occupying Germans who, after confiscating most of the local food, scour the Greek islands for Jews. The islanders have a history of protecting their own, and despite having little food for themselves, they shelter their Jews.

In first person narrative, Jakob tells us how, while hiding, he taught Athos Hebrew while Athos taught him everything else. Athos is a true academic, a student of knowledge. As Jakob’s teacher, he instructs the boy in a wide range of subjects, from ancient history to Antarctic exploration, from mythology to environmental studies. Athos’s love of learning is wonderfully portrayed by Michaels, who obviously shares the same sentiment. Using her ability to paint pictures with poetic imagery, Michaels lets the reader learn from Athos, too.

It's is obvious from the start that Anne Michaels is a poet, as every line is a poem in itself almost. Every word has to be considered, and everything has more than one meaning, making this not the easiest book to read.

It's biggest flaw however is the final third, which suddenly deals with another protagonist, and just feels like a completely different book.

Still, a remarkable novel, and certain worth reading

Recommended.
8/10
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