Broken Glass Park Paperback – Mar 30 2010
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"Whether it's autobiographical or not, Bronsky writes with a gritty authenticity and unputdownable propulsion, capturing the egotism and need of a girl just beginning to understand her own power." -Vogue
"Surprising, poetic, extremely well-crafted . . . recalls the narrative art of Zadie Smith."- K÷lner Stadtrevue
"The most exciting new arrival of the season."-Der Spiegel
"An explosive debut."-Emma Magazine
"Youthful, fast-paced, at times sad, never sugarcoated. Broken Glass Park tells the story of a marvelous reawakening."-Modern Zeiten
"Playful, audacious and brimming with verve . . . A gripping read."-Book Reporter (Germany)
"The literature industry has a new prodigy! Bronsky is an immense talent."- Focus (Germany).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Alina Bronsky's first novel is hard to put down. It kept me up till one last night. There are so many books out there about murder and violence, but this story starts after the crime. Sascha watched her ex-stepfather Vadim shoot and kill her mother. Now she's seventeen and biding her time till Vadim gets out of jail, so she can kill him.
Her nine-year-old brother Anton thinks she has a good idea. He was there too. So was the toddler of the family, Alissa. They live in the Russian ghetto of Berlin, shunned by most of their neighbors for having such bad luck, but lovingly cooked for and cared for by their fat Russian cousin Maria.
Sascha is brash, angry, fearless, oddly witty, often kind - and brilliant at math, chess and languages. She's not interested in drugs or alcohol, but she sometimes makes aggressive use of sex. In a strange way, even at her most self-destructive, she's working intelligently at repairing her personal damage. Totally likeable, she hardly knows how to handle it when people do like her.
There are lots of other wonderful characters, too, flawed in ways that only make them more interesting. Despite the plethora of broken heads, hearts and windows in this book, the dialog is often quite funny and the mood curiously upbeat.
I have to assume the translation is excellent, because Alina Bronsky comes across as a very fine writer with a truly original turn of mind. Hope she's at work on another book!
It is above all else a coming-of-age novel, with a secondary theme of redemption. There is surprisingly little real-time plot, and the narrative follows a standard-template story arc. The author has achieved a unique, engaging -- if not always likable -- voice in her first-person narrator Sacha. Characterizations are uneven, inconsistent and largely shallow, though that lack of complexity is in keeping with Sasha's voice and experiences. There is a subtle and wicked humor here that makes me wish I could read it in the original German.
In short, this is not a perfect work, but it's an impressive first novel and a worthwhile read. It was slow to pull me in, but it had me after about 50 pages. I had to sit down and finish it in one go.
Generally I enjoyed this book, though it could have used a stronger plot. Aside from killing Vadim, Sascha's life is scattered, as is the action. I felt like the plot was wavering. Bronsky's book does show the remarkably power that precocious teenage girls can wield over men, though I did find Sascha's relationship with the newspaper editor to be creepy, at best.
Sascha is an immediately engaging heroine. A success at school, she excels at languages, mathematics, and presumably literature, and seems destined for higher things. She has an infectious sense of humor, albeit with a bitter edge, and she is a sheer pleasure to be with. But she is damaged; only gradually do we discover how much. The catalyst is a sappy prison interview with Vadim in the Frankfurt paper. Sascha goes to complain, and is treated with consideration by the section editor, and immediately bonds with him. I had a little difficulty believing what happens immediately after this, but it opened a window into the yawning spaces in Sascha's life. She never knew her own father, and her mother would not speak of him. Her stepfather turned out to be an abuser and murderer. So she is desperately in need of male role-models, whether as father-figures or boyfriends.
What starts as an edgy noir comedy becomes something very dark indeed. As her chipper shell begins to crack, Sascha does some pretty foolish things which almost forfeit the reader's sympathy -- but not quite; we understand her actions as a cry for help. The author does not make the mistake of tying everything up too neatly, though some of her revelations were so oblique that I am still not sure what they meant. But the general sense is clear. Sascha has passed through the worst of her crisis, and whatever lies ahead for her can only be more positive than the life she has lived up to now. And in the writing of Alina Bronsky (herself a Russian immigrant who has clearly mastered German) and the vivid translation by Tim Mohr, I have thoroughly enjoyed spending even a painful day in her company.