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Amazon Customer "novelolic" (Kansas City, MO USA)

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Radetzky March
Radetzky March
by Joseph Roth
Edition: Paperback
18 used & new from CDN$ 3.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Marching into the Twentieth Century, Aug. 14 2001
This review is from: Radetzky March (Paperback)
Every Sunday the strains of the Radetsky March are heard outside the residence of Baron von Trotta, son of the lieutenant who saved Emperor Franz Joseph's life at Solferino and father of Lieutenant Carl Joseph who saves the Emperor's portrait from a whorehouse. (Thus have times changed!) As this book narrates the saga of four generations of the von Trotta family and the parallel decline of Franz Joseph's Austro-Hungarian Empire, the strains of this march dwindle until it, too, is finally obliterated.
Roth's masterpiece touches us as he deftly depicts the disillusionment that inevitably replaces the once-elevated code of honor of an outdated Empire. The book's style, that of an omniscient author reminiscent of nineteenth-century aesthetics, complements its subject. Here is a glimpse of a world where military and social rank dictate behavior, where women are seductresses regardless of social pretenses, where servants are endowed with unquestioning loyalty, where Jews live on the fringes of society yet must also subscribe to its rigorous decorum. Yet, as the exploits of the youngest von Trotta illustrate, this world has become decadent in its rigidity.
For the von Trottas, as for the Hapsburgs themselves, this discovery comes at a time when one cannot escape its consequences. For it is the rhythms of the Radetsky March, along with the portrait of the Hero of Solferino (whose heroism is not all that it was made out to be) that shaped even the youngest von Trotta and remain forever in the background, preventing a return to the family's peasant heritage and the romanticism of a more idyllic existence.
Roth's book is well worth the read. It is especially endowed with a gentle irony that bespeaks compassion without indulging in sentimentality. For those of us still trying to understand what formed the Western world of the twentieth century, it abounds with all the poignant music, imagery, and people of pre-World War I conditions in Eastern Europe.

The Blind Assassin
The Blind Assassin
by Margaret Atwood
Edition: Hardcover
50 used & new from CDN$ 1.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally--an Atwood I Love, Aug. 8 2001
This review is from: The Blind Assassin (Hardcover)
Although I am not usually a Margaret Atwood fan, I found The Blind Assassin the best book I've read this year. This is partly because Atwood, even at her darkest, writes wonderful prose filled with innovative, yet apt metaphors. The Blind Assassin, though, is far more than great writing. Here, Atwood keeps us guessing throughout the entire book about the relationships involving the narrator and her deceased sister. The characters are vividly drawn, particularly that of the chief villain, the narrator's sister-in-law. The plot, subplot, the story that one character, a sometime writer, is fabricating, and excerpts from a novel published by one of the sisters are all beautifully interwoven. The book is set primarily during the era between the two world wars and contains historical background on Canada during this period that is also of interest. This book, which plays with the role of artifice in daily life, is definitely a work of art itself deserving of the Booker Prize!

When We Were Orphans
When We Were Orphans
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Edition: Hardcover
39 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Ishiguro's Latest, Aug. 8 2001
This review is from: When We Were Orphans (Hardcover)
Ishiguro's latest book expounds on themes with which he dealt in his earlier works. Consequently, When We Were Orphans is a complex and highly textured work of maturity. As such, it focuses on both Japanese and English cultural contexts, realism and surrealism, war and peace, action and passivity. The central character is confronted with his own inability to act effectively and deliberately as he struggles to learn what happened to his parents when he was a boy in Shanghai. In this way, Ishiguro emphasizes his own preoccupation with the dilemma Man faces as he attempts to to reconcile himself with his fate. The novel is full of suspense and engages the reader in feeling the frustration of the protagonist as he grapples with the dilemma of missing parents and a lost boyhood friend. The prose is deceptively simple, making this book an "easy" read, although one layed with meaning. At one point, the author lapses into a surrealistic account, which may perplex some readers, but this section is appropriate to the subject matter treated at the time and helps the reader understand the nature of the narrator's perceptions.

Anil's Ghost
Anil's Ghost
by Michael Ondaatje
Edition: Paperback
107 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Specters and Secrets, Aug. 8 2001
This review is from: Anil's Ghost (Paperback)
I am an avid Ondaatje fan, and this book fulfilled my expectations. Once again, the author has created a haunting tale of loss and memory, a tale inhabited by living phantoms who each must come to grips with his or her own ghosts. Set against a background of mysterious disappearances and the violence of Sri Lankan conflicts, this novel touches both the personal and the political, yet remains intensely intimate as it explores the lives of its three central characters--an archeologist, a doctor, and a forensic specialist. Ondaatje's sparse and suggestive style adds a mystic dimension. One of the year's best reads.

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