When I was initially planning this post, I was only going to review only The Things They Carried, but after reading In the Lake of the Woods, I think they go together thematically and both share a focus on war and the aftermath of it. And so I’ll discuss both here.
All three novels revolve around two brothers, Claus and Lucas. They are twins. Perfect reflections of one another. In The Notebook, they are abandoned at their grandmother’s during a brutal war (presumably World War II) in their country (presumably in Europe) and, using a notebook, they practice hardening themselves against outside threats and internal ones as well.
All Quiet on the Western Front is given from the perspective of the losing side, which is still rare when it comes to war literature, especially in translation and from this era.
What really shines about this collection is the informative introductions to each and every one of the stories.
The eleven tales contained in this collection of some of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s stories each contain a pervasive sense of the uncanny and of a narrator that exists out of step with time and space.
I’ll leave it up for you to decide whether the novel lives up to its extensive praise. For my part, despite the book being outside my literary comfort zone, I did see what made it so ground-breaking and so influential. It was worth the read — as long as the graphic violence (including sexual violence) is something that you can tolerate as a reader.
In a novel that occurs in single day, it can be ironically difficult to mark time and to create atmosphere. There are often limits to setting to consider, as well as how to convey the sense of hours passing without it seeming chaotic or creating too much stress in the reader experience. Guilloux is a master of atmosphere and space.
I honestly thought that the book would be more about Termeer’s marriage to Anna, the daughter of his financial guardian. But I think the real meat of the narrative has to do with Termeer speaking to the reader about who he is and what factors in his life formed him (in his own opinion).
Punks. Rebellion. Drugs. Death. Yes, emphatically all those things. More than that, Welsh has constructed a searing novel of what it means to be young, lost, and trying to become an adult in a world that’s on fire due to the HIV epidemic in nineties Scotland and the rampant level of addiction and death.
The feelings of hatred that lie at the novel’s foundation form a complex statement about class and the divisions between the classes.